Sunday, 22 July 2012

Is ESC falling off a cliff?

It looks to me as though the Education, Sport and Culture ministry is accelerating toward a cliff edge.  I have already noted in previous posts the odd and rather unsatifactory handling of the announcement of the introduction of  user pays charges for the Instrument service.  Recently letters went out to parents and guardians of students to be offered a place next year.  Having cancelled the explanatory meeting, and not advised of any revised date we now have a wholly unacceptable position.  Parents are now being expected to make decisions on whether to accept an offer but having no information on the charges the department proposes to make on the use of the service. But this little episode is just a taster of things to come.

You may be aware that the Treasury Minister is about to launch his 3 year medium term financial plan, to cover the next three years.  I think that is probably a good idea, though I may well not agree with its contents.  It was therefore a great surprise to me that the Education Minister recently gave a four year commitment to protect the grant to fee paying schools.  Whatever you may think of that particular policy it was a pretty strange thing to do ahead to the MTFP.  I did query this on Twitter with the Treasury Minister who replied it was because  'the four years are 2012 to 2015. In other words this year and for next 3'.

That answer raises further reinforces a problem that I had already identified.  The next States elections are  due in Spring 2014, so how can the Education Minister give assurances beyond that? The States reiterate with depressing frequency that one assembly cannot make binding decisions on another , so it seems to me the minister has exceeded his authority in givng his 4 year commitment.

Shorter term there is a more politically  explosive problem looming.  The department is still expected to meet the cuts savings under CSR.  By far the largest part of the budget goes for education.  It is inevitable to meet CSR targets for the year that education will bear the brunt.  Having preemptively ring-fenced the private schools  subventions, the savings will have to fall on the remaining States schools. To put in bluntly the poorest parents in our society will have their children's education services disproportionately  impared in order to protect the service provided to those who can afford to pay some toward it.

Thanks to the electoral commission we can now see another problem occuring too. A couple of them are off to Barbados on Monday, expenses paid, albeit economy at £7,000.  It seems to me odd that we can afford to pay for this trip,  to find information that is largely already available at sites such as  However we do not have the money to support competitors going to Bermuda for the Island Games in 2013.  They clearly can only compete and represent us if they travel there. I think the claim of the poorer competitors rather more compelling than that of the Electoral Commission.  That's another legitimate claim on the already very squeezed pot.

Possibly the Education Minister is trying to finesse the Treasury Minister in his new plan to secure more funding. On the evidence of the way user charges have already been announced in principle, and the partisan decision making in favour of the already more priviledged makes me convinced this is a very cynical and deeply inegalitarian game of favourites being played by the minister.


  1. Mark,

    With your IT backgorund are you alarmed at the capital provision for a new HR IT package to replace the 5 year old one which "has been no fit for purpose" since it's delivery?

    1. I made some comment last October durng the elections about problems with the existing system. I hope to find the time to do a bit more digging around. My intuition is there is something not as it should be, but pinning it down won't be easy.