Education Debate: Structure of Secondary & Post 16

dudleyowenDeputy's Blog 2018

Speaking to the Fallaize Amendment on 19th January 2018

Sir, this Amendment asks Members to set aside the Committee’s mandated proposals, the resolutions for which are set out clearly in Appendix 1 of the policy letter.

Members are being asked to discard the costed and careful planning for the transformation of our secondary and post 16 education which has been laid by the Committee for a model which has no plan and has been noted as having little substance.

There is no detail, no capital or revenue cost, no timeline, no preferred delivery sites….no consultation with the public. The delivery of this report at the last minute has led to great uncertainty and confusion in the community.

The Committee for Education Sport & Culture have been mandated by the States to bring back a model for the delivery of secondary and post 16 education and WE HAVE DONE THIS.
The Committee were asked to deliver a plan for 11-16 education in 3 schools. WE HAVE DONE THIS.

Now Sir, I received an email this week from a constituent, which entirely sums up my thoughts on the Alternative Model report, so having received his permission I will read this to you:
A lot of their paper dismisses your plan, but doesn’t give thorough proposals of their own with lots of conjecture presented as fact. I do not understand some of the two school arguments. They spend a long time arguing why their school size is better than your proposals, then in point .3.3.11 get expert advice stating that there is insufficient evidence for school size to be considered as a major factor! In any case surely it is teacher quality?
He goes on to say:
I understand and agree with their comments on the benefits of devolution of governance, but that could apply irrespective of the number of schools, and it may be that you have not covered that (or updating the Education Law) on purpose as it is not what you are currently meant to be debating.
However, if this is the case and you would be happy in implementing such changes then you had better make this clear so the debate is about the models not unduly influenced by superfluous issues.”

I thank my constituent, as I couldn’t have said it better myself….. and as I…, as the Committee agree with his comments and the Alternative Model’s comments about devolved governance and the Education Law, I will clear this up now as this debate is about the models and has been unduly influenced by these “superfluous” issues.

The Committee has been looking into governance or LMS for Guernsey since it took office in May 2016. I can confirm that the Committee is supportive of devolved governance – as proved by our Amended Proposition 8 – and officers have been working with the College of Further Education on the trial that was begun in the last term. The Committee has stated on a number of occasions its intent to move down this path.

Some Members have asked why this is not already up and running at the College of Further Education. It has been a very long process, with a lot of support being given to the College and the shadow board of Governors to set up an Accounting System in order to produce Financial Accounts and a Business plan.
Any board needs a clear view of the liability that they individually will hold, as they take on the roles of Directors of the Limited by Guarantee Company which will sit above the College. Things have taken far too long and this Committee have tried to move this project ahead by offering amongst other things to incorporate a company on 2 separate occasions, only to be set back when financials are not completed and awaiting advice from law officers  –  the reality that without a focused uninterrupted effort will continue to fail to get this governing board in place. It will not happen.

This is why our Proposition 8 was Amended to ensure that we get the focus and momentum required to push this on for the new Post 16 structure.

Members of P & R will remember that the Committee had recognised the requirement to re-write The Education Law, as this was included in the Committee’s initial drafts of its priority plan last June.

This item ended up being dropped from the top 5 priorities because P & R had stated that only items which could be deliverable within current resourcing could be included. Reviewing the competing priorities such as delivering the Post 16 and Secondary Transformation, the Law was then regrettably omitted from the P & R plan.

Informally the Committee discussed that as soon as we could, we would put together a sub-group using expertise perhaps from this Chamber, current educationalists, legal advisors, officers and our own Committee members to progress this important item.

It was planned to formalise a decision for this July…. I am afraid that it just hasn’t happened…yet, but that we have every intention of beginning the re-write of the Law within this term which could take up 2 years or more to complete given the processes involved. After all Sir how long has the Disability legislation taken?

A question that I have related to this, for Deputy Fallaize is what comes first in his idea: the Education Law or the move to the new school structure?

Is Deputy Fallaize planning on changing the law first to enable the new school governing body to be established prior to implementing the move to one school with two sites? Or will the transformation of secondary and post-16 education begin sooner than this, with the devolved governance following?

If the former, then the timescale for moving to two 11-18 schools under the alternative model could be extended even further than the time required for planning, transition and assessments. I am pleased that Deputy Graham has cautioned Members against asking for an undertaking from the him and his fellow authors for the delivery of a detailed plan for the Alternative Model in a specified time frame: it is clear that deeper thinking by Authors into many essential considerations just has not been done.

