Sark still seeking Guernsey term-time hosts

Following recommendations as a result of the 2017 Education Review of Sark School, in recent years post-13 education for the Island’s children predominantly takes place in Guernsey though home education is also possible. This was passed under the pretext of a ‘Sark House’, whereby the Island would buy or rent a Sark House where all Sark students could board together. However, more than four years later, rightly or wrongly, a Sark House has yet to materialise, leaving Sark school children wholly dependent on term-time hosts. Host families provide accommodation to students whilst they complete their secondary education in Guernsey. They are volunteer households based in Guernsey where the student resides with their host during term-time, returning to Sark for school holidays and on the weekends in the summer.
It has recently transpired that host families which, in the absence of a Sark House, are the most fundamental aspect of the 2017 review are not guaranteed; when the 2017 review was implemented, no contract or agreement was struck between Guernsey and Sark to formalise or even safeguard this provision. A current shortage of host families has left a deficit for even Alderney students, let alone Sark pupils for whom the responsibility is not Guernsey’s due to the lack of a formal agreement being in place.

The recent Education Report that formed part of the Easter Chief Pleas confirmed that:

‘We have 5 children at Sark school who will be commencing year 9 in September 2022 and for these children we will find some solution. If, however, new families with young teenagers arrive on Sark during the summer break then, as directed in the amended Education (Sark) Ordinance, 2003 (Consolidated text) we are obliged to educate them, but we will have nowhere to send them. We have approached the Law Officer requesting clarification on our position should this occur, and we are awaiting a reply.’
Parents met this week to discuss their worries and concerns as to how little time there is before students are due to start school in Guernsey in September 2022 with the lack of prospective housing for their children. Paul Armorgie, acting chair of the Board of Education (BoE) told local media:
“I know that, among this cohort of parents, they have come to terms with their children having to go across to Guernsey. Of course, the uncertainty has caused angst among parents and pupils. They don’t know where they are going to be living. It is unsettling for families.”
“There are two options there. Outright purchase of a property or short-term rental of a property. Of course, we know the way the Guernsey property market is at the moment, but if Sark is serious about securing high quality education then perhaps making a capital investment in property is the right decision.”
“We have sourced a couple of properties which we think would work out well. Whether we can get them over the line by September is doubtful, I should think. It may be that we need to look at a 12-month lease initially and then purchasing long term.”
“We have a house parent lined up. A Sark resident who is prepared to do it. She would be a very good candidate. She is known to and trusted by the parents.”
“There are a number of pieces of this jigsaw puzzle – the preferred option is still host families – but we have the options of rental or purchase as well.”

Sark’s Education Committee confirmed:

“All options for providing a continuous and excellent education for our children remain on the cards, although it is too early to say which route Sark will take to do this.”
“We remain committed to plan A, which is to find suitable host families that we hope will become part of our community, by caring for our children as they continue their education in Guernsey.”
“If we are unable to recruit sufficient families to look after our children, then Chief Pleas will move quickly to enact any change required to afford a continuity of education for our children. Several options to do so are being considered.

This article first appeared in the Sark Newspaper : May 20th 2022

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