IOM General Election 2021 Trade Unions

Education Hustings # 1: Onchan

The Isle of Man General Election takes place on Thursday 23rd September 2021 with all seats in the House of Keys in contention. In the run up to the General Election, the Isle of Man Branch of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has organised a series of hustings around several of the island’s constituencies which will focus on schools and education. NAHT IOM want to shine a spotlight on education throughout the election to ensure it sits with prominence on the agenda of all prospective MHKs seeking election. The branch has produced its own “manifesto for education” and has challenged the candidates to “pledge” their support to their cause. As the Branch Secretary for NAHT IOM, Max Kelly will be present at each of the four hustings events over the course of the week.

The candidates standing in the Onchan constituency are: Rob Callister, Michael Leather, Julie Edge, James Cherry, and Peter Willers.

Pictured L>R: Rob Callister, Michael Leather, William Wood (NAHT, Chair for Hustings Event), Julie Edge, James Cherry, and Peter Willers.

The first ever education-focussed hustings organised by the Isle of Man Branch of NAHT took place on Monday 13th September at Ashley Hill Primary School. All five candidates standing for election to the House of Keys took part in the hustings and faced a variety of questions on a range of topics all under the theme of education.

The hustings showed the positive engagement of candidates with the topic of education and certainly helped put this key area front and centre of the upcoming General Election.

Opening Statements

The evening began with the candidates drawing lots to determine the order of the speakers. Charing the event was NAHT member and Isle of Man Committee member William Wood. He began proceedings by inviting each candidate to make an opening statement.

NAHT manifesto for education

I had the honour of asking the first question from the floor. I wanted to know what the candidates had made of the NAHT manifesto and whether of not they were committed to working with school leaders should they be elected.

Catchment, school capacity, investment and birth rates

The next question from the floor sought to grill the candidates on their views around using Government funding to extend some school buildings to accommodate pupil numbers when there were other schools with capacity. The islands falling birth rate was used to set the question in context. Candidates used the opportunity to explore the Isle of Man’s catchment policy in their answers.

Mental health and well-being

Candidates were quizzed next on their insights and opinions around students’ mental health and well-being, particularly in light of the COVID19 pandemic. The question from the floor asked candidates to give their views and to offer any solutions they had to help address this area. Although the question focussed on the well-being and mental health of students, many candidates also referred to the wider issue and brought in references to teachers and school leaders.

School inspection

The next question from the floor focussed the candidate’s minds on the issue of school accountability and sought to hear their views on how they felt school reviews and inspections should be undertaken and why.

Tweet from NAHT National Secretary Rob Kelsall who was visiting the Isle of Man and in attendance at the hustings.

The Isle of Man Education System: a lone wolf?

An interesting question from one audience member asked the candidates whether they felt the Isle of Man should seek to draw on the experiences and expertise of colleagues and school systems from further afield, particularly from other jurisdictions within the British Isles.

Is there a school funding crisis in the Isle of Man?

Perhaps the most passionate question of the night concerned school funding. The Isle of Man Branch of NAHT considers that school funding is at crisis point in the Isle of Man, and the questioner gave candidates a flavour of some of the issues faced by school leaders because of this funding shortfall.

Closing statements

The candidates were invited to close proceedings with a 2 minute closing statement.

The Isle of Man Branch of NAHT has organised a series of hustings events focused on education. It is an opportunity for school staff, parents, governors and anyone else interested in the future of education on the island to hear from the candidates. Hustings # 2 will be held on Tuesday evening (14th September 2021) in the constituency of former Education Minister Graham Cregeen, one of the candidates in the constituency of Arbory, Castletown and Malew.


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