The current Education Law is widely regarded as outdated and no longer fit for purpose. It was agreed in the 1970s but based on UK legislation from the 1940s and some elements of educational practice date as far back as the turn of the century.
Updating the Law is a key priority for the Committee this States term and responses to the public consultation (which ran between the 18th January and 6th March 2023) will inform the development of the Committee's final proposals, which will then be debated by the States Assembly later this year.
The Committee has published a short animation seeking to provide an overview of the current law, why it needs to change and why it is so important for the delivery of education. The animation can be viewed here:
The Committee published a short animation seeking to provide an overview of governance within an education context and asked for views about the future of education governance:
Education Law consultation feedback
More than 700 responses were received to the consultation and combined feedback is available here: Education Law Consultation Summary May 23 [574kb]
The Committee also published an animation to share its proposals:
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is it necessary to update the new Education Law?
- The Education Law provides the protections to surround learners of all ages and all abilities. It provides the legal framework to ensure that as a jurisdiction we are keeping pace as the word develops and that internationally, our reputation is maintained with clear responsibilities and accountabilities for education providers and the education office.
- The current Law has barriers which have prevented the development of our education system, in particular with regard to delegation and devolution, and includes outdated language and concepts which do not reflect current practice in education settings.
Does the new Law mean that no new schools can be legally opened?
- No. The new Law simply clarifies that there will only be three types of school that can legally operate and that each of these types of schools must be registered and approved by the States, through the relevant Committee. The new Law recognises that schools will be classified as either:
- i) Voluntary schools, whose buildings are owned by the Diocese of Portsmouth and which operate as a partnership between States and the Catholic church)
- ii) States-maintained schools, who are fully-funded by the States
- iii) Independent schools.
- The new Law will stipulate that, from the point of the new law coming into force, any new school will have to be either a States-maintained school or an Independent school. This means that no new Voluntary schools will be opened on the island.
What about the Grant-Aided Colleges, how will the Law apply to them?
- It is proposed that under the new law the current Grant-Aided Colleges (The Ladies' College, Elizabeth College and Blanchelande College) will fall within the definition of an Independent school. This will place certain duties on the Colleges to provide data to Government for the purposes of managing its education system. They will also be required to comply with some of the safeguarding provisions being introduced (such as keeping a register of staff on site) and will be required to be independently inspected. Currently the Colleges already meet these expectations, many of which are contained within different legislation and agreements. By bringing them together under the new Law there will be greater clarity for both the Colleges and for parents and carers.
- It is also important to remember that the Law will be in place for a considerable amount of time - probably another 50 years, and so the Committee has needed to think about the requirements for any new schools which may be established in the future, not just about those which already exist.
Will the new Law mean that I have to send my child to a pre-school before they start school?
The new Law will not stipulate that all children have to attend pre-school before they begin Year Reception. However, the new Law will require that the Committee ensures that there is a sufficient pre-school provision available so that parents who wish to access pre-school education are able to do so. This is part of a commitment to promote the value of Early Childhood Education, which is widely accepted to be an important factor in school readiness and successful learning.
What is the difference between Compulsory Education Age and Education Participation Age, and why does the new Law include both?
The new Law will carry forward a compulsory age during which all learners will be required by Law to access education, whether that is in States-maintained, Voluntary or Independent school or via an alternative route, such as home education. As is the case currently, this age will extend from 5 - 16 years old. However, the new Law will also provide for the future by adding the option to extend the requirement to engage in some aspect of formal education beyond the age of 16, if and when this is considered necessary for the island and its learners. It is important to note that this new legislative option - called the Education Participation Age - will not be 'switched on' by the current Committee at the point of the new Law coming into force and that any decisions regarding the use of this enabling power would be subject to further debate by the States and cross-Committee consideration.
Does the new Law include any new powers around school attendance?
Yes. The new Law will strengthen existing mechanisms designed to promote high standards of school attendance. This is because good attendance at school is such an important indicator of future success for most learners, and also plays an important role in safeguarding young people. A number of provisions from the old Law, including the use of School Attendance Orders and associated proceedings, will be carried over into the new Law.
