Secondary education: the big questions

FROM WEDNESDAY’S MEETING AT LES BEAUCAMPS

Education president Andrea Dudley-Owen and vice-president Bob Murray presenting their plans at Les Beaucamps. 
(Picture by Andrew Le Poidevin, 29594993)
Education president Andrea Dudley-Owen and vice-president Bob Murray presenting their plans at Les Beaucamps. (Picture by Andrew Le Poidevin, 29594993)

Q: The 2022 Year 7s will be the last year going into La Mare de Carteret, is there a reason why you’ve chosen to do that as opposed to starting transition a year earlier?

A: We’re very, very careful about when we move students on and where they are in their educational journey, and it seems to be the least disruptive to do it at that point in time, as it allows time for students and families to prepare.

Q: Are there concerns about the staffing of the sixth form centre being on a separate campus?

A: There are a variety of staffing opportunities on a sliding scale. For example we can work with as few as 12 staff needing to move between their school and the new Sixth Form Centre, but we can accommodate more if other staff want to be involved in the full breadth of 11-18 teaching. A strength of the model that we’re developing is that it provides for an 11-18 learning partnership and we have a sophisticated timetabling system.

Q: Are the staff and the unions all completely behind this model?

A: We’ve done extensive engagement over the last few weeks and the previous committee engaged in some really valuable surveys and consultation workshops. We feel that there is a general acceptance of the model. Clearly, there’s a lot of work to do with staff and unions in terms of what the transition looks like for them, and this needs to be consulted upon with staff and their unions.

Q: Given the last two models put forward have been challenged when all the details come out, is there anything in particular that you’re concerned about in this model that will be challenging to either teachers or the community when we get into that level of detail?

A: We think that the approach that this particular committee is taking, in terms of being very open and collaborative and working very much in tandem with the profession and union representatives on behalf of the profession, has probably been an approach which hasn’t been deployed at this particular stage in the design previously. We’ve also made sure that we’ve split out certain operational details from the proposal going to the States, so that we can really have that collaborative design process in consultation with staff going forward so that we don’t leave people behind.

Q: What data have you looked at and how did you arrive at the conclusion not to have any 11-18 schools in your system?

A: The data does not necessarily say that 11-18 schools are particularly better than 11-16 schools. I think there is an assumption by some people that 11-18 is the only model that we should be looking at. That does a disservice to 11-16 students and teachers. We accommodate 11-16 and 11-18 teaching in this model.

Q: Are you satisfied that the States are behind you on the policy letter and are you worried about public perceptions that 11-16 schools are ‘incomplete’?

A: We won’t speak for the rest of the States, but we are putting forward our preferred model. A number of models have already been tried and failed.

We have to come to a conclusion. We cannot have our students in limbo any longer. It is not unacceptable, it’s not fair.

Q: What tests have you made of the opinion within the States and the public on 11-18 and 11-16 schools?

A: We haven’t done any surveys specifically on that, but what we have is a substantial survey that was done during the last Education committee’s term of office. And in fact it was overwhelming that school staff wanted the sixth form to stay together. This model actually suits Guernsey, it’s within a cost bracket that we can afford, and – we can’t emphasise this enough – we have no money. Consequently we have to use our money as wisely as we possibly can.

Q: Will the post-16 campus be designed as an investment for the future, without the need to rebuild it?

A: Without a doubt the States of Guernsey has not invested in all its infrastructure sufficiently in all manner of places. It’s regrettable because the longer you wait, the more expensive it gets when you do have to remedy what may have gone wrong or deteriorated. La Mare de Carteret is probably a case in point. We’re not about to forget that maintenance is a very big part of what we do. We won’t cut corners on the build, but we will take routes to get the build done within our timeframe.

Q: Can you give assurance that children with special educational needs and disabilities will not be further separated from their peers, with appropriate provision in all sites?

A: Yes. Part of our proposal is to have a new CIAS base at Les Beaucamps, so that there is a CIAS base in each of the three secondary schools.

Q: What financial sum are you planning to invest in the Les Varendes site?

A: There is ongoing maintenance as part of our business as usual activity. And we want to repurpose parts of Les Varendes to take other elements of the overall Education Service that will be moving. So the music centre, for example, is something that we would like to accommodate within the Les Varendes site. You’ve got the pool area that hasn’t been used for a number of years. We’d like to repurpose that to provide for the music centre, which already uses Les Varendes on a very regular basis already. There is no major upheaval or major investment at this time.

Q: Why don’t we have as much information on the table as we possibly can?

A: The detail will come, but the detail will only come in consultation with the key stakeholders. This particular policy letter is not at the stage at which the previous committee left, we’re at a much higher level than that. Once we’ve made a decision we’ve let people know about that. We’re not going to store up a whole load of very detailed plans and release them at the last minute.

Q: We’ve heard a lot of buzzwords during this presentation and many questions have been unanswered. Is it realistic to go to the States and ask for approval for this when so much is unknown?

A: We have proof of concept – we’ve done that modelling. We’ve done our first passes at the financial cost implications. We’ve got a number of viable transition models. There is only so much you can do before you have to get the States to decide whether or not they want to go in this particular direction. We have an added difficulty this time around because with the focus on finance, we have the new Government Work Plan, and we have to work to the framework and timescale of that. And money will be allocated as part of the Government Work Plan process in July. If we miss that deadline, we then push everything back by a year or two years.

Q: My child will be 11 in September 2023. What is going to happen?

A: The only way I could give any kind of confirmation would be when this is debated in the States chamber on 14 July. That’s when we will be in a position to say whether or not the States want this model or an alternative model. We’ve gone as far as we can with this model before taking it to the next stage.

Q: Can ESC confidently stick to its 2023/2024 plan, considering the pandemic, the need for States approval, and reliance on overseas construction workers and suppliers?

A: We have started to map a timeline in regard to union engagement, which needs to start very soon – it’s a draft timeline drawn up with Policy & Resources. We need to overlay that with the student and community transition models in regard to the La Mare de Carteret community. These sorts of very granular issues are in the planning stage now, we’ve done proof of concept. We know that the construction industry is ‘red hot’ just now, but we have factored that into our thinking.

Q: If approved, does the policy letter allow provisions to ensure high quality teachers can be recruited and retained?

A: If there is a benefit in Covid for the education system it’s the fact that we’ve now got a pipeline of about 90 applicants for jobs, which we’ve never, ever had before. It’s put Guernsey on the map. We now have choice of people wanting to come here to teach.

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