School Funding Bids Narrowly Defeated

Bids to increase funding in schools have been narrowly rejected.

A proposal to give all Jersey schools at least 15% of guaranteed minimum headroom funding has been rejected by just one vote.

That's the amount of money available after staff and school running costs are accounted for.

Deputy Rob Ward said there was an obvious problem with school funding, and pointed to a Scrutiny hearing in which Haute Vallee Governors said there was a £23 million shortfall in education.

Those governors handed back a poster promoting the government's 'putting children first' pledge, saying students don't have faith in it.

"From experience that I have had, and for many others, when money is short, you have a choice - you can't buy a class set of books, you buy one between two, or you buy what you can, or you don't do that work because you haven't got the resources available, or as so many primary school teachers do, they go out and buy the resources. That has to stop.

This is trying to deal with an issue for schools to say look, we're going to make sure that there is a level of funding for your resources that you can rely on, it makes it more economic because you can plan ahead.

Do we need to continue to have schools reliant upon cake sales to fund equipment, or take intelligent and definitive decisions to write into the funding an amount that allows not just for adequate funding, but the level that allows children the best opportunity?"

That additional 15% would have cost approximately £8.5million.

Children and Education Minister, Deputy Scott Wickenden, says Deputy Ward gave no evidence to support the amount he was asking for.

He also says no evidence has been provided to back up the £23million figure put forward by those Haute Vallee Governors.

"If the Deputy wants to spend £8.5million here, could he tell the assembly where he doesn't want to spend £8.5million? What does he want to stop?

I do not accept the concept of a fixed percentage of headroom and budgeting for schools or colleges and I'm actively reviewing the adequacy and distribution of the relevant budgets under the Education Reform Programme.

The first time I heard about the £23million was when it was said in a Scrutiny Panel (hearing).

Scrutiny is supposed to work on evidence and proof. There is no proof of this and I wish the figure would stop being banded around. 

The work is being done on the school funding formula which is based on evidence, not on opinion.

I ask members to accept that we are already putting significant amounts of money into areas of education and putting children first, as set out in the Government Plan."

The amendment was defeated by 22 votes to 21.

A proposal to increase the Children's Department's budget by £10million next year has also been lost, after the vote was tied.

Scrutiny said it could be used to give more money to implement the recommendations from the Inclusion Review, that was published this week, and to cover any shortfall in funding that is identified within the new school funding formula.

That funding formula hasn't been shared, with just two weeks left until it comes into force.

Deputy Ward argued that without it, the States doesn't have the facts to fund education properly in 2022.

But it finished in a level vote.

Deputy Wickenden says he can't give the panel the funding formula as he doesn't have it himself.

"They could ask me for Donald Trump's taxes, I can't give that either. I don't have them.

"There is insufficient evidence that the amount specified is correct, and the panel have not clearly identified how it may be funded without increasing the total amount of government spending beyond the planned affordable levels.

It's too early to be able to identify any additional funding which may be required to implement the Inclusion Review, or to be clear, are any shortfalls identified through the work of the new school funding formula for 2022."

Former Education Minister Senator Tracey Vallois called Deputy Wickenden's argument 'rather spurious'.

She says the funding formula must be ready.

"You cannot tell me, on 16 December, we are implementing a funding formula for our schools from 1 January (2022), in a couple of weeks' time, without knowing what is in it.

I'm sorry, it doesn't wash with me, and I don't think it should wash with anyone else in this States Assembly.

The Minister can have a go and say that we don't have the numbers and we don't have the exact amounts, but we've been stuck in a hole because we haven't been able to obtain that information and the Minister has refused to provide it to us.

When I start hearing members talking about skills deficits, when I hear members starting to talk about the need for supporting our young people to get them into apprenticeships or trades or whatever that may be, in order to do that, we need to invest in them.

To invest in them, that requires the funding."

Several members of the government, including the Chief Minister, said that funding in Education had 'increased significantly' since 2019.

Senator Lyndon Farnham voted against the increase.

"I think all members would support additional funding for education if it's absolutely needed. I think it will be. It's not at this point.

Let us do the work properly and deliver the correct amount that the system will need, and act as the whole assembly wants us to do, being fiscally responsible."

The vote finished 21-21, meaning it was defeated.

Deputy Trevor Pointon abstained from voting.

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