When the new Law is in force will I be fined for taking my child out school?
The new Law will allow for a future Committee to recommend that fines are introduced subject to specific processes and conditions. The detail of how this would work, when it could be used and what would happen if fines were not paid would need to be considered by the States and agreed prior to coming into force. These fines will only be permitted to be served where schools and services can evidence that they have taken all appropriate action to support a family to improve attendance.
The new Law says that learners cannot be excluded from education but does allow a school to use exclusion. What does this mean?
- The new Law outlines a high-level and universal entitlement to education for children and young people. This makes it clear that no learner should have their right to education removed and so it will be unlawful for any learner to not have access to a suitable educational provision during their compulsory education age. However, the type and location of a suitable educational provision may vary for some learners.
- Sadly, there are some occasions where it is no longer possible or appropriate for a young person to remain part of a specific school community. When this is the case, a school may use their power to exclude them from their organisation for a short period or, more rarely, permanently. Where this happens, the new Law will make it clear that an alternative and sufficient alternative education placement must be made available prior to the permanent exclusion from an individual school - this will ensure that all learners of compulsory education age continue to have access to their universal entitlement to education offered by the States.
In the new Law, who will be responsible for the curriculum that a school delivers?
A curriculum can be defined as 'the substance of that which is learned' and usually refers to the knowledge and skills that children and young people acquire as they progress in their learning. The new Law will make it clear that the high-level framework of the curriculum will, as it is now, continue to be set out in policy by the appropriate Committee. This will ensure that any local strategic priorities, or areas in which specific knowledge and skills are considered critical components of learning for children and young people, can be outlined to school leaders and governors. Leaders, teachers and governors are then responsible for developing and sequencing the specific content of the curriculum and for ensuring that it is delivered effectively. Support from the Education Office is available to help staff in schools and settings to meet the requirements of the curriculum.
How will the new Law improve things for my child who has additional or special educational needs?
The new Law will improve education for children and young people with additional learning needs in several ways. Responding to the views of stakeholders, the new Law will use language which is significantly more progressive and inclusive, moving towards definitions of need which acknowledge that learning needs are 'additional', rather than 'special/different'. It will also extend the age-range so that learners who may have additional needs can be identified and supported earlier and so that they can be confident that, where needed, support continues beyond their compulsory education age and up to age 25. By doing this, the new Law will require that services from across health, social care and education work together more effectively to meet the needs of children and young people with additional learning needs. The new Law will also reference an updated and modernised Code of Practice which will provide detail about how learners and their families should be supported so that they can fulfil their potential and flourish during their time in education. This Code of Practice will be a critical tool in supporting and further developing inclusion across all educational settings.
Will the new Law allow me to choose to home educate my child?
- Yes. The new Law continues to recognise that parents are entitled to opt for home education for their child. In addition, the new Law will ensure that there is greater clarity around expectations and processes regarding home educated learners. This will include ensuring that appropriate policy, developed in partnership with home educators, exists to ensure that all home educated learners are safe and are receiving their legal universal entitlement to a 'sufficient' education in order that they can be successful in the next phase of their life.
- This will help to ensure that no children and young people are at risk of becoming a Child Missing Education. Feedback from the home educating community suggests that one of the main barriers home educated learners can face is access to formal examinations at 16. The new Law will support access to examinations for those young people who are home educated through provision of means-tested funding for examination entries to ensure that where the cost is prohibitive, these learners are not disadvantaged.
How will the new Law support children in care?
- The new Law will ensure that the progress and educational outcomes of children and young people in care receive appropriate priority and attention so that they can thrive at school. This will be done by establishing a requirement for a nominated professional to retain specific oversight of this group of learners, monitoring and intervening so that any child in care receives the very best that the education system can offer.
How will the new Law help to keep my child safe and well at school?
- The new Law will ensure that expectations around safeguarding and the physical and mental health of learners is prioritised in legislation. These are all areas upon which the existing Law lacks detail. The new Law will do this by establishing clearer expectations around safeguarding practice and will place new legal duties around teacher registration. In addition, the new Law will reference expectations around areas where it is critical that education settings, parents and learners have clarity. These will include, amongst others, responsibilities around promoting positive behaviour, processes relating the searching of children in schools and clear directions on the prohibition of corporal punishment in educational establishments.