In fact as none of the Authors are currently sitting as members of the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture and therefore do not constitute or represent the Committee it would be impossible I think for them in fact to give any undertaking about the delivery of a plan at this stage. I do not believe that they will be able in fact to deliver a credible and feasible plan.

Sir, one of our most excellent head teachers has commented that there seems to be a fundamental lack of understanding in the report and by the Authors of what we are actually doing in schools today.
One area where this is apparent, is in the constantly evolving digital environment for which I am the political lead, all schools and colleges across the Bailiwick of Guernsey have been engaged in a bespoke 21st Century Learning Programme provided by Aspire 2Be, in partnership with the States of Guernsey.

This is a 2 year cultural change and empowerment programme and has been designed around central objectives of developing sector-leading educational digital practice and community cohesion, raising aspirations and standards in teaching and learning with technology. There has been a recognition of the importance of digital skills in Guernsey and alongside this a need to evaluate where schools stood in their practice and implement schemes to promote and enhance digital pathways for young people for future economic growth.

In relation to the broadband provision for schools I can confirm that Internet bandwidth supplied to the schools will be increased from 500 Mb to 750 Mb within the next few week. So the authors don’t appear to me to be quite not quite up to date with latest developments

In fact rather outdated perhaps……The use of the term in the report “teleconferencing” in respect of St Anne’s in Alderney, when they are in fact using that very modern technological innovation “Skype” to interact in real time with other schools around the globe was almost embarrassing. They are referring to very out-dated technology and methods of communication.

Our education is a constantly evolving field and we are training our young people for future changes and this is a clear picture of what tech in education looks like in practice – schoolchildren speaking to each other in very different place around the world during their school day without huge complications or resourcing. This is what we are doing now.

A key point that I would like to make where the Alternative Model is completely silent is about how our the success of education system is intrinsically linked to the success of our economy. Healthy Economies are linked to healthy education systems around the world.

Sir I been in contact recently with the former-Chief Inspector of Education Scotland and this is relevant because our schools are inspected by Education Scotland. So benchmarking our schools or what we will do in future against OFSTED inspected schools is not really a fair or realistic comparison.

The ex-Chief Inspector, Ken Muir, is now the Head of the Scottish General Council of Teachers and given his working knowledge of Guernsey I took the opportunity of our introduction to provide him with both the Committee paper and the Alternative reports and also in order to try and not give him a bias, I gave him a bare minimum of background information…only because he was aware that education changes had been on the table here for a long time.

He made constructive and positive comments about our Committee proposals which obviously I was pleased about – but I am afraid he was rather less positive about the Alternative Model

He has told me that that other leading education systems have been grappling with similar curricular issues, eg Finland, Wales, Scotland, Ontario, to those in Guernsey. All are going down a route which has the following essential features and which we are proposing in Guernsey.
– Greater student-centred/bespoke approach to curriculum design
– Increased skills focused, but based on a strong foundation of knowledge & understanding
– Recognition that learning takes place in a variety of places
– Planning a curriculum that is as “future-proofed” yet flexible as possible.

On reading the Alternative model paper, he said “I smiled at the suggestion the CfESC model was an “unorthodox experiment”.  The route you are following is in common with other jurisdictions [and] would suggest otherwise!

Mr Muir made further comments about the Alternative model
• Great emphasis is being given to the Alternative model being a better one in which leadership and governance can be devolved to the school level.  I can’t see why this shouldn’t be the case with the CfESC model.
• I note that there have been some “financial projections” prepared for the Alternative model but the authors admit in para 6.1.9 that more detailed analysis of operating costs is needed.  Just on my reading of the papers I think that the Alternative model would be more expensive.  Indeed, later in the paper the authors note that “prioritising economical use of the existing estate (in the CfESC model)– inevitably incurs less capital expenditure”.  And later in their paper they note that further work is needed on their costings.
• To my mind, one of the major criticisms levelled at the CfESC model in the Alternative model paper is based on the size of schools.  This ignores that what is most important is the quality of the teacher/student interaction, irrespective of school size.
• The criticism of “mix and match” programmes of study in the CfESC model is to misunderstand the need for opening up a greater number of pathways and opportunities for students.

This last statement from Mr Muir confirms to me that the Alternative Model is a retrograde step and is an attempt to create a Mallory Towers style idyll – not a progressive, forward-looking and flexible system which is fit to take our children and young people into adulthood and what will be a more complicated work life than we have known.

The question that we should be asking ourselves Sir, that I think every Member should ask themselves is: What do we want from our society and how do we want our children to ultimately contribute to our society?  Our plans are about achieving this goal.

