Education

Policy for Gifted and Talented Children

I laid a successful amendment to the Education Department’s report on Secondary Education in March 2016. My speech is below.

Sir, I did think I heard a collective groqn that another amendment would be laid but hopefully this won’t be a mammoth debate as I believe the Education Department will not oppose it. As I mentioned in earlier debate, this amendment is relevant whichever way we voted on selection. However, I do believe it will fit in very well under the non-selective system that has been approved this week.

At present the use of Gifted and Talented programmes is variable across schools and there is no central policy. The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that there is a co-ordinated policy across schools, something which I think makes complete sense and works very well under a comprehensive system. It is something in which I have taken a good deal of interest in the last few years.

So, what are Gifted and Talented students and why does there need to be a policy for them?

Dr Francois Gagne,  who was a leader in the field on this area made the following definition;

Gifted students are those whose potential is distinctly above average in one or more of the following domains of human ability; intellectual, creative, social and physical. Talented students are those whose skills are distinctly above average in one or more areas of human performance’.

The key word here is ‘Potential’. That a child needs support and guidance to achieve his or her gifted potential. It is estimated that approximately 5% of students in a mixed ability school will gifted & talented but that is not set in stone and will vary, and should.

So, why do gifted & talented students need to be considered separately? Well,  the normal curriculum may not be sufficiently interesting, motivating or straetching for the most able. They often need more challenging tasks if they are to maintain their enthusiasm, develop independence and reach their potential. Some exceptionally able students may have weaknesses which need specific attention if they are not to undermine outstanding abilities in other areas.

Extremely able students can become bored, unhappy or disaffected if their potential is unrecognised or neglected.

Gifted and Talented Education or GATE, is a broad term for special practices, procedures, and theories used in the education of children who have been identified as gifted and talented.

At present, schools approach gifted and talented students in different ways and to a greater or lesser extent. There is no overriding policy approach. St Sampson has details of their GATE for years 7,8 and 9 on their website. However, there is no policy in terms of the identification of gifted and talented, aims and objectives and measurement of outcomes. The purpose of this amendment is to fill that gap.

In a recent review of gifted and talented provision in Scotland, the author suggested that the focus on equality of opportunities and reluctance to consider selction in the Scottish education system meant that the needs of gifted and talented pupils had largely been ignored. I don’t think we can afford to ignore our giftes and talented ppils. Failure to identify such students risks damage to individuals who are so tuned off by rigid education that they opt out, sitting well below the attainment radar on their way to dropping out.

In turn, that damages our society and not letting them reach their potential means we are not maximising the potential value to our economy.

Sir, this is a common sense amendment, I understand the Education Department will not oppose it and I urge members to give their support.

One schools 4 Sites v 3 Schools

Following the decision of the States to end the 11+ at the March 2016 States’ meeting, attention turned to the number of sites that should be retained. The choice was between the Education Department’s preferred model of one school across four sites, with the concept of a ‘hard’ federation, versus a 3 school model. The latter succeeded. My speech on the matter is below.

 

Sir, Deputy James said the other day, a long long time ago, how that she felt she had fireworks going off in her head. WEll I don’t know if she’s like me and after 4 days of debate those fireworks have turned to jelly. Much of what Deputy James has said in this debate resonated with me. That might well be because I have more than once expressed to her my disbelief at the Education Department’s hypocrisy when it comes to their report now and their arguments made to close St Andrew’s School.

We were told a reason for closure was falling pupil numbers. That there would be a peak and then numbers would tail off. Here we are told we need 4 sites due to rising pupil numbers.

They want to retain 4 smaller schools rather than have 3 bigger schools but a reason for closing St Andrew’s was that large schools meant better education outcomes and help teacher recruitment.

We were told during the St Andrew’s debate that closing a school would not result in large schools in the UK sense but a size to ensure better educational outcomes. And to hear Deputy Sillars earlier quote a report supporting smaller schools seems so, so, ironic. And hearing others quoting the advantages and disadvantages of smaller schools gives a huge feeling of deja vu. It does, however, support the point I made the other day that you can find an educationalist to support any argument you want.

Now, Deputy Parkinson said he’s like to see 4 schools and have each one specialise, say int he arts or sport. Well, how will that work given the decision made yesterday which would result effectively in selection by catchment area?

All that aside I think I should comment on a term used both in the run up to debate and today and that’s value for money. It’s been quite disappointing hearing some comments about value for money which have demonstrated a real lack of understanding as to what it means. Value for money is at the heart of public service reform and quite rightly so.

