In 2016 one of the teaching unions in Jersey (N.A.S.U.W.T) agreed an ‘educational partnership’ with Jersey States. It appeared to welcome in a new era of employer/employee industrial relations. On its anniversary in 2017, Education Minister, Deputy Rod Bryans stated;
“One of the main drivers for creating the Educational Partnership was to avoid the confrontational approach …and to put children and teachers at the heart of our decision-making.”
Kathy Wallis, president of the NASUWT UK added;
“It is clear that it is having a beneficial impact on the development of Jersey’s education system.”
A survey carried out soon after its creation saw 87% of teachers satisfied with their lot.
As this summer recess approaches we see;
- Teaching staff turnover is almost double that of the UK (almost a third of the staff in one secondary school are leaving this summer)
- Cutting class teachers salaries to balance the books of schools that have a large overspend (almost £1.5 million across all state schools, with one school accounting for over six hundred thousand pounds in the last two years)
- A significant rise in the number of teachers being disciplined
- A growing number of grievances being brought against senior management by teaching staff
- One headteacher leaving following significant staff turnaround at the school (65 staff in seven years)
The tales of debilitating micromanagement emanating from many schools are increasing. Some think that conflict is an unfortunate consequence of trying to effect change in working practises. New teachers coming into the profession know no different, they are cheaper and more accepting of the latest terms and conditions. But the principle of teaching being a vocation is being eroded and this it at the heart of the ‘troubles’. In the UK, one third of teachers leave within five years and 13% of NQT’s quit after just twelve months. Jersey’s education system cannot sustain a lower pay, high turnover approach to management. The graduate teacher training programme cannot meet such demands and the recruitment of Science and Maths teachers from UK universities has sourced less than five staff in the last two years.
We used to attract high quality teachers to the island, encouraged by competitive salaries, pay and conditions. In the UK about 10% of experienced staff that teach core subjects has left their posts. There is evidence of this happening here. In the UK not enough people are taking up teaching, leading to significant staff shortages. It is naive to believe that Jersey is not affected in the same way. The Chair of Education has given reassures that ‘all teaching posts are filled’ for the start of the next academic year; but what with? It is impossible to get an accurate picture of how shortages, especially in the specialist subjects, are hitting Jersey schools as the education department remains tight lipped. This is an issue for ‘Scrutiny’.
Information relayed to the public speaks of standards rising. But this is because the data being used takes an average of the schools on the island, State schools and significantly, State Funded Private schools. It is difficult to get a homogenous sample but the latter group skew the data favourably. Take them away and difference is evident with 52.6% 5 A* to C at GCSE (with three schools well below that average). The UK average is 67% and their international record is mediocre. For parents with children in the primary sector performance data for 2016 is still not available. Why?
It is easy to blame frontline staff for any short fall in achievement but they are being coerced into following an education pedagogy who’s progress, to date, can best be described as glacial. UK Educational ‘advisors’, the education department and top heavy senior management in schools must bear the bulk of the responsibility for any shortcomings. It is they who are enforcing this change of practice. But where is their accountability?
Where does this summer of discontent leave industrial relations and what effect is all this angst having on our children’s wellbeing? When it comes to educational management on Jersey, the needs of the child are not the top priority. Attempting to improve productivity whilst cutting costs is a difficult task but we are not dealing with on-line parcel deliveries or high street sports retailing. Our children are not a commodity. There are more efficient, less draconian, management models, ones that will empower teachers, engage children and raise standards significantly; and they will cost the tax payer no extra money. Why do we not use them?
Adapted from an article in the JEP July 2017