Monday 02 September 2019
In January 2018, the States debated the future of secondary, further and higher education, and agreed to arrange secondary education in one school over two sites, and consolidate further and higher provision on one site.
Since then, detailed plans have been put together to deliver the greatest possible benefits for the Island's young people. As well as giving all young people the best possible education, with a broad range of curriculum options, high-quality enrichment opportunities and access to the best facilities the island can afford, much consideration has been given to students' mental and physical health.
The Committee for Education, Sport & Culture has worked closely with the Committee for Health & Social Care to develop coherent plans which optimise the educational and health benefits for students and for the wider community. As a member of both Committees, I have had the unique opportunity to be part of these discussions from both sides, and to be able to bring together the priorities in areas where they are complementary. The States has often been accused of silo working: these plans provide some excellent examples of joined up, cross-Committee working, which will ultimately benefit our community.
Much consideration has been given to students' mental and physical health within the new 11-18 school.
The school will operate a "schools within schools" system with small tutor groups to ensure that every student is known well and has access to high quality support. There will be high expectations of behaviour and any instances of bullying will be dealt with swiftly. There are many examples of poor behaviour and excellent behaviour in schools of all sizes. The specific challenges a school faces may vary depending on size, but it is systems and approaches that have the biggest impact on behaviour. In several ways, the flexible staffing structures planned for the new school will make providing support and addressing challenging behaviour easier than it is at the moment. More non-teaching staff will be available on each site to address issues quickly and provide support as needed. Significantly more space has been allocated to providing additional support for those who need it, including communication and autism bases on both sites.
The enrichment programme will give students a broad range of choices of extra-curricular activities, including physical activities and a wide range of arts and music clubs, and diverse opportunities from extra language classes to groups focussing on mindfulness. There is also huge support from organisations such as the Youth Commission, who will be able to provide a number of targeted support groups without students having to miss lessons or being limited by the need to travel on school buses.
Consideration has been given in the plans to promoting healthy eating at lunchtimes, including the use of cashless catering systems which will give parents more information about what their children are eating; encouraging and supporting active travel to school, including improving infrastructure such as pavements around schools so that children can walk safely; and providing the best possible opportunities within sport and physical education, including giving all students access to high quality facilities such as indoor swimming pools.
In addition to these benefits within the new schools, the proposals include three propositions which aim to strengthen joint working between education and health and social care in order to benefit young people and their families.
Firstly, there is an aim to bring together education and health and care services at the new 11-18 colleges to make it far easier for students and their families to access key professional support and advice. Less time would be lost to education in attending appointments during school time and there would be opportunities for much closer multi-agency working. This would create purpose-built environment at each of the colleges with space could be provided at each 11-18 college for clinical rooms, potentially for use by professionals including school nurses, school dentists and physiotherapists, as well as rooms for use predominantly by Children & Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), social workers and educational psychologists.
Secondly, the States are invited to agree to the exploration of opportunities to reorganise services across various buildings used by education and health and social care. The College of Further Education is currently split over three campuses, which negatively affects students' experiences. For example, the small number of students on each site limits the possibilities for enrichment opportunities and has meant that for a long time students have not had access to canteen facilities. Staff time is wasted travelling between sites. Long-term, all students will be based at the new Guernsey Institute building at Les Ozouets, subject to approval of funding. In the meantime, students and staff will benefit if the provision can be consolidated from three sites to two. This would create space at the Delancey site, allowing the Committee for Health & Social Care to vacate various wholly inadequate premises around the Island for the benefit of staff and service users. The Guernsey Institute also encompasses the Institute of Health and Social Care, which will be based at new purpose-built facilities at Les Ozouets. This will free up much needed space at the hospital.
Thirdly, both Committees believe there would be considerable merit in developing a community hub to bring together a wide range of complementary services in the fields of health, care, well-being, youth work, sports and the arts. This could include spaces for organisations in the charitable and private sectors, support groups, social networks and other community uses, as well as services providing housing advice, healthy lifestyle and weight management courses, a community gym, art therapy and other complementary services. It would reduce the number of different contacts for a person who uses such services and encourage collaborative working. There would be more opportunities to provide high-quality joined up support, including for the most vulnerable living in our community. If the funding for the new model of 11-18 education is approved, the site of the current Grammar School and Sixth Form Centre at Les Varendes will be vacated by June 2023. This is considered by both Committees to be a likely optimal site for a community hub due to its size, central location, existing provision for parking and close proximity to other facilities.
On Wednesday, the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture will go to the States to request the funding necessary to fund these ambitious plans. If they are approved, work can start on realising the many benefits for students and the wider community giving Guernsey's young people the best possible start to allow them to go on to live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.
Deputy Rhian Tooley
Vice President of the Committee for Health & Social Care and Member of the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture