This pause and review would work

THERE is something almost painful in trying to read the responses from Education, Sport & Culture to questions submitted by the head of Environment & Infrastructure – the level of waffle, jargon and evasion is probably unprecedented within the States.

What makes this even more serious is the Assembly will be asked this week to spend huge sums pursuing an educational model that sensible analysis shows is sub-optimal, expensive and, if approved, something the island will regret for at least a generation.

Academic experts are generally agreed the best results come from 11-18 schools where there are large numbers of specialists who can teach across all age ranges and so provide a diverse curriculum through teachers who know their subjects.

Deviating from this approach is a risk. Thanks to Deputy Lindsay de Sausmarez’s Rule 14 questions, islanders now know how big that risk is. Guernsey is adopting the role of guinea pig in embracing a tiny sixth-form centre because nowhere else in the world thinks that is sensible.

But as Education says, ‘we have not sought to replicate existing systems or models’. Instead, it is asking islanders to trust it knows best and can design something from scratch, which is perhaps why secondary school heads and a majority of their colleagues are against it.

Secondary education has been a political football for years. As such, it would be better for the States to pause and consolidate the existing structure and provide some certainty for the current cohort of secondary school children.

That would require minor capital investment at La Mare and elsewhere but, more, importantly, would allow the profession and their students to consolidate the enormous change that has already been introduced but not yet completed through adopting non-selective education.

Managing the existing structure and estate for the benefit of the current cohort of students and pausing the secondary review until the island’s finances are in better shape makes more sense.

By then, a better-informed view may have emerged on what secondary and other types of education look like post-pandemic – what Guernsey actually needs.

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