Wednesday 25 September 2019
The last thing the States' Assembly did before this meeting was to debate my Committee's Policy Letter on the education reforms we are leading in particular to secondary and further education. I will try not to cover too much of that same territory in this update statement.
I do wish to thank the States for backing the Committee's ambitious reforms by a healthy majority. In time these reforms will lead to an education system better able to achieve our vision of opportunity and excellence for all students. Before the October half-term the Committee will write to parents to provide further details of the transitional arrangements to the new secondary model of one school in two 11-18 colleges.
The Programme Business Case which we published alongside the Policy Letter has been independently reviewed in accordance with agreed States' procedures and received a 'green' rating, which means it is in good shape to proceed to the next phase of Outline Business Cases for each of the several projects which make up the full Programme. The Outline Business Case for the 11-18 school is currently being written and will be submitted next month. The planning application is being prepared for the developments at St Sampson's (which will become Victor Hugo College) and les Beaucamps (which will become de Saumarez College). Tenders for the construction projects will be issued in the next few weeks subject to approval of the Outline Business Case. Consultation continues with unions and staff on the transitional and future arrangements for the new single Lisia School and it is hoped that the next round of appointments will commence later this year. We are working with the newly-appointed Executive Principal of The Guernsey Institute to prepare the Outline Business Case for that development project for submission in 2020. Since the States' debate three weeks ago we have started to assess the feasibility of consolidating further education sites and vacating much or all the Delancey Campus to assist our colleagues at Health & Social Care, as directed by the States.
As members know, Education Scotland has been replaced by Ofsted as our new partner for inspecting States' schools and colleges in the Bailiwick. In recent months we have been developing a new inspection framework against which schools and colleges will be assessed. This has included consultation with school leaders and unions. Yesterday the Committee finalised the inspection framework which will be used for a series of pilot inspections in the next few months and then, if necessary, further modified before full inspections commence in the summer term of 2020. This is a deliberately rigorous framework - albeit modified to fit our objective to support, not to alarm, schools - for use by an inspectorate with a clearer national mandate for driving up standards; and we should not be surprised if inspection reports appear to be holding schools to notably demanding standards.
There was much to celebrate in this year's GCSE and equivalent results. There were success stories across all schools and the College of Further Education within The Guernsey Institute. The Committee congratulates students and teachers for their hard work and achievements.
There were also clear signs of where outcomes today are likely to be falling short of comparable parts of the UK and where we should work to improve standards.
It is currently not possible to make direct comparisons between Guernsey and other jurisdictions. A new secondary school accountability system was introduced in England from 2016, including new performance measures, new qualifications and a new grade structure. These changes were introduced in response to problems with the previous 5 A*-C measure, which remained in use in Guernsey. Qualifications are also included in performance measures in Guernsey which are no longer judged to be of equivalent value in England. The Committee is not willing to set lower standards for students in Guernsey than their English counterparts and has resolved to move towards some of the new English performance measures, including Attainment 8.
This will provide:
- Better incentives to schools to prioritise the progress of all students equally and focus on a broader range of subjects;
- Better preparation for further and higher education;
- Qualifications which are respected wherever students choose to work or study; and
- Accurate benchmarking of Guernsey's performance.
Despite the current lack of comparability, the Committee is keen to ensure the highest levels of transparency in standards and performance. School leaders are analysing data - including an indicative measure under the new Attainment 8 system - and this information will be published shortly.
It is important that we look beyond our shores to ensure that what we do in education is evidence-based and draws on the best practice worldwide.
International evidence suggests that when content is more loosely defined - as is the case in the largely skills-based curriculum introduced in Guernsey in 2017 - there is a decline in overall standards and an increase in inequality of outcomes between students from more and less privileged backgrounds. Guernsey may already be starting to see the decline in standards experienced in other jurisdictions that have introduced similar curricula, such as Scotland, France and Ontario.
There are early indications of a possible decline in standards of literacy across Key Stages 1 and 2. This is based on the data provided by schools about pupils' performance at the end of Year 2 and the end of Year 6. There has also been a substantial increase in referrals for additional support for literacy. Literacy is a key priority and the Committee has directed that a review into the possible decline in standards must be undertaken in the current school term. It will consider possible reasons and suggest solutions which can swiftly be put in place to reverse any declines.
The Committee fully supports the aims of the curriculum - to develop students who can think critically, solve problems and be creative and who will become responsible citizens and contribute effectively to our society. An express commitment of the curriculum is to be "dynamic, adaptable and constantly evolving". The curriculum needs to be considerably strengthened to avoid the declines in standards seen elsewhere: for example, work is under way to ensure greater focus on content and there needs to be greater attention paid to the sequencing of what is learned across the key stages.
The development of the curriculum will aim to retain its existing benefits, including the focus on wider outcomes and the involvement of teachers, whilst learning lessons from, and avoiding the mistakes of, other jurisdictions.
It would be unacceptable educationally, socially, economically and morally to deliver a curriculum which does not provide every student, regardless of their background, with the best possible chance of success in the future. Further development of the curriculum is a key priority alongside the transformation of secondary and further education.
Investment of approximately £1million in sports facilities at Footes Lane is nearly complete. The new eight-lane running track - the only one in the Channel Islands - is being installed this week and the facilities are scheduled to reopen to all users next week.
Since my last update statement, the Committee and its new partner, EC Events, hosted our annual Liberation Day celebrations. Various new features seemed generally to be welcomed by the public, including changing the layout of events in Town which allowed more than 5,000 people to visit Castle Cornet. Preparations are well under way (including having secured an increased budget for various improvements and special events) for next year's 75th anniversary celebrations of the Liberation and 80th anniversary commemorations of the Evacuation.
The Committee still anticipates that by the end of this calendar year it will have finalised and submitted a Policy Letter proposing the first sports strategy (in response to an extant States' Resolution directing one) and around the same time a Policy Letter proposing a new approach to maintaining and promoting our indigenous language.
In my last update statement in April I advised that revenue expenditure was under budget. This remains the case and the Committee is confident that its full year expenditure in 2019 will be within the budget agreed by the States.
Last year the Committee agreed to support schools in becoming UNICEF Rights Respecting Schools. 16 schools have now achieved the bronze award and some are working towards the silver award.
The Committee is leading the development of an Early Years Roadmap, which will become a key part of the Children & Young People's Plan, with the aim of ensuring that resources are directed as wisely as possible to provide early help to our youngest and least advantaged children.
We are working with colleagues in Alderney to establish new and improved pre-school provision through St Anne's School.
Work continues on the development of a new Education Law to replace the existing 1970 Law which has been recognised as outdated and inadequate for at least 20 years without being substantially revised. The Committee still anticipates submitting a Policy Letter on the Education Law before the end of the States' term and is using some of its existing budget to allow initial drafting of the prospective legislation - this will allow the States, if they wish, to approve the necessary Projet sooner than would otherwise be the case.