On page 30 of that document is a diagram showing 3 interconnecting circles representing cost, quality and need and in the middle it shows that where those circles interconnect we get value for money. Value for money is not cost. Deputy Gollop, this debate is not about cost. It is about cost, quality and need.

Now we are told we shouldn’t be bothered about value for money when it comes to education, health and social care. But, this represents a complete misunderstanding of value for money. You just can’t throw money at something regardless of whether it is needed or the quality of provision. This is an irresponsible use of funds. That way leads to financial meltdown.

And I remind members yet again that in the the consultation on the personal tax and benefits review, respondents said overwhelmingly that they weren’t prepared to keep on funding these services. Frankly, this report makes it impossible to determine whether the Department’s proposed solution is value for money. It sets out little in the way of figures, little on outcomes and how this will lead to a better educational system. That’s the problem.

In response to Deputy Gollop’s accusations against the members of T&Rwho supported retaining selection and now support the 3 school model. But the fact is you could have a 3 school option under selection as Deputy St Pier said in his opening speech. It would probably require more work and the criteria for selection would need to change to make it work but the point is it could work.

Sir, how can I as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, faced with this report and at the same time seeing the potential for greater value for money do anything other than to vote for the 3 site option. I can’t and will be supporting amendment B2.

Secondary Education Report – 11 Plus

Probably one of the most divisive subjects that we have had to debate this term. It formed part of the Education Department’s policy letter proposals for secondary education. I thought it a very disappointing report with little in the way of evidence or desired outcomes. Financial information was sparse and the public consultation was totally ignored. The accompanying letter from Treasury & Resources was scathing. In fact the whole situation was unacceptable, with 2 Departments unable to reach consensus over 2 years. That can’t be allowed to happen again.

It was no wonder that the report was heavily amended. It had to be. A decision on the 11+ was needed before deciding the structure of schools.

Here is my speech on the 2 amendments which set out whether or not the 11+ should continue. The States voted to get rid of the 11+. This was followed by a subsequent amendment to retain selection through a combination of assessment and tests. I supported it, but this too was defeated.

 

 

Sir, as expected, there are many here who have strong views about the 11+, both for and against and these positions have been expressed well yesterday and today.

It’s hardly surprising, given that there is an abundance of material on the matter and that anyone can provide evidence to support their point of view. Indeed, I believe there is a whole industry dedicated to providing information to support a particular viewpoint and I think many educationalists have done very well indeed out of such debate over the years.

And really that’s the point. There is no overwhelming evidence either way to say whether the 11+ is better or worse than no selection at all.

So, as someone who has not nailed her colours to the mast of the 11+ or alternatively said scrap it altogether, I have found it very difficult to determine the best thing to do. Perhaps that reflects my experiences. I was brought up by a teacher who often made it clear she believed it should go, someone who attended a Grammar, which at the time I was there has the teachers working to rule, oh the delights of the late 70 and early 80s, and having a child at the Grammar school who has blossomed there.

I hear what my good friend Deputy Le Clerc said but I don’t think we should look at personal experiences but rather what is in the best interests of the Island as a whole.

For me, how I vote focuses around 2 claims. The first is the limitation and long term impact on children and the other about the shortcomings of the exam itself. I am going to focus on the former.

EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY

So, firstly, the big buzz word is that the 11+ does not provide equality of opportunity. This was said by all those not in support of the 11+.

The reasoning seems to be around restriction of access to the curriculum. That sounds reasonable. I mean if you can’t get access to the course you want, then that is not equality of access.  However, I have been scratching my head as to why and how that means the solution is to scrap the 11+.

Will it be possible to offer all subjects under the system Education proposes? I do wonder the logistical nightmare of managing a timetable across 4 separate sites. I suspect there may well be a call for some new software to enable that to happen.

SOCIAL HOUSING

Now, I have been trying to get to the bottom of why there are such low numbers of chidlren from social housing that go to the Grammar and Colleges. We are told they are low, but no explanation. However, it is an argument made to demonstrate inequality of opportunity.

 

Now this is looked at in paragraph 7.8 where it states that in a 3 years period, of the 230 children in social housing only 3 went to the Grammar. Just over 1%. That is low.

BUT it goes on to say that the teachers only assessed 31 out of the 230 as being capable of going to either the Grammar or Colleges.  So that is just 13%. However, the top 25% from any year go there.

I’ve not heard anyone today explain that difference and why it is the 11+ that is to blame.  Doesn’t that demonstrate the equality of opportunity exists before Year 6?

