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Statement by the President of the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture

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Wednesday 27 April 2022

General Update

Sir, at the time of my last update Statement in October, we had yet to debate proposals for a four-day weekend to celebrate Her Majesty The Queen's Platinum Jubilee.  We now have that longer celebration, but first we will celebrate the 77th anniversary of the Bailiwick's liberation. Their Royal Highnesses the Earl and Countess of Wessex will visit the Bailiwick in connection with both of these events. We look forward to welcoming them and to seeing the many and varied ways the parishes will celebrate our freedom. The ongoing conflict in eastern Europe serves to remind us that freedom should never be taken for granted.

We know that the Occupation played its part in the demise of our native language and, Sir, I am delighted that your predecessor, Sir Richard Collas, is the first Chairman of the Guernsey Language Commission, which is holding an open evening tomorrow, at 7pm at Les Beaucamps High School.  Through you Sir, I urge everyone here and those listening to come along and learn more about the Commission's plans and how we can help to preserve and generate interest in our precious Guernésiais.

Sir, a full update on progress covering the first year of the Active 8 Plan for Sport will soon be published, so I won't steal its thunder by saying more today, but we welcome feedback on that progress update following its publication.

The Guernsey Museum's two temporary galleries will soon have new equipment giving tighter control of environmental conditions thanks to a modest capital allocation; and in the latter months of 2023 it will host a prestigious Renoir Exhibition.  Excitingly, we have agreement, in principle, for artworks to be loaned for display from MuMa, Le Havre; The National Gallery, London; and Musée d'Orsay, Paris, as well as our partners Lemusée des impressionnismes, Giverny and Art for Guernsey.

The exhibition has the very real potential to attract visitors to the island, and has a strong educational element, building on existing Guernsey Museum and Art for Guernsey initiatives with local schools.

Speaking of which, I am pleased to report that, in line with the Government Work Plan, work on the transformation of Education continues at an ever-increasing pace.

The new facilities at the Les Ozouets Campus are now in the Technical Design phase (RIBA Stage 4); work which has included participation from a range of staff working for The Guernsey Institute, and in our secondary schools.  The associated Traffic Impact Assessment has been completed and has identified no major issues, and the planning application is now well progressed.  In parallel to this design work, we are tendering for construction work, and anticipate imminently recommending a preferred bidder.  We are also in the midst of work to allow us to vacate the current facilities, thus giving the construction partner a free run to start the construction of state-of-the-art facilities for all our post-16 learners.  It was frustrating and disappointing to have to adjust the planned commissioning date of these facilities from 2024 to 2025, but I was gratified by the support for this approach from professional leaders, trade unions, and many members of this Assembly.

Good progress has been made on the 'operating models' for both the Secondary School Partnership and The Guernsey Institute.  This critical work is entering its most detailed phase which will, in turn, allow for the implementation of necessary and beneficial changes.  We anticipate formal consultation with staff on the model for the Secondary School Partnership in the coming months.

Work to confirm how we will deliver the Digital Roadmap for education is nearing completion.  We anticipate this moving into the delivery phase later in this year which will quickly bring tangible benefits.

The Committee is also continuing its work to review the Education Law, which will provide a modern fit-for-purpose legislative framework to underpin our education system for decades to come. We are on track and confident that we will be consulting on the full suite of proposals in the first quarter of 2023.

Sir, as part of our work to update the Education Law, the Committee has been looking carefully at the way that individual education settings are governed.  We recognise the need to support our settings leaders by providing them with appropriate governance structures that can be used to ensure a deeper understanding of the individual challenges and opportunities that each setting faces.  Appropriate support and challenge mechanisms that hold leaders to account effectively are critical aspects of a continuously-improving education system and we are currently developing an interim governance model that will strengthen this aspect of the Committee's practice until proposals for the new Education Law, including proposals for a future model of governance, are debated next year.

All of our education-focused activity links to our Education Strategy, the main tenets of which States Members were consulted on back in December 2020.  The Strategy is the overarching framework that lays out our aspirations for all learners and has been carefully designed over time by leaders right across the education system.  All education-focused operational plans and policies and the great work that our Headteachers and Principals are leading in their own settings, are all now aligned to the Strategy; and our central education leadership team ensures that the key policy workstreams they implement under our direction all feed into the priorities and commitments of the Education Strategy.

Earlier this year, we asked all members of the large and diverse education workforce about the values they would like to see evidenced across education.  We had a wonderful response and have used this feedback to refine some of the commitments in our Education Strategy so that we can reflect the voice and the aspirations of our staff even more clearly.

Sir, Members will know that in early 2020, nasen was commissioned by the previous Committee to undertake an independent review of Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (referred to as 'SEND') locally.

This Review confirmed that there is substantial effective practice that supports learners with SEND across Guernsey and Alderney, but it identified some inconsistencies that need to be addressed.

All 18 recommendations arising from the SEND Review, which were grouped into immediate, short-term and medium-term priorities, were accepted by the Committee. I am pleased to report that progress has been made against all recommendations, which are central to the delivery of the Equity, Safety and Inclusivity aspects of our Education Strategy. Some recommendations have already been completed, most notably the development of the Special Educational Needs Coordinator role within all our schools and settings.

Officers are now working on other recommendations which will see the quality of practice, and in turn the experience and outcomes of our SEND learners, improve.

Sir, external inspection is integral to ensuring that the community has clarity about the quality of our schools and settings and is a core part of the Education Strategy.  Although we saw the need to defer the commencement of Ofsted's formal inspections as a consequence of the pandemic, we have been desperate for the inspection cycle to begin so that we have a truly independent assessment of how our settings are performing.  Where schools are performing well, we need to celebrate that and learn from them.  Where schools are at an earlier stage of their improvement journey, we need to support them on that journey by sharing best practice as we strive for a consistently high standard across all the States-maintained schools.

I am happy to report that Ofsted's first external inspection took place just prior to Easter, at Vale Primary School.  Ofsted's report, published yesterday, evaluates Vale Primary as 'good' in all five focus areas, that is: a good quality of education; good behaviour and attitudes; good personal development and welfare; good leadership and management; and good Early Years provision.  This is a solid and secure evidence-based foundation from which the School can build towards excellence.  I am so pleased that Ofsted has recognised the tremendous work of the Headteacher and his staff team and their ambitious approach to learning, which is even more pleasing when we consider the extent of the disruptions to normal life and routines the last two years have brought.

Sir, although we are all now learning to live with COVID, it is widely acknowledged that education settings have faced significant and sustained challenges as a result of the pandemic.  Staff in our schools and in The Guernsey Institute have coped valiantly with two lockdowns but the last three months or so have been some of the most difficult due to significant staff and student absence.  Our focus throughout, with our senior education staff working closely with Public Health colleagues, has been to put in place proportionate enhanced measures aimed at keeping settings open for our students.  This is because we know that face-to-face learning and social interaction with peers is so important for all young people, both educationally and for their mental health and well-being.

And I cannot talk about COVID without also mentioning the staff at Beau Sejour who have facilitated the effective operation of the Community Vaccination Centre.

So in closing Sir I would like to place on record the Committee's grateful thanks to staff in all our teaching and learning settings, at Beau Sejour, and in our heritage sites, for their calm and pragmatic approach over what, by any measure, has been a very challenging time.  I would also like to extend the Committee's thanks to all of our learners for the resilience they have shown, to the parents and carers who have supported them through these very strange times, and to those within our sporting community who were displaced by the CVC for such a long time but who are now back 'home' at Beau Sejour.

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