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Education Minister writes to parents

18 October 2010

I have received a number of letters and emails following the announcement of the proposal to reduce subsidies to fee-paying schools. Understandably, many parents are concerned about the impact this might have on school fees and have quite rightly challenged me to answer their questions.

I would like to explain where I stand in relation to fee-paying education and what I am trying to achieve.

I value the unique composition of fee-paying and non fee-paying education in Jersey and in no way wish to upset the balance by putting fee-paying education out of parents’ financial reach.

While I have no influence over the fees set by private schools, I am required, as Minister for Education, Sport and Culture to approve the fees set by Victoria College and Jersey College for Girls. Over the past 2 years, I have worked with the Governors of both these schools to keep fee increases to a minimum, particularly because of the financial pressures that I know many families have been facing.

I plan to encourage other fee paying schools to do likewise.

I would like to make it clear that this proposal is neither 'shroud-waving' nor an easy option. It is supported by the Council of Ministers and driven by a fundamental belief that, by working together, schools can do more for our students while also containing costs. I am sure you would agree that, if this could be achieved, it would be a win-win situation for all.

Let me be absolutely clear about the process my department has embarked on. I have set fee-paying schools a challenge: to manage a reduced subsidy from the States, while taking the opportunity to provide a broader offer for students.

I do not expect schools to respond by simply increasing fees as that would not provide any additional benefits to students. I do expect them to rise to this challenge to give our students the breadth of curriculum they deserve and to give parents value for money.

I want to achieve broader curriculum choice for students and a more efficient use of resources. I am encouraging schools to work more closely together in the best interests of students.

Visionary leadership, alongside a willingness to work together, could enable more cooperation across sixth forms without compromising the unique ethos of each individual institution. I have been impressed by the response of governors to this challenge and look forward to continued discussions with them.

Schools with strong leadership will respond to this by minimising the costs of running the school and making the most of every pound. They will ensure that resources, teachers, buildings, equipment are used to best effect. They will plan effectively and collaborate with other schools to provide a broad curriculum.

They will make better use of specialist resources, reduce unnecessary duplication and increase efficiency. This way they will be able to continue offering subjects that do not attract large numbers, such as music, and introduce subjects that they cannot provide alone, such as law.

I am confident that all our fee-paying schools will rise to this challenge. However, the dialogue has just begun. I am asking for patience while I conduct a constructive dialogue with schools and determine what can be achieved within realistic timescales.

If schools genuinely engage in this dialogue and can clearly demonstrate that they need support to restructure I will listen.

Deputy James Reed
Minister of Education, Sport & Culture

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