Is it the primary school system? We hear they are wonderful, and they’re mixed ability, no one has a bad word to say for them. Or is it the family circumstances of those children? Is this something which demonstrates the importance of the 1001 days programme? We need to sort things out before the children even get to school?

I do see that the numbers from social housing are less than those in private sector. But is it the 11+ concept that is at fault?

SETTING

I do understand that setting can be a solution, althought the report is vague on this and should this amendment be passed I would be happy to second an amendment referred to by Deputy St Pier, to ensure that it is.

However, there will be a fundamental difference between setting students across 4 mixed ability schools than setting under a selective system, which exists now in core subjects. I know it does at the Grammar

Taking the top 25% of a distribution and setting that gives you much tighter ability levels in each set rather than the comprehensive model that takes the whole distribution and divides it up into sets, resulting in much wider ability levels in each set. Of course the alternative will be to have more sets and perhaps that is a solution.

 

GEOGRAPHY

Now, one issue that hasn’t been clarified is whether results will be published by campus or as one school?  Frankly I think the public will demand it by campus. Well, I think the Housing Minister might quite like that as it could well stimulate the housing market with parents moving to the most desirable catchment area. Something that has been done in respect of primary schools. Of course, those in social housing aren’t able to make those same choices.  So we will have selection, but based on geographic accident, or perhaps not,  of where your parents are, rather than ability

 

MENTAL HEALTH

Finally, Another commonly cited problem, is that the 11+ can cause mental health issues. I can understand that a child who does not get a Grammar school place may, wrongly see themselves as failures. It is hard not getting what you want and looking like you are not as good as someone else.

However, as Deputy Minister of HSSD, when I heard that children were damaged by the system I did think it was beholden on me to find out more.  The response I got from the mental health service was that they have come across children over the years who have attributed low self esteem ,anxiety and low mood to failure at the 11+ but often there are many other factors which contribute to the development of children’s mental health disorders so it is difficult to say there is a direct link .

Interestingly though, they are  seeing a rise in the number of young people  presenting with low mood ,anxiety , self harm and eating disorders as a result of exam pressure around GCSEs and A levels. I would hope that the initiative under the CYPP that we debated 2 weeks ago will help alleviate this.

 

However, clearly for some it will be upsetting to not get to the Grammar  or Colleges. I know that many like Deputy Duquemin consider this a very important point. Deputy Brehaut’s comments that it’s the only test you can only take once, it is all or nothing, but that is true of other tests. Going for a job, you either get it or you don’t. And degrees, post-graudate qualifications are limited, if not by the institution, certainly in terms of money.

 

INHERENT ISSUES

So, finally and more briefly, turning to the argument on the  structural problems of the 11+ we do hear that in the last 2 years there are more girls than boys at the Grammar School, a minority from social housing and that many children are coached. Can’t these issues be dealt with through changing the structure rather than getting rid of it totally?

 

On this I thought I’d look at my old school’s website. It is still a Grammar, but now has the benefit of being a locally managed Academy School, with Humanities College status, which was rated as outstanding by Ofsted at its last review. I was interested to find out all its policies are published on the website and that included its equality objectives. These are based around equality of access, equality of provision and equality of outcome.

In relation to the former it have the following policies;

  1. To give preference to students on free school meals in the admission border zone.
  2. To ensure the 11+ reading test does not have a ‘middle-class’ bias.
  3. To set a test that restricts the benefit of an 11+ tutor.

These policies have increased the proportion of childnre on free school meals who attend the school from 6% to 8% in 2015. So, it can be done.

I suppose to me the most important issue is not about equality of opportunity but fairness, which is part of the criteria that the department are said to have considered. Is it fair that every child gets the same education rather than the education that its them? We don’t have a failing system. All the schools are doing very well, or so we’re told.

So, why would we want to throw everything up in the air and hope that a bespke untried system will work better, when we don’t know what better is? That is the issue for me. I don’t have a strong ideological viewpoint, but I wish I did as it would make it so much easier. I just don’t see that getting rid of the 11+, or selection generally, will lead to Nirvana.

For that reason I can’t support Amendment 1 but will support Amendment 2.

Children and Young People’s Plan

I made the following speech at the February 2016 States meeting.

Sir, so here we have it, another strategy, but one that has an integral part to play in the transformation of HSSD. As the Plan makes it clear, it is just part, although an incredibly important part, of a wider whole.

