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57 local educationalists say to rethink the school model

Readers' Letters | Published:

THE abolition of the 11-plus and the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture’s proposal to create a non-selective Guernsey Federation of Secondary Schools, enabling staff to work collaboratively to maximise the outcomes for all the pupils, is sound. However, the proposed method of implementation to establish one ‘school’ for pupils aged 11-18 divided into two ‘colleges’ is flawed.

The November 2018 report produced by Peter Marsh Consulting for the ESC calculated that, by 2023, the number of pupils in the proposed ‘school’ will be 2,931, resulting in two very large ‘colleges’ with around 1,450 pupils in each.

Evidence from the 2015 ‘Your Schools’ report produced by the then Education Department recognised that, ‘whilst fiscally efficient, studies show that educational outcomes increase to school sizes between 600 and 1000 but then decrease again as schools become larger’. A further report in 2015 produced by the UCL Institute of Education concluded that ‘the optimum pupil size for secondary schools is between 600 and 1,000’. Additionally, it is interesting to note that in 2018 the average pupil size of UK secondary schools was 948.

Guernsey’s existing sixth form centre at Footes Lane is the jewel in the crown of the island’s current secondary education provision, delivering an exceptional teaching and learning experience for staff and students alike. The inspection published in February 2019 states ‘the percentage of students achieving A* to B awards is now significantly higher than in the UK’.

Further research suggests that sixth form centres are able to offer (a) a broader range of courses at a lower cost per student than secondary school sixth forms; (b) a stepping stone away from school life into a more mature environment in preparation for further education and/or employment; and (c) a link to further educational establishments offering vocational courses, enabling fluidity of movement and improved choice between academic and vocational courses.

Clearly, the optimum solution to provide the best educational outcomes for Guernsey’s secondary school federation is three colleges with pupil sizes of about 800 in each, and the retention of the existing sixth form centre with a head count of about 500.

The notion that the Grammar School building, being 34 years old, is no longer fit to be used as a school beggars belief. The Elizabeth College main building was completed in 1829 and yet still provides an excellent curriculum and learning environment for circa 600 pupils.

Why incur huge capital expenditure enlarging two school buildings when the existing stock at Beaucamps, Baubigny and Les Varendes/Footes Lane can be utilised to provide three colleges and a sixth form centre to better effect, financially, academically and environmentally? Apart from the academic, fiscal and environmental benefits, this proposal would involve considerably less disruption to pupils and staff, assist public transport and traffic management arrangements and maintain existing sports facilities which otherwise could be lost.

Most importantly, the proposal for three colleges of 800 pupils and the retention of the existing sixth form centre will deliver the best opportunities and outcomes for our children and grandchildren for years to come.

It is not too late. Please think again. Keep our excellent sixth form centre and use the three existing school sites for ‘colleges’. Our children and grandchildren deserve the best education standards and facilities the island can provide and are, after all, the future of the Bailiwick of Guernsey.

Pat Child, Christine Anthony, Brian Allen, Jane Allen, Brian Anthony, Gerve Ashton, Lynne Ashton, Eileen Baird, Helen Banks, Jim Banks, Ann Battye, Bob Battye, Marian Carre, Michael Carre, Elaine Collas, Wendy Byrom, Caroline Davey, Janet De Jersey, Pat Devenport, Marina Dobson, Peter Dobson, Frank Farish, Rose Farish, Jan Fisher, Dave Fletcher, Julie Fletcher, Shirley Fox, Ann Good, Pam Gidney, John Hooker, Jane Hunter, Pam Ingrouille, Peter Izat, Lesley Jeffery, Peter Jeffery, Jenny Lamb, John Lamb, Karen Lane, David Legg, June Legg, Ian Le Maitre, Jan Le Maitre, Shirley Marsh, Petrina Mathews, Sheena Melrose, Barbara Minta, Maureen Moss, Jan Musson, Michelle Nash, Sally Nicolle, Marian Nightingale, Marion Root, Maggie Sanders, Myrtle Tabel, Pauline Telford, Jo Warry, Ken Wheeler.

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