Wednesday 13 October 2021
Sir, when I last gave an update to this Assembly in May, we were uncertain of what the Spring & Summer season would bring, not least for events and visitors to our arts and heritage sites. I am pleased that with the support of islanders exploring what we have on our doorstep, and visitor numbers slowly increasing, our events and sites have been enjoyed by many this season, helping us to stay on budget despite obvious challenges.
Sir, many will recall that, in the Summer of 2020, the previous Assembly gave a unanimous "pour" in support of Guernésiais. I am pleased to confirm that we are about to register the Guernsey Language Commission as a charity and I hope to be able to announce its inaugural Chair in the next couple of weeks. We have had tremendous support from many Islanders who are passionate about ensuring that our language continues to thrive and we are grateful to all of them for their enthusiasm and commitment to maintaining this unique part of our Island identity.
I would like to pay tribute to the Commissioners and staff of the Guernsey Sports Commission, who have worked tirelessly with our Island's sporting organisations during the Covid-19 pandemic. It's not over yet, but with the CCA's proportionate approach to risk management, our sporting community is moving closer to being able to travel, host and participate in sports and physical activity without restrictions. We look forward to welcoming some of those sports back to their Beau Sejour "homes" in the New Year and in the meantime thank them, and the many others who have supported the sporting community with alternative venues, for their ongoing patience and flexibility.
Sir, shortly we will debate a proposal to create a four day weekend over which to celebrate Her Majesty The Queen's Platinum Jubilee - and I think we can all agree that such a truly remarkable milestone ought to be appropriately celebrated here in the Bailiwick, after all the Channel Islands are the Crown's oldest possessions. Many will remember that we adjusted our public holidays to enable the celebration of Her Majesty The Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012. Should the Assembly agree to do so again, we will continue to develop the details of how we might engage in plans for national Platinum Jubilee events across that weekend. We will do all we can to ensure Islanders are able to enjoy fitting celebrations.
Only a short number of weeks ago Sir, this Assembly approved plans for the reorganisation of Secondary and Post-16 education that will see further development of the Secondary School Partnership - a unified leadership team working as a key enabler in the effective delivery of the new model - alongside The Guernsey Institute's leadership team.
Detailed delivery work has picked up pace and workshops are providing opportunities for staff to input into design plans within the scope of identified requirements of the post 16 campus at Les Ozouets as we progress through RIBA Stage 3. Traffic surveys are being conducted and, following the later than anticipated conclusion of the debate last month, the team is reviewing and reconfirming the delivery plan, in line with the wider approach that follows on from the approval of the Government Work Plan.
The digital roadmap is progressing, moving us beyond the vision and into detailed design and implementation, including a future professional development model created to meet the needs of our curriculum, as well as the changes to processes and systems that technology brings. We have taken steps to ensure that our education settings are benefiting from the investment already being made through the Smart Guernsey programme, whether that be in new devices for staff or improvements to infrastructure and connectivity.
The Guernsey Institute is now a visible brand within our community, due to the current focus on the three integrating organisations being 'seen as one' - one new organisation for all technical, vocational and professional education and training. Staff engagement has been supported by several 'together as one' events where staff hear key updates about the development of our single post-16 campus.
This is part of an overarching change management plan, preparing staff, students, parents and other stakeholders for the changes that are underway across these two phases of education. They ensure stakeholders have information, support and of course the opportunity to contribute to the operational delivery of the new model. The team has established regular meetings with union colleagues to ensure continued feedback on engagement activities and the overall change management approach, which is one of openness and inclusivity - no one is to be left in the dark or left behind as we work together, focussing on solutions to inevitable challenges, and on the exciting opportunities for new and different ways of working that will present themselves.
Sir we recognise that States Members are key stakeholders too. Earlier this year we hosted a novel series of webinars and we intend to start a second series in November to honour our commitment to keep States Members informed of the changes taking place across our education system which plays such a key part in our future prosperity. Before the end of the year, we will dedicate a webinar to the reorganisation of secondary and post-16 education, providing much more detail than time allows today. Through you sir, I encourage all States Members to engage in these sessions.
Sir, work also continues on our vital Education Strategy. Working with colleagues right across the sector we will implement the strategic priorities and commitments that support improvement across the education system. The Strategy is our cornerstone in developing the vision and culture for the education community, ensuring that we achieve equity, safety and inclusivity and that our education system meets the needs of the community by delivering high quality learning and excellent outcomes, underpinned by outstanding leadership and governance. Each school has a development plan and work is underway to ensure that all school development plans are aligned with our strategic commitments and priorities. We will also dedicate a webinar to a more fulsome update on the Strategy.
We are continuing the work of our predecessors to re-establish a rigorous and ambitious quality assurance framework for all our education settings. We have continued to work with Ofsted, despite COVID-related travel delays, and a new cycle of inspections across States-maintained settings will begin in November. Our inspection handbooks have been carefully adapted recognising the specific context of our Guernsey education system, whilst remaining true to the methodology and principles of Ofsted's Education Inspection Framework. Our leaders have had time to familiarise themselves and their staff with the new framework as we work together to ensure that we secure the high standards of education that our community and Ofsted rightly expect.
Our schools continue to develop their local interpretation of the Bailiwick Curriculum to ensure that in all settings the curriculum is broad, diverse, ambitious and reflects the needs of all learners. Detailed plans for all subject areas are being written or adopted, leading to teaching that responds to individual learners' needs. A revised assessment policy will remove perverse incentives to concentrate resources inequitably and ensure that the qualifications offered are in the best interests of the learner. The revised policy will have a particular spotlight on reducing the percentage of learners who struggle with reading & writing and maths, with those who do, being identified early and receiving effective intervention so that they make good progress in catching up with their peers.
Sir, as the guardians of the States-maintained education system the Committee carries a great responsibility. It is vitally important that we govern effectively - we must both support and challenge our school leaders and our officers. We are fully committed to ensuring that governance is intelligent, impactful and appropriate for our unique context. Throughout this academic year we will be exploring governance at a settings-level alongside our system-wide focus so that as we embark on the review of the Education Law we are well-placed to develop a Guernsey specific and robust governance framework that empowers our leaders to lead and holds them to account for improvement where it is needed .
Sir, as Public Health continues to guide us towards living responsibly with COVID, our settings are adjusting operational activity to account for updated advice. A significant milestone was reached early in the autumn term with the move from self-isolation to daily lateral flow tests for contacts of COVID cases identified in education settings. The positive impact of this change on the mental health and wellbeing of our learners cannot be understated - children and young people are now able to continue to attend school or TGI rather than being required to self-isolate at home. We are grateful to Public Health colleagues for relaxing the restrictions on these children and young people attending extra-curricular activities when the evidence suggested it was safe to do so. Our staff have worked with Public Health to make sure that a proportionate approach to winter colds can be adopted to allow as many children and young people as possible to stay in school, if they are well enough and have followed the appropriate guidance. This will help keep learning on track and enable parents and carers to stay at work to help support our economic recovery.
Finally sir, none of what I have spoken about would be possible without the many teams working across all areas of our mandate whose dedication and determination to deliver the best service they can, often in very trying circumstances, for the benefit of the whole community never ceases to impress and inspire me. Through you sir, we offer them our heartfelt thanks.