'Frustration' At Ongoing School Estate Review Delay

A backbencher says she's 'increasingly concerned' at the time being taken to release a report setting out plans for the primary school estate in St Helier.

The review started in March last year and the Chief Minister said the report would be released in June.

It's still not published, seven months on.

The Education Minister said in November that the issue would be discussed at a Regeneration Steering Group meeting in early December.

However, following questions in the States Assembly last week, it was revealed that it was never discussed in that meeting.

Chief Minister Senator John Le Fondre said he expected it to come before the next meeting in early February.

"My recollection is that there was one aspect of the proposals that seemed eminently sensible, but there was other area that needed some further understanding.

I do appreciate the concern of trying to move this particular area forward."

The headteacher of Rouge Bouillon school vented his frustration about a lack of investment and outdoor green space for the children to enjoy in a letter to the Public Accounts Committee in the autumn of 2020 and called for the government to give them the vacant old police site next door.

Former Education Minister Senator Tracey Vallois, former Children and Education Minister Senator Sam Mezec, Town Constable Simon Crowcroft, ex-town Deputy Jackie Hilton and Children's Commissioner Deborah McMillan have all spoken in support of the school getting hold of the area.

Deputy Inna Gardiner lodged a proposition in May 2021 to allow that to happen.

She delayed it by a month to see if the report would be published, but it wasn't forthcoming.

The States Assembly agreed to give the site to the school, 'unless a specific alternative' is identified.

It is also wanted by Home Affairs for a new joint and fire ambulance station, that will be named after the late politician Len Norman.

In response to the Chief Minister's comments in the States Assembly last week, Deputy Gardiner says it's taking far too long to get sorted.

"This very important report is being delayed - if intentionally, or as a result of neglect, or being given a low priority - I don't know, but it's really difficult for me to understand why it takes a year to decide about two potential sites, not the buildings, but potential sites for primary schools at the St Helier/St Saviour border.

If you ask staff, families, teachers at (town) schools, the unofficial reports is that the infrastructure situation in these schools are bad. The staff are doing as much as they can and do an amazing job to deliver education for the children.

At least in St Helier, five out of six schools is under any modern standard and these delays are pushing the process to improvements even further if we don't know where the schools will be built, we are not talking about the process when the building will start.

We haven't been told nothing until the report will be completed and for me, it sometimes feels the delay in this report (being published) is an abuse of the process.

This report is how we diagnose the problem. We have a suffering education infrastructure and we urgently need to diagnose it before we can fix it and go forward with delivering it."

There are now concerns that the report may not be published in this political term, with the election now less than six months away.

A frustrated Deputy Gardiner says there's little more she can do as a backbench politician.

"I think that we do need the fire and ambulance station and they also need the clarity. Would it be on the current site because they found a better site for the primary school in central St Helier, or will it be at another site? All these decisions will be delayed and movements will be delayed for all stakeholders involved.

I've asked questions, I've brought a proposition to the (States) Assembly, I delayed the proposition debate for a month in the hope that the report would be published, the Assembly passed the proposition, we put all possible pressure on the government and I get ignored so we still don't have a clear way we are going.

I do hope that the Regeneration Steering Group will sit and make decisions in the next couple of weeks and it will go to the Council of Ministers because this is the process and hopefully within a month, we will be shared with the findings and options for the decisions.

At the end of the day, we need to remember that this States term is finishing very soon, in the next three and a bit months, and if decisions will not be made by this government, it will be there for the next government and it takes time to get back.

The work is underway, the review is going for a year. It's about time to share with us thoughts and options, so we can make a decision and proceed with it."

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