We want children to be creative. We want them to be resilient and confident. We want them to have digital skills and the ability to apply practical skills. Guernsey has been successful and made its wealth from practice not theory. This is really about employability and giving children the opportunity to be productive, happy contributing members of our society. The report is silent on this matter.

So I hope I have made it clear that the only two substantive items within the Alternative Model idea are already on the “to do list” of the Committee. Their report is ideological, it is not real and it is not pragmatic. It does not set itself in context with Guernsey. It is not carefully considered, it has not exploited to the full the extra P & R funded research in its formulation.

I had been inclined towards an outward generosity towards the Alternative Model report and therefore perhaps would not be entirely honest in continuing in this way, as I do not share the same views as some Members who are clearly very excited about the and praised it highly report. I really wouldn’t want anyone who hasn’t read it to come away post-debate with an unbalanced view thinking that the 4 Deputies have produced something of great quality, something worthy of such praise or something which is in my view is really credible in terms of planning the educational future of our island children.

The report carries a price tag of £72,000, not counting the staff hours, and for the cost of the data produced, the content of the report is a wholly inadequate basis on which Deputies should be expected to take an informed judgement.

It is clear to me that there are some who have taken political lines on this – Deputy Roffey’s speech was a thinly veiled confirmation of this. I for one certainly never expected him to endorse anything that the Committee presented and fully understood his pledge to support us in bringing the plans back to the States, to mean that he would only cease snipping for a while to let us get on with the work.
No Sir, this debate is not a straight-forward one, there are nuances behind it and I am beginning to see more clearly that this is because some Members do not at any cost want the rebuild of La Mare de Carteret.

I am using Hansard here to illustrate my point and make no apology for that…:
In the March 2016 debate on reducing 4 schools to 3 Deputy St Pier stated
Sir, I am sorry to say, but the only logical solution, the only obvious solution and the only sensible solution is to close La Mare.  I have said very little, actually, about the financial case for three schools.”

He has also said: “I am afraid that the La Mare rebuild is the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes, like the little boy in the crowd someone has to say so and today it falls to me to do just that. I know that will be deeply unpopular with many people, but it makes no sense to rebuild La Mare and then close another school.”

Deputy St Pier made it very clear in his speeches how he felt about La Mare de Carteret rebuild. Although this speech refers to going from 4 schools to 3, it could apply to today’s circumstance.  Has he really changed his mind and his deep conviction over the course of less than 2 years?

For some this debate is on the premise of educational outcomes, but the reality is, it is not only about the best education and outcomes for all our children it must also have consideration about the financial cost and the Education estate, which is lies at the heart of P&R and no doubt specifically its President.

Deputy Lowe is the only Deputy also to comment on this and it appears some deputies might prefer this observation has less focus until after this debate.

By not rebuilding La Mare, some of the least affluent children in the island will be negatively affected. I believe that we should rebuild a school at that site. A site that sits on the edge of one of our biggest social housing estates, which provides the support that is so needed there by many families.

So for one reason or another, it is now abundantly clear why some on P&R, knowing the President’s stance on La Mare and his desire to rationalise the estate, to team up and fund the G4 in their alternative investigation into 2 schools and its financial aspects……herein lay the opportunity not to rebuild La Mare for those Deputies who do not want it rebuilt.

The Education Committee know that the peripheral costs associated with increasing the size of St. Sampson, Les Beaucamps and a purpose built new build/ for the CofE could far outweigh OUR proposals –  which makes good use of the EXISTING estate.

These points have not been addressed at all by the Deputies behind the alternative model and are of vital importance.

No reference has been made to Les Varendes as yet in speeches.  Deputies need to understand the extent of growth in the 6th form centre and their need to use classrooms in the main school. It makes sense to utilise these rooms for other full time study courses if the 11-16 yr olds move elsewhere.

For several years the established 6th form centre, whilst part of the Grammar campus is also regarded as separate and is the aspiration and certainty on the next step into the world of education for many children from our high schools, Blanchelande college:
And Sir, Members might be interested to know at this point that enrolments for the 2017 cohort at the Grammar school are as follows:
• Grant aided Colleges 51
• St Sampson’s High 35
• Les Beaucamps High 29
• Grammar 94 (including those resitting year 12)
• La Mare High 19
• St Anne’s 6
• Other 6

Sir, Deputies need to be make decisions based on all facts and this includes as far as possible all financial information.

In reading the details about the March 2016, we are reminded that in that instance as now, what is so wrong about the Alternative Model and indeed from the whole manner in which it has come about is that Principles of Good Governance are completely missing.

