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Equality of opportunity at the heart of ESC’s model

Readers' Letters | Published:

I WRITE with regard to the ongoing transformation of secondary and further education.

It bears repeating that at the heart of ESC’s model is equality of opportunity. All children leaving primary education will step into an 11-18 school. The benefits of 11-18 schools have been discussed at length and I will not list them here. Suffice to say that they are well enough understood for this model to have received majority backing in our democratic parliament on more than one occasion.

Naturally, in the delivery of such a transformation, significant challenges are to be encountered. I believe that if they are well met the Lisia School on two sites will become an exemplar of good educational policy and good civic planning.

Increasingly, schools are becoming traffic-free areas. Our children are leading the shift in thinking on our climate emergency, organising walk-outs to raise awareness, and in the case of Greta Thunberg, sailing across the Atlantic to avoid the use of fossil fuels. There was much hype in the Guernsey Press recently about our becoming a ‘green island’ and I believe that here we have an opportunity to influence and be influenced by the attitude of our young (who, regardless of character traits, will inherit the Earth).

More importantly, perhaps, the evidence of the health benefits of moderate regular exercise on the physical and mental health of people of all ages is incontrovertible (and initiatives such as ‘the daily mile’ in our primary schools attest to this). The quasi-political group opposed to improving our school system are making much bluster of the impact of the schools on traffic. I suggest to you that here is an opportunity rather than a problem.

Returning to the question of equality of access, if we allow all of the good work completed so far to be reversed, as this requete almost certainly aims to do, we may end up with 11-plus selection back on the table, and by default a three- or even four-school model. The case has been well made that a quality sixth form offering can only be made on a maximum of two sites due to the numbers involved.

If we allow the aforementioned lobbyists to dictate policy and we end up with anything other than the model already well under way, selection may well return in other forms. If one of three or four schools has a co-located sixth form, we will almost certainly end up with localised differences in house prices as parents seek to educate their children in the school which best replicates Guernsey’s historically most successful schools. Alternatively, in the case of a stand-alone sixth form, equality would be achieved by ensuring everybody is presented with the same inferior offering.

Returning to the aforementioned quasi-political group, ‘People Power Guernsey’, I think we need to note the following. They are not a legitimate voice and should not be treated with the gravitas of a union; for example, they are merely a collection of opinionated people united only by a desire to subvert the democratically chosen system of education which is well under way. Their mouth piece was recently seen on Facebook urging ‘followers’ not to propose alternatives, as this was playing into ESC’s ‘divide and conquer’ strategy. I put it to you that the divisions within the opposition group already exist and abandoning current plans would lead to years of ugly competition for whose model comes up trumps.

On the subject of said group, I think it deplorable that one of the requerants has actively sponsored their cause (at least to the tune of 12km of ribbon).

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As a mature democracy, we cannot be swayed by a baying mob or we risk entering the era of ‘he who shouts the loudest wins the argument’.

As I mentioned, challenges have been identified (as they would in the implementation of any model), and I believe that by far the best option is to take on board some of the more intelligent amendments offered and continue moving forward. The consequences of supporting this requete unamended would be catastrophic for our children and our wider democracy.

NAME AND ADDRESS WITHHELD.

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