Key to this is providing a joined up service to users, in this case the children and young people rather than the current labyrinthine structure of different services that they have to find their way through.

Early intervention is another theme that runs through this plan. Again, a key strand to the overall transformation of our health and social care services.

We all know it makes sense, deal with an issue before it blows up into something that will require more expensive and complicated intervention.

Of course, this is always a difficult approach to take, as the results can take years rather than weeks or months.. BUT that is where a difference will be made. We have seen how short termism through annual targets in the FTP led to tactical savings whereas what was really needed was more strategic transformation.

This is the nub of the problem.

 

Will the next States and the one after that, hold its nerve as the service goes through its transformation? It isn’t going to be a short journey after all and it will not be achievable without the support of other departments, because that is the point. The transformation of the health and social care service is part, a huge part, of the overall public service reform.

This Plan makes that fact very clear. It will not be achievable without partnership and engagement both within and outside the States.

For instance, the Committee for Education, Sport and Culture has a part to play.  It was clear from the report that children wanted more support available in school. That makes perfect sense.

We also have to remember that issues that children face can occur irrespective of their backgrounds. Loneliness, abuse, neglect, concerns over sexual and gender identity can happen irrespective of where a child or young person lives or what their parents or carers do. In fact it can sometimes be harder for children in a very loving family to discuss their issues for fear of causing upset which in turn affects their mental wellbeing. That’s why schools have a major part to play.

But we do know that for some children, their life story could be written before they are born. They may be few in number, but the amount of time and resources expended on them and their families is disproportionate to the wider population. On social workers, health workers, police and education services, to name just a few.

That’s what makes the  strengthening families initiative so important. But we also need to stop the cycle and that’s where the 1001 days programme comes in.

Now I attended the presentation on 1001 days in January last year. It was absolutely fascinating and what made it compelling for me was the science behind it. How a childs brain development can be directly affected by various influences on it from conception to 2 years old. The groundwork for good citizenship occurs in the first 1001 days. A society which delivers this for its children creates a strong foundation for almost every aspect of its future. A society which fails to deliver it generates enormous problems for the future in terms of social disruption, inequality, mental and physical health problems, and cost. The programme seeks to ensure that happens.

All sounds great, but The States can’t do it itself and it can’t do it without funding. How do we do it without cutting services elsewhere or raising taxes, neither of which hold much appeal after 5 years of FTP. The use of social finance, or ethical investing, could really make a big difference here

Ethical investing already exists here. Some members here like me may put money towards micr-finance initiatives like Kiva that help entrepreneurs in the developing world. Social finance is very similar, but on a larger scale and directly benefiting the Guernsey community. Investors only get a return, if the desired outcomes are met. Of course it means detailed planning to get parameters right, setting out responsibilities and putting reporting structures in place, but we aren’t reinventing the wheel here and based on experiences elsewhere, this could be  the right solution for what we are trying to achieve.

So, where are we now? As with SLAWS, HSSD has not been put everything on hold to awit the strategy.

Well,  it was clear from the Children’s Diagnostic undertaken just after the Board took office that we could not afford to wait for this strategy to come here today. We really couldn’t. It made stark reading which made it clear we were failing our most vulnerable children.

Work has already begun with a prototype MASH, or Multi-Agency Support Hub. It is already making a difference but we now need to take it to the next level. We need to bring in the strengthening families scheme and 1001 day programme in as soon as we can. If we don’t the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage, inequality, dysfunction and child maltreatment will continue.

And  through partnership and engagement this is an area we can make a difference.

So, there we have it, the CYPP reflects the wider transformation through integrated services, early intervention, thinking differently in terms of funding and partnership and engagement. It all looks great on paper and we are seeing it begin to look great in action. But we now need to raise our game and do so now.

La Mare de Carteret – Education amendment

Following the defeat of the Bebb amendment, T&R proposed an amendment seeking to reduce the number of secondary schools. However, discussions were continuing during the States’ session and this ultimately led to the withdrawal of the T&R amendment and the replacement with one from the Education Department that had been agreed with T&R.

This included a review of the 11+, numbers, sizes and location of secondary schools and for T&R to provide funds to enable progression to tender approval. I made a brief speech on the amendment that I supported and was passed by the States,

Sir, I think there are definitely cost implications with the amendment that Deputy Bebb proposed, certainly in terms of maintenance, and I think a lot of what Deputy Dorey just said recently is something we should be debating when Education bring their report some time before March, I hope.
I am glad to see common sense prevail. I could not support the Bebb amendment as I was not happy with the potential for infinite delay that could easily have happened. I said in the last debate that I believed this had all become a matter of trust, and now this amendment requires the Education Department to deliver on that trust.
I do, though, have similar concerns to Deputies Trott and Burford regarding the tendering process. I think a lot of caution and care is going to be needed before those documents go out. We cannot just send standard documentation, for at this stage we have got no cast iron guarantee of construction, let alone what that construction will be , and so I suggest time is invested up-front before rushing out to tender.

