Education 'asking us to take £40m. gamble’

ESTABLISHING a standalone sixth form centre at Les Ozouets is a £40m. gamble with taxpayers’ money because nothing like it exists anywhere else in the world, according to the president of Environment & Infrastructure.

Deputy Lindsay de Sausmarez on the site of Education, Sport & Culture’s proposed sixth form centre at Les Ozouets.  (Picture by Peter Frankland, 29958960)
Deputy Lindsay de Sausmarez on the site of Education, Sport & Culture’s proposed sixth form centre at Les Ozouets. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 29958960)

Lindsay de Sausmarez said yesterday that the States is being asked to back a highly experimental model of secondary education with no evidence that it can work.

This follows a series of questions to Education, Sport and Culture from Deputy de Sausmarez – and answers she said that showed ESC’s proposal ‘has literally no precedent, for no identifiable educational benefit, structured around a potential future need that is as yet completely unknown’.

Responding to Deputy de Sausmarez about whether any equivalent standalone sixth form centre existed elsewhere, ESC president Andrea Dudley-Owen said: ‘We have not sought to replicate existing systems or models.’

That was because of the Bailiwick’s ‘unique’ size and scale as well as challenges facing it, including changes to the job and skills market driven by the pandemic.

But Deputy de Sausmarez said: ‘I am deeply concerned that we are being asked to take a £40m.-plus gamble on a model that has literally no precedent ... it just doesn’t make any sense.

‘In other words, we’re being asked to invest many tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money – and the education of thousands of Guernsey students for many years to come – on a highly experimental model that we have no idea will work.’

Deputy Dudley-Owen said that while direct comparisons with elsewhere were not possible, she said her committee’s model was not ‘an untried concept in education’.

Locally, staff already worked across education sites – including within the existing College of Further Education. Meanwhile, multi-academy trusts in the UK were an example of partnership uniting multi-site education delivery and staff working across sites.

She said ESC’s secondary school partnership, led by the executive principal, would ensure joint working, including the new sixth form centre.

‘Our proposed model inevitably means that the way that the Sixth Form Centre is run will need to change, as it will no longer be attached to a single 11-16 school.’

Deputy de Sausmarez said: ‘More worrying is that while the president is at pains to point out that the model’s workability is “operational detail” which is for the teachers to deal with, the teachers are at pains to point out that they are not at all confident it will work.’

In fact, they had consistently flagged serious concerns about the model which to date appear to have gone unanswered.

Different operational models did not equate to ‘worse’, said Deputy Dudley-Owen but could mean more innovative, ambitious, inclusive and creative.

‘The de-coupling of the Sixth Form Centre from one specific school and its co-location with The Guernsey Institute opens up new opportunities and offers a strategic and long-term solution to ensure the Bailiwick is well positioned to support the life-long learning needs of the community.’

Deputy Andrea Dudley-Owen yesterday commented further, saying said the creation of the post-16 campus at Les Ozouets was a key element of her committee’s plans to give students broader choices, and equip them for a changing world.

‘We have to ensure that 16-year-olds have the broadest options possible in a changing educational environment, where we don’t know if GCSEs are going to be around in the form that they’re in now, or A-levels in the next few years.’

However, Deputy de Sausmarez said that the States was being asked to write a large cheque for education without any of the important detail being known or the rationale being made clear, ‘and without the opportunity to scrutinise it in the Assembly before it is implemented.’

The proposals are scheduled to be debated by the States this week.

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