My child attends The Guernsey Institute/I am an adult learner at The Guernsey Institute. Does the new Law affect me?
- Yes. Whilst much of the new Law will apply to learners of compulsory education age or those with additional needs who are accessing extended provision, there are a number of features of the new Law that will apply to learners who are above compulsory education age or are engaged in lifelong learning. Examples of these include, amongst others, expectations around safeguarding; proposals for education governance; access to impartial careers guidance and the inspection of education organisations.
Will this new Law only apply to Guernsey?
- Currently, the Education Law (Guernsey) 1970, is applied, with modifications, to the Island of Alderney by the Alderney (Application of Legislation) (Education) Ordinance, 1970. St Anne's School is operated in accordance with legislation and policies which are applicable to schools in Guernsey, but through the Alderney-specific legislation.
- The provisions of the new legislation for schools in Guernsey will extend to St Anne's School as it is operated by the States of Guernsey. However, the new Education Law provides an opportunity to consolidate legislation for education provided in Guernsey and Alderney by creating a single law for both islands. Once the States has agreed a set of resolutions there will be formal consultation with the States of Alderney to determine the most appropriate way to progress this.
When will the new Law come into force?
- Once the States have agreed a set of resolutions, which is expected to be following the June States meeting, they will be used by the Law Officers to draft the necessary legislation. This will need to go through the required approval processes before coming back to the States for approval. It is sensible that an Education Law comes into force for the start of the academic year, and given how out of date the current legislation is the Committee is hopeful that this will be September 2025.
Where can I read the new law?
- The new legislation will not be drafted until after the States has debated the Policy Letter in June. The Policy Letter is available at the following link: Education Law Review - States of Guernsey (gov.gg)
Does education governance mean that politicians will have less to do with schools?
No. The introduction of governance boards is not designed to dilute the oversight of education that politicians have over the education system. Instead, the insight that will be provided by a representative group of governors (including parents, staff and community representatives) will be used to support the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture as it develops strategic education policy which will affect learners across all settings. This will allow political leaders to focus on setting the direction and overall expectations for education and intervening strategically only where this is compromised or ineffective. By doing this, our education workforce will be empowered to use their professional skills and knowledge to drive and maintain high standards in their organisations, supported by governance boards who have the time to develop a deep understanding of a setting and who will be trained to provide regular support and challenge to education leaders in schools and settings - something that is very challenging for a small group of politicians to provide for twenty different educational organisations alongside their wider political mandate. The Committee will retain and strengthen its important governance role across the Education Office and Services, ensuring that both the infrastructure and support mechanisms that the States provides to its 20 education settings function effectively and support the ambitions of its Education Strategy.
Will education governance be exactly the same as in England?
No. Whilst some of the principles of education governance that will exist in the new Law may appear similar to that used in other jurisdictions including England, the specific categories of governor, the duties they hold, the constitution of governance boards and the procedures that support them, have been carefully considered and varied so that they meet the local needs. This means that the 'shape' of our education governance will look different to that in some neighbouring jurisdictions. This is because the size and scale of the education system, its interdependencies, and the role of the government in education is unique and requires a bespoke governance solution. The new Law will provide the flexibility for local education governance to develop over time so that, as the educational landscape on the island evolves, the specific delivery model for governance can also adapt to meet the islands needs. Detail about how the governance model will work and the policy guidance that will support this will be included in a statutory Governance Handbook which will be developed for the enactment of the new Law. Some more information about the way that the Committee intends to start the process of governance boards can also be found in the Annex to the Education Law Policy Letter.
Will the new Law mean that parishes lose the links with their local schools?