La Mare de Carteret – Bebb amendment

The next stage of this long running saga was the report from the Education Department proposing the rebuild La Mare de Carteret on the same lines as their previous report, but to also submit a report no later than March 2016 looking at the optimal sixe, number and location of secondary schools and at least one option for moving from 4 to 3 secondary schools.

The amendment from Deputy Bebb would have deleted the propositions and sought a review into secondary education. It was a difficult decision to make whether to support this amendment. The main report did not have the support of Treasury & Resources. However, up to the very last minute discussions had been going between Education and T&R and it was thought a compromise position might be reached, as it was.

I did not support the amendment proposed by Deputy Bebb but I made it clear in my speech the frustrations I had with what the Education Department were doing.

Sir, The fact that we have this amendment, and that from T&R for that matter, as well as all the tsunami of concern coming from parents, teachers and children is the void that exists in terms of Education strategy.

Ed Dept created a vision 2 years ago now that we fell over ourselves to support. We had a lovely fluffy vision from the Education Dept about how our chidlren are our future, just like the corny song but where is the strategy behind it?

Where there is nothing, concern, suspicion and distrust fill the void.

What are ideas for;

 

  1. Selection – yes or no, 11 or 14?
  2. High schools or technical colleges?
  3. Support for the independent sector?
  4. Post 16 education?
  5. What does the Department mean ‘ vision to create an education system for Bailiwick of Guernsey which will meet the challenges and demands of the future and provide our greatest asset, our people, with the knowledge, skills and tools to face a complex and challenging future with enthusiasm and confidence.
  6. What do they mean about equality of educational opportunity – is this the same education for everyone or the best system for each child? I’d hope that latter, but we have no understanding of what that is.

But you know today, this amendment is nothing to do with value for money or educational outcomes. IT’s all to do with whether we trust the Education to do what it says it will do. This amendment says delay any build until Education have come back with their strategy on secondary education BUT we hear from Education that they will bring back a letter on selection and on structure of education  before the end of this term.

Everything has boiled down to a matter of trust.

That’s the only difference.

 

Do you trust Education Dept – do you? That is the question I have been asking myself, particularly in the last few days. I’ve been pretty critical of the Education Dept, particularly over the closure of St Andrews – a decision that is increasingly looking like it will not reap the benefits forecast. BUT I supported the pre-school proposals as I believe they will make sense, although I was not happy with the way it was put through without consideration of funding. Neither was I impressed with the way they approached the proposed La Mare build, hence my support of an independent review.

The Education Dept say trust us, we will be providing  a paper on selection, we will be looking at options for the future structure – we committed to that in our Vision.

But where is the new education law – where in vision document it is made clear that this will be needed to, and I quote, ’stimulate the education system’.

Can we trust the Education Dept?

Well, perhaps we have to.

It seems to me that we now need closure and I don’t mean a school building. This has been one long sorry mess with 2 departments acting in a more infantile manner than any of the children they are claiming to have in their uppermost thoughts.

I do not see that a delay will result in better decision making. Indeed, I suspect it will lead to an even longer period of no decision making at a time when our construction industry is not building anything significant and when we need to kick start our economy. At a time when teachers are leaving and it is harder to recruit new ones and at a time when it has become increasingly clear to me that Policy Council has, despite the best intentions of its members become increasingly meaningless.

So, even though I have misgivings, I cannot support this amendment.

La Mare de Carteret – personal response

I spoke in favour of the Chief Minister’s amendment to the Education Department’s report on the rebuild of La Mare de Carteret. My speech below explains why.

Sir, on a personal level, I am very disappointed that despite the hard work of both Ministers, common ground could not be found by both Boards and therefore I have to make this speech today.

I fully support the development of a new school. Of course I do. In response to Deputy Lester Queripel’s comment that I was unable to go round the school with him, that was true but I did tour the school at a subsequent date and saw for myself the state it is in. So I have no doubt it needs to be replaced. And I suspect that is the view of most if not all of everyone here today.

However, we are talking about what is NEEDED, not what is WANTED.

