Reform Jersey
Reform Jersey
Rob Ward

Overall last week's States sitting was positive. We finally have a landlord's licensing scheme in place. We prevented a step backwards in our Assembly by rejecting the return of Senators. And, my colleague won a vital part of his amendment on sizes of homes being built.

So I should be happy. Content even. And to a large extent, I am. But something is nagging away at me. An attitude and some statements that have left me feeling so very disappointed in Ministers and the States employment Board.

During the sitting and in the media, Ministers and representatives have created and spread a narrative of teachers "damaging” children due to the strike action they are taking

Let's look at that statement. Teachers are damaging children. I repeat it - Teachers are damaging children. What does this mean? What is the intent behind this statement?

The demonising of a workforce is damaging beyond the intended psychological pressure on teachers who take action. Teachers always have a huge dilemma when deciding to take strike action. They know that they will be making up the gaps in delivery of the curriculum for their students following strike days. But they are driven to strike by a consistent cut to the value of their work and profession. Every time the current government narrative is expounded, it chips away at the relationship between the education minister, SEB, the Chief Minister and this vital profession.

And what is the government's end game in this? To break the unions? To break the workforce? To limit spending long term in an area of our public service that is over 90% staff costs? Should they be successful in this breaking of a profession, what then?

Perhaps in the corridors of power in Broad Street there are ministers and officers who have a plan for teachers. With the assistance of a well funded Communications Unit they can lead the assault on the profession, undermine the professionals and have full control over future pay and conditions with weakened unions and a demoralised workforce.

But as with so much else with this government, once control is gained what happens next?

Teachers have many transferable skills. They are highly qualified and skilled. They fit well into so many other industries and areas of our economy. At a time when businesses across our island are struggling to recruit. And young people are struggling to afford to stay in Jersey. We are risking the collapse of a profession.

What really damages children's chances is long term underfunding and unequal funding of a child's education experience. We too often rely on non-specialist staff to deliver the curriculum. We must understand that education builds through years to culminate in our exam system. Gaps in specialist teaching at any stage will have a long term effect.

What really damages children's chances is a transient workforce that is not around long enough to form the vital relationships that drive good outcomes. However good a teacher a temporary member of staff may be, the long term connection with a class through the peaks and troughs of the year is vital.

What really damages children's chances is micro management and political interference in the education system. The current narrative is there to try to demonstrate some form of public spending prudence from a government that is facing criticism from all angles regarding the effectiveness of its spending.

What really damages children's chances is the denial of problems with recruitment and subsequent use of expensive agencies that take funds away from the front line services.

What really damages children's chances is an Education Reform Programme that has no detail attached to it beyond funding extra money for head teachers and apparently changing their hours. It's a phrase just like “relentless focus" that sounds like action but becomes a cover-all label for whatever decision is made next in whatever context it may be made.

What really damages children's chances is internal government in-fighting, which means decision making is short term and based around defending groups from attacks from within rather than a long term strategy that encompasses a work force beyond the walls of the department offices.

These are the same teachers who worked throughout the Covid pandemic. Who end every term exhausted after giving everything to the children and schools they commit to every day. To suggest they intend to damage children in this context simply displays the lack of understanding of the profession and the day to day lives of our teaching workforce.

The decision to create the narrative of teachers damaging children and the subsequent demonisation of a profession is the politics of division. To portray teachers as the ones who damage children in our education system could be called gaslighting. It could also be called the singularly most damaging approach for those at the top of our education system.

"I think the devil doesn't exist, but man has created him, he has created him in his own image and likeness." — Fyodor Dostoevsky