Here I will quote directly from former Deputy Sillars made at that time: “Good governance means performing effectively in clearly defined functions and roles.” Well Sir that has certainly not been apparent in the lead up to this debate with effectively a shadow Committee facilitated and supported by P & R.
He continues: “Good governance means promoting good values for the whole organisation and demonstrating the values of good governance through behaviour. Good governance means taking informed transparent decisions and managing risk. How can we make a decision on four or three schools without any financial information and awareness of those risks?”

How can we Sir, make a decision on 4 schools to 2 without any financial information and awareness of those risks?

A final comment from Ex-Deputy Sillars: “We fail this basic principle of good corporate governance, and we should not be having this debate without the knowledge of the facts. Good governance means developing the capacity and capability of governing bodies to be effective……., good governance means engaging stakeholders and making accountability real.”

Sir, the public are still oblivious as to which school this Assembly intends to close if the Fallaize Amendment is approved. There has been no engagement, no consultation and this is unacceptable.

At this point I will address the query from Deputy Green and assure him through you Sir that the Committee absolutely agrees that we should look at the performance of excellent and high performing schools wherever they are and implement some of what makes these schools so good into our education system here. But we must remember that schools in other jurisdictions are operating in a very different context.

Many of the excellent schools on the Fallaize list will have very different admissions policies – some will select based on different criteria – many will be oversubscribed leaving those unsuccessful children to travel to another school that very likely won’t be so high performing. We have no evidence from the Fallaize list of the performance of other schools in the vicinity of these high performing ones.

I would remind members Sir that our children in Guernsey do not have the opportunity to go to another school down the road – our schools must provide excellent outcomes for all.

These schools in England are successful because they are competitive, is that something we want in Guernsey. Two 11-18 schools competing for the best students?

These high performing schools in England also have a very different demographic – many will not have a high proportion of disadvantaged pupils, those on free school meals.

I would also remind Members that not all students will have the opportunity to stay in their school until the age of 18, they will need to achieve certain grades to access the sixth form or they will have to leave.

Where is the equality of opportunity for all? Deputy Leadbeater articulated this very well.

They will also have to move sites if their catchment 11-18 school is not the one offering IB and that’s the route they want to take. They will have to move if their catchment 11-18 school doesn’t offer the A level they want to take. And quite how they will be able to access any of the vocational and applied general qualifications – which are offered by many of these high performing 11-18 school in England – remains to be seen.

We agree that leadership and quality of teaching is what sets good schools apart from mediocre ones – we can evidence this with our own schools, regardless of whether they are 11-16 or 11-18.

So yes absolutely let’s look at excellence elsewhere, lets really try to understand what it is that makes those schools so good and let’s implement it here but I have heard very little evidence that it is purely because these schools are 11-18 and not 11-16 that puts them on the Fallaize list.

Deputy Yerby seeks to assure us that there will be a chance of real scrutiny and good governance if any plans for the Alternative Model come back to the Assembly – why doesn’t that apply now. Where is our chance to scrutinise effectively and apply principles of good governance now?

To let the Committee plan fall in respect of any shortcomings without using the process which we have here in the Assembly today, would be more than regretful….

Sir is Deputy Yerby so optimistic or maybe even naïve to think that the 2 school model will be without flaw, let alone even feasible? Listening to Deputy Yerby today might be to believe that the Committee has not considered any other options and this Members know is absolutely not the case.

Members might believe that we may not have researched what works well elsewhere, you might believe that a considerable amount of time has NOT been spent looking, examining, modelling, reviewing all the complexities that changing our school system and structure involves – please do not be misled by Deputy Yerby into believing that the Committee and their staff have not put anything other than a considerable amount of time and effort into pulling together well researched and detailed plans.

In response to other comments made by Deputy Yerby, the Alternative Model started by modelling an identical curriculum offer in two sixth forms, but this proved unviable and costly. The Deputy Head of the 6th form and Education Officers agree that “It offered significantly reduced flexibility in the options presented to students.”

Deputy Yerby was simply incorrect by saying that the Teacher who did the timetabling said that the sixth form timetabling would work in the Alternative model but not the Three School proposal.
Work then progressed to reduce the curriculum in both sixth forms. To quote from the Deputy Head teacher who completed the curriculum model for the two small sixth forms:
The obvious disadvantages of this model would be that some students would move institution at age 16. Also that the two 6th Forms will not be offering the same curriculum and may be perceived as inequitable.”