Now, reading this report sparked memories of an earlier report and to a debate that took place a year ago. That report was also submitted by the Education Department and called Transforming Primary Education. Having read the Hansard record of that debate, painful as it was, it quickly became apparent to me that statements made then are directly relevant to the debate we are having today.

Let me start with a comment made by Deputy Green. A year ago he stated, ‘This policy letter should be supported today by all who wish to tackle the budget deficit’ He went on to say;

‘The States of Guernsey does not have the equivalent of a ‘Magic Porridge Pot’ that keeps on giving. Digging into our reserves as a community cannot go on and will not go on ad infinitum.’

Well, indeed it can’t. And of course, whether it is capital or revenue it is all from the same pot isn’t it?

I also reference what my good friend Deputy Conder said last November;

‘The reality is that our tax take from the economy is no longer sufficient to cover our revenue expenditure, capital development and sustained reserves. Put simply we are living beyond our means.’   And I would ask fellow members, what has changed between now and then?

We were also told by Deputy Conder that, and I quote,  ‘every attempt to cut or curb spending or generate efficiencies is met with howls of public protest, special interest lobbying and resistance.’

Well hold on a minute. I witnessed 1000  people at North Beach a week last Sunday who were making the completely opposite point. At a time we are increasing taxes and charges we are also looking at spending more and more.  These were people I knew would never have gone to anything like that in the past. Just ordinary working people. The tide has very much turned.

As I stated during the budget debate just 1 month ago, and as Deputy Gillson said yesterday, our funding is not keeping up with our capital spending! We are facing a capital reserve shortfall of £57m by 2017 and it is very uncertain whether this gap can be closed in the short to medium term. We therefore owe it to the taxpayers to ensure what we spend represents best value for money.

Now, I would like to turn to the size of the schools.

This report proposes building a primary school with 100 more pupil spaces than the existing one. Well, this got me scratching my head somewhat. I wondered whether I had entered a parallel universe. Last year the Education Department presented us with projections which indicated a peak in pupil numbers in 2019 and then a considerable drop off. We were told by the Minister there were 751 spaces. and when these figures were questioned that, ‘The Numbers are Secure, Trust Us!’ Those of us who questioned the figures were told to do detention  and write out a hundred times, ‘I will trust the Education Department’s figures’.

And we also had Deputy Fallaize’s contribution to the debate for which he was complemented for his forensic anlaysis. In his speech he said that, and I quote, ‘After Education’s proposed closure of 2 schools there would be 4303 spaces, which provides sufficient capacity, even at the projected peak of pupil numbers in the year 2019, after which the projection is that pupil numbers will drop off quite considerably. But not only that, Deputy Fallaize went on to say that he thought Education’s figures were conservative and, that a further 400-500 spaces could be found!

How can the fact that last year we are told we can close 2 schools and still have bags of capacity when we reach peak pupil numbers, but now we are being told we need to build a new school with 100 more spaces?

And what about the secondary schools? Classrooms are built for 30, an additional 20% compared with the current maximum, then a 16% uplift added for extra space and then 5% for population growth. This is in addition to extensive unused capacity at other schools. According to this report there is capacity for 2,580, but in October 2013 there were 2,190 students, that’s approximately 400 spare places now.

Not only that but we are told a smaller school would restrict curriculum offer – well isn’t that what the federation was meant to resolve? Whatever Deputy Sherbourne said yesterday to counter this, according to the document sent out in February to parents, students and staff and called Transforming Secondary Education it was. It states a Federation will address, ‘the difficulties that some students experience if they want to study minority subjects or subjects at a different level than is provided by their own school. The federation will help to address some of the present inequality of opportunities that students face by dint of the size of their school or where they live.’

Nothing in this report explains adequately why such a  big school is needed.  The Department obviously realised this and hence the letter on Friday telling us they need to build a bigger school in case another school has to close. Really? Create a sunk cost for something you have no idea will happen and if it does, have no idea when?  Have scenarios been tested and other options considered than building a bigger school – just in case?

That letter just emphasised to me that a review is needed.  I welcome the email from the Chief Minister last night and welcome his assurance that Policy Council will return to the States Assembly with a report on the outcomes of the independent review proposed, in time for the February States Assembly sitting. I would hope that this would allay the concerns expressed by some members yesterday.

Now, I had originally intended at this point to make my closing comment. However, I cannot finish without commenting on the response sent by the Education Department in response to the T&R Minister’s questions prior to this debate.

