Friday 21 February 2020
The inequality of opportunity in GCSEs and other Key Stage 4 qualifications across secondary schools has been set out by the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture.
The curriculum varies widely across the four school sites. These inequalities are not the fault of schools, but are partly leftover from selective education and partly the result of maintaining small schools. Unless the States press ahead with the creation of two 11-18 colleges, as approved in 2018 and 2019, students' opportunities will continue to differ markedly depending on nothing more than where in the island they live.
The Committee has today published a table which demonstrates the differences in choices and opportunities across the mainstream secondary schools. For instance:
- At La Mare de Carteret and Les Beaucamps, French is the only language offered at GCSE (because it's the only language available at Key Stage 3). Whereas other GCSE languages have been offered at the Grammar School & Sixth Form Centre and St Sampson's.
- Spanish (GCSE) is studied only at the Grammar School.
- Psychology (GCSE) is now available only at the Grammar School.
- Computer Science (GCSE) is studied at the Grammar School and St Sampson's, but in one year group only at Les Beaucamps and not at the La Mare site.
- GCSE Business Studies is available at the Grammar School and St Sampson's but something different - BTEC Enterprise Management - is studied at La Mare de Carteret and Les Beaucamps.
What the table doesn't show is that:
- Recently, GCSE Geography was not available at La Mare de Carteret because there was no teacher.
- A previous attempt to make available more subjects to more students through 'federated' courses, such as GCSE Psychology, led to poorer student outcomes and was judged by many teachers to be ineffective.
- Science is delivered in a range of ways: individual subject specialists teach triple science at the Grammar School; more recently, triple science has been studied at some of the High Schools, but has not always been delivered by three separate specialist teachers; double-award science (trilogy) is taught in several different ways across the four schools; and at St Sampson's some students have completed Key Stage 4 with only a single science qualification (e.g. GCSE biology).
In addition, there are significant differences in the course combinations available at the various schools. Again this is largely due to the small size of schools and year groups and the resultant timetabling challenges.
An equal and broad Key Stage 4 curriculum (GCSE/BTEC/IGCSE) is one of the benefits of the current reforms to establish two 11-18 colleges operating as a single school, which are already in the second year of a five-year transition period.
Some work has been undertaken to narrow some of the distinctions between schools' offers over the last two years, but they can be properly addressed swiftly only if the current reforms and transition process is continued and completed on schedule in 2022/23.
Deputy Matt Fallaize, President of the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture, said:
'The lack of parity across our schools is simply unacceptable and there is nothing we can do about it unless we press ahead with our current reforms to create larger year groups and larger schools with larger and more resilient teams of staff across all subjects. Through no fault of the schools or their staff, we simply cannot offer the same breadth of curriculum at Key Stage 4 in small schools.
'We effectively have a postcode lottery. It cannot be acceptable that a 15 year old who lives in one part of the island has totally different opportunities at school to his or her counterpart in another part of the island who shares the same subject interests and aptitude.
'When we talk about ensuring all Lisia School students have equality of opportunity in both of the 11-18 colleges, we are referring to various elements of the school experience, such as access to the same high-quality facilities and extracurricular activities, but a primary focus is on giving all students equal opportunity to study the full range of subjects on offer at Key Stage 4. Unless we press ahead with our current reforms on their current timetable, we will have students in all-ability year groups faced with unfair and unnecessary restrictions when they choose their Key Stage 4 subjects.
'The one school over two colleges model was the best to deliver equality of opportunity and other educational benefits when the States voted for it two years ago. It remained the best model to deliver those benefits in September 2019 when the Assembly voted for it again. The case has not changed since. Either we continue with these reforms or we accept that it is reasonable to deny young people opportunities to study a full range of subjects based not on their interest or aptitude but based only on where they live.'