Operating a catchment based system where there is inequality in sixth form provision presents difficulties, as this builds in systemic limitations on student choice or preference of one sixth form above the other. Approximately half of 16 year olds will not remain within their school at age 16 and will not have the full 11-18 school experience, hardly equitable

As my colleague Deputy Gollop has explained, but I want to repeat: in the Alternative Model there will be limited choice of subject combination for students in both institutions.  These subjects are planned to be offered in only one sixth Form: Further Maths, French, History, Music, Psychology, Design, Spanish, Film Studies ….therefore, if you want to do an A Level in these subjects you would have to move schools.

To quote the Deputy Head’s paper:
This is problematic for a number of reasons and the feasibility of this approach may be impacted by the location of the two 6th Forms.”
The modelling undertaken assumed that the number of students would be split between the two sites equally.  This will not be the case. The numbers between the two school sixth from are likely to be unequal.

The revenue costings for the Alternative Model are unlikely to cover the cost of the full curriculum offer that has been modelled by the Deputy Head for the two small sixth forms. Its full delivery in maintaining student choice has not been evidenced.

There are serious concerns that the timetabling across both 11-18 schools will need to be aligned with the CFE, otherwise this will not allow students to ‘mix and match’ curriculum choices across academic and vocational courses.  How can this be achieved effectively with two governing bodies with different strategic drivers?

I have a question for Deputy Graham which maybe Deputy Fallaize can answer on his behalf: what is it about the Alternative Model that makes it so outstanding.? Where is the evidence that their 2, 6th forms over 2 sites is the route to excellent when all the evidence seems to be to the contrary?

How will the Alternative Model pick up the recommendations made in the PWC report, no mention has been made about this at all. In all areas where functions of government are devolved we are looking at better alignment, sharing of resources and efficiencies in merging administrations where there is clear duplication. The report is silent on this.

There are so many problems with the Alternative Model, I haven’t managed to capture them all here and I know my President Deputy Le Pelley will offer a robust rebuttal to much of the mis-information and many of the spurious claims made in the debate so far.

What is most important is that this model just won’t work. I have said this before and I will say it again – This idea quite frankly is about as sensible as building a bridge to Jersey on the basis that we need better inter-island links.

Yes complete pie in the sky and in practice not only ludicrous but also unfeasible!

I find it utterly bizarre that some members of P & R are driving a coach and horses through their own fiscal rules and putting ideology before responsible government and use of public money.

The same Committee who refused funding to underwrite a trial inter-island ferry last year on the basis that the business case had not sufficiently been made…..

I would therefore have expected such “prudent” members of P & R to speak against the Amendment, especially given that the Committee are mandated to develop and promote States policy objectives and lead the policy planning process and to advise on the implications of other committee proposals and in particular, whether they accord with States objectives. Can we therefore assume therefore that any member who votes in favour of the Amendment is not complying with their very own mandate?
Staggering then that today Members of P & R are supporting by majority the Alternative Model and by Deputy Trott’s own admission are effectively happy to hand over a blank cheque*. No mention either from P & R yet of a pledge of extra resources and funding which are required at the Education office to go back to the beginning and start all over to create an extremely challenging set of plans as required by the Alternative Model.

Before I close Sir, I would like to remind Members that they have the opportunity not only to vote for our Proposals but also against those that they don’t like. Given the complexity of the debate and the proposals that we have put forward an organogram of voting choices was circulated to members before the Christmas debate. I ask Members who have discounted our proposals on the basis that the Post 16 requires more work – it is after all a plan which is not scheduled to implement until 2021 – not to vote for this Amendment instead.

It is also naïve to think that any plan is ever perfect and even the best laid of those will need re thinking to a degree in order to implement – Members need to be realistic. The report is inadequate and can in no way be taken in comparison to the detailed, costed, thoughtful propositions that the Committee had laid before the States today.

There has been ample time to act in the intervening years, by any Deputy wanting the Committee to change direction and spend its scant but precious resources constructively and collaboratively.
Sir this is the right time to let Members know that that as the Committee feel so strongly that the Alternative model will be ruinous for Guernsey in so many ways and that the consequences will be felt for many years we are considering to lay overnight an amendment along the lines that Deputy Brouard described just before lunch

This would be for a three school model including one school with a 6th form. This is what was termed Option 2 in our paper. We understand that there is considerable support in this Assembly for this model of 2 11-16 schools and 1 11-18 school. This brings together the 2 main arguments which we have seen play out over this debate. One is the split 6th form in the 2 school model and the other is the merger of the fulltime provision of the 6th form and the College of Further Education.

Sir through you I ask Members to vote against this Fallaize Amendment which prolongs the uncertainty for our island which really does outweigh the near aspirational ideas and most importantly I believe is not deliverable.

*Deputy Trott at this stage corrected and refuted my assertion.