Education are left on the ropes
Tuesday 15th October 2013, 4:00PM BST.
TOMORROW night the members of the Education Department will take a deep breath as they step out onto the stage at St Sampson’s High School.
In front of them is another gruelling evening of questions about the school closure plans.
It has been a busy four weeks for the department, who have taken their argument out to islanders in a commendable attempt at transparent government. Night after night they have faced highly critical audiences drawn from those most affected by the proposals.
It is fair to say it has not gone well. The headlines have been overwhelmingly negative as the department has struggled to satisfy a naturally sceptical audience.
Tomorrow night will be no different. Those who are most hostile to the plans will turn up to pick away at the seam of Education’s argument, undermine the statistics and find new reasons for deputies to vote against the closures in two weeks’ time.
Those who back the plans will have less motivation to be there and will sit at home to let the minister and his department take the heat.
At the end of this process Education – and other States departments – may question the value of opening themselves up to hostility and occasional abuse. How many islanders will have been converted? Far fewer, it seems, than the number who were initially in favour or indifferent but are now implacably opposed.
If anything, Education’s position today is weaker than it was a month ago. The agenda has moved on at each meeting to be replaced by blue ribbons, videos of cute children and questions about class sizes, parking and building costs.
It is a charm offensive which has lost its charm, where well-meaning semi-pro politicians and civil servants have tried and failed to convert the implacably opposed.
If this were a boxing match the minister and his team – the red corner – would be desperate for the bell.
They need a breather, a whiff of smelling salts and time to gather themselves for round two, the States of Deliberation, where the real action begins.