I have to say that I was appalled by the discourteous nature of the reply which as far as I am concerned was totally disrespectful to a member of this Assembly.

Then we look at the actual content. In response to Deputy St Pier’s question – Is it right to assume a 5% uplift in population projections to future proof? Policy Council suggest 1-2%

We are told, this is the difference between statisticians dealing with parameters of certainty and educationalists looking at the difference in the actual numbers between a baseline number and a 5% uplift.

The response to Deputy St Pier’s question as to why 420 spaces were now being provided at the primary school was not answered. In fact by saying there would be a maximum 350 pupils actually seems to argue against the need for a 420 capacity school.

So finally I would like to say that, we knew this debate would always be an emotive one,  just like that a year ago. Although I did note that Deputy O’Hara didn’t get his hnkie out yesterday.

We have had emails from parents and teachers at LMDC saying how awful the building is, how the children feel like second class citizens. We’ve even had the video like last year. However, I refer back to what was said by many who spoke a year ago, epitomised by the words of Deputy Harwood who said ‘Decisions must be driven by reason not emotion’.

We must remember that as much as we would love to throw money at this project we have to consider NEED not WANT.

There are just too many unanswered questions  for such a large capital commitment when more and more of our citizens are rightly asking us whether we can justify our spending at a time when their own budgets are being stretched to breaking point. For that reason I urge members to support this amendment.

La Mare de Carteret – PAC response

I made teh following speech as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee in relation to the Education Department’s report submitted at the November 2014 States meeting and the amendment placed by the Chief Minister requesting a review. In the end, an amendment to the amendment was approved that instructed Education and T&R to work together in relation to such a review.

Sir, as members of the Assembly will be aware the La Mare Schools are not the first schools to be rebuilt in Guernsey. In the last 10 years, High Schools have been rebuilt at both St Sampsons and Les Beaucamps.

In this context, the PAC does note one glaring omission in this extensive States Report and accompanying appendices – it does not contain any section outlining the lessons learnt from the earlier High School developments. However, we are not surprised by this as the Post Implementation Review of the latest High School to be built (Les Beaucamps) has not been undertaken despite the school being operational for a significant period of time.

One of the PAC’s mandated functions is to review Post Implementation Reviews or PIRs. These PIRs should be undertaken within six months of practical completion of any capital project.

PIRs determine whether efficiency of project management and value for money, have been achieved throughout the development of particular projects. Deputy Trott referenced just this in respect of the SSH PIR yesterday. Any ‘Lessons to be Learnt’ from a project should then be available to assist the project management of future capital projects.

In order to understand whether lessons learnt were being incorporated from one project to another, the previous Public Accounts Committee undertook a review in 2010 of the most recent PIRs it had received from the Education Department culminating from the first phase of the Education Department’s Educational Development Plan.

The main issue highlighted in PAC’s report was that PIRs for the Education Department capital projects were at that time, not being undertaken nor disseminated in a timely manner. Lessons learnt therefore, were not being noted and instituted prior to the commencement of the next Capital project.

This PAC has considered it worthwhile to review the capital projects across the States of Guernsey since 2010, to determine whether improvements have been made in the last 5 years and we will be publishing our findings in the near future.

More immediately however, the PAC has serious concerns regarding commencement of the La Mare project prior to a formal PIR being completed for Les Beaucamps, which has been open to students since September 2013. There have been numerous reports of issues relating to that campus which is why the information gained would be invaluable for the proposed La Mare redevelopment.

Despite having raised its concerns on more than one occasion with States Property Services which oversees all States Capital projects, a PIR is still outstanding.

The PAC was informed that the project as a whole was not considered complete until the Sports Hall was finished and so the PIR would not be undertaken until then. However, being mindful that the Education Department was hopeful that the La Mare redevelopment would go ahead in the near future, the PAC suggested that the Les Beaucamps PIR should be conducted in two stages, reflecting the 2 phases of the project. This would allow a review of the school building to be completed ahead of the La Mare project. It would also ensure that any issues arising during its development could be formally documented to assist the La Mare project board. Unfortunately, the Committee’s suggestion was rejected.

This is not good governance.

 The PAC therefore has serious concerns about the Education Department commencing a complex high cost project prior to the formal lessons learnt from the Les Beaucamps project being produced and disseminated.  Irrespective of whether the project team has a similar composition to previous projects, there is no evidence to suggest that lessons learnt have been, or will be, incorporated into the La Mare development.