No. The new Law will establish categories and specific types of governor and a number of these roles will certainly benefit from links with parishes. Community governance roles may be provided most effectively by governors who have a strong link with the parishes that align with a school. Whilst governors will be primarily recruited based on the skills that they can provide to the board, in policy guidance Chairs of governance boards will be asked to ensure that links with the local community are prioritised. Parishes can also continue to support their local schools through engagement with PTAs and links with Headteachers/Principals. The new Law will not provide for school committees in the way that the old Law does. This is because the new governance boards will subsume the previously limited responsibilities of existing school committees. This does not preclude current school committee members from applying to become members of a governance board and we would actively encourage this group of valued members of the community to apply where their skills and experience meet the criteria for application.
What kind of people can be governors for schools or The Guernsey Institute?
All sorts of people with all sorts of skills and experience can become effective governors and help education leaders drive and improve their setting. There are no particular qualifications needed to become an education governor; what is most important is that governors are committed, good at listening and learning, are willing to act objectively on behalf of all of the learners in their setting and can build and maintain positive and constructive relationships with lots of different people including education professionals, parents, politicians and the wider community. Importantly, we need to make sure our governors represent the local community, so we are seeking volunteers from all sorts of different backgrounds.
Governors need to be able to give up enough of their time so that they can provide informed and effective oversight and develop their governance skills too. Each governance board will aim to recruit a diverse group of governors who can best reflect the community that the setting serves and who can work well together and with others; sometimes this will mean that specific skill-sets or experiences are especially desirable on a particular board. Where this is the case, governance recruitment information will specify requirements.
Once the proposals have been agreed by the States, it will be important to work with businesses who have Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes, where staff are released to perform volunteering roles in the community. The skills and experiences which governors acquire through the role are valued by employers in other jurisdictions because they are transferable to the work environment and help people progress in their careers.
The Chairs of Governance Boards will need to have particular skills because the role is so significant. For these positions, the Committee will be looking for people who have strong leadership skills, who are able to think strategically and be able to support and challenge our education leaders.
Will there be any training and support for governors?
Yes. It is very important that there is both initial training and then a comprehensive development programme available for all governors. This is so that settings receive the level of skilled support and challenge that they deserve from their governance board. Some training will be mandatory (for example, training on safeguarding etc) and some will be optional. Chairs will be expected to ensure that their governance board has sufficient knowledge of key areas by attending appropriate training over time. Governors will also benefit from regular support from the Education Office and senior educationalists to help them to discharge their duties effectively. The statutory Governance Handbook will also be an important tool for all governors.
Why are you proposing to pay the Chairs of the new school Governance Boards and does this mean they are employees?
The Committee has considered this matter very carefully and proposes that there should be flexibility in the Law to provision to pay Chairs.The rationale being that the role is both a critical and high profile and also because the boards are clustered, it represents a significant commitment both in terms of organising the boards themselves but also in performing the link roles (for example frequent meetings with the Headteacher / Principal) and making time to attend the training programme. The role of the Chair is not an employee of the States.
Is the Headteacher or Principal of a school part of the Governance Board?
The Headteacher or Principal (and the Executive Headteacher or Principal where that role exists) will be part of the board in an ex-officio capacity because of the nature of their employment.
What will the extent of governor's liability be?
Education settings have insurance policies to comply with their legal obligations provided actions are taken in good faith, honestly and reasonably.
Governance Boards will be collectively accountable for fulfilling the duties which are set out in the legislation. The Committee's proposals are that at the point of the new Law coming into force, duties will extend to matters such as ensuring that the school has a clear vision and ethos, that learners' voices are considered in the strategic development of the setting and that schools and The Guernsey Institute promote the achievement of all learners including those with additional learning needs or who may be subject to disadvantage.
How will the new Law help people to have their voices heard about education?
The new Law will provide some new ways for people to have their voices heard around education. Data and reporting expectations in the Law will ensure that information about education is required to be readily available so that the Committee can both share information and respond to questions about the whole education system easily and with appropriate transparency. In addition, the new Law establishes some additional mechanisms to allow people to share their views about education. One example of this is the establishment of representative governance boards who will be required to engage with learners and their community and provide feedback to the political body. Another is that the new Law will establish a more comprehensive appeals and complaints structure so that, where decisions about education need to be reviewed or reconsidered, appropriate structures exist to allow for this activity.