The PAC also believes that it is unfortunate that the existing agreed process for bringing forward major capital projects has not been followed in this case. For T&R political representatives to withdraw from the project board before the newly proposed SCIP arrangements were implemented is not good governance. The lack of a completed Outline Business Case for a project of this scale, prior to submission of this report to the States,  again is not good governance.

These actions by both Departments may have led to the current impasse, which shows neither party in a good light.

Another notable omission from the proposal is a comparison of the ongoing costs of running the new build with the existing costs of the current school. When assessing the merits of the new build surely this information is pertinent? What is spent now? We don’t know from the report. We know from page 2660 that the new site will cost £580k a year to run and understand from a document circulated by the T&R Minister that this is £186k more than current costs.  And how will this be funded? None of this is apparent from the report. Reference is made in the response to Deputy St Pier’s questions prior to the debate, which I will refer to later, but there are no figures to back this up.

Neither is there any indication of potential income from the use of community and sports facilities. Presumably, if the pre-school will be run privately, rent will be charged – or does the department believe that the business running it should get a new building for free?

It also seems surprising that the report does not include any measurement of outcomes. The people of Guernsey might reasonably expect that the department anticipates an improvement in educational standards and attainment once the build is complete. However, what that improvement will be is not explicitly stated.

Finally, I should like to say that clearly the PAC would be expected to welcome any attempt to provide assurance that a project, certainly of the magnitude and complexity of this one, represents value for money. However the proposal to have T&R leading the review process concerns the PAC from an independence point of view. If this review is to be truly impartial then we believe it must be managed by an independent third party such as the PAC. And would welcome confirmation that such an approach would be acceptable.

 

University of the Channel Islands

I placed an amendment to the Policy Council’s report on a proposed University of the Channel Islands. Basically the report was asking Members to support a university in principle. Although the proposal would be a private venture, due to the effect it may have on the Island it was necessary to ensure that politically it would be acceptable.

I laid an amendment, which was successful, to ensure that the financial regulatory implications were considered. My speech is below.

Sir,

When I first found out about the potential opportunity of a University on Guernsey my immediate reaction was wow, this could be a real game changer. Could this be the silver bullet we are looking for, that reduces our dependence on the finance industry and at the same time helps our other economic sectors such as retail and tourism?

Now, several months on, having had time to  consider it in some depth and undertaken quite a bit of research, I still think this is something worth exploring but I am really concerned that by approving the idea of a University in principle, it will be considered a fait accompli.

It is for that reason that I have proposed the 2 amendments – one relating to finance specifically, the other to regulation. Both of which are about managing risk.

My first amendment seeks  to direct Treasury & Resources to report to the States on the financial cost implications to the States of Guernsey and how it proposes to mitigate such financial cost implications arising from the establishment of a University.

 

I believe that  the Policy Council’s statement that a University would not involve States funding is naïve. It is my worry that if that is what it believes now, no proper consideration will be given  to  the financial cost implications of such an establishment being set up in Guernsey. That is, before fees are raised, buildings leased and people employed.

There will be costs and we will need to ensure that it’s not the Guernsey taxpayer that foots the bill. We have to be satisfied that the business model stacks up, that the University can pay its way and that it will bring a net economic benefit to Guernsey and I will consider these points in turn.

Without sight of the business model of this specific proposal it is impossible to know whether the assumptions made are reasonable.  However, it is possible to look at what is currently happening  elsewhere in this sector and assess whether what is stated in this report makes reasonable sense.

From the research I have undertaken I understand that it is very difficult to build up an outside market and that is what will need to be done here. It is not evident whether the proposers in this instance have done this before as from my research I do believe their plans may be ambitious from a cold start.

 

There are over 100 universities in the UK and there’s intense competition to attract students now. It isn’t like it was 20 or 30 years ago when you would be delighted to get a place at a University. And nowadays the whole world is pitching for same market – India and China. So what is our USP? What can we offer that others can’t? Why would a Chinese student come here?

If it is such a good idea, why aren’t  existing UK universities beating a path to our door? Postgrads in particular – see why go to Cambridge with technology parks, incentive is the research facilities. Will this Uni be able to attract those kind of people?

It seems the University will be heavily dependent on what is called a flying faculty, but who will be arranging this? Not an easy job. And v Expensive – will this match with being competitive on pricing?

 

So, there are questions as to whether it will be viable in the first place. And what happens if it fails. Yes there will be reputational issues of course but there could be serious cost implications if the necessary contingencies are not put in place, there will be a moral obligation for the States to pick up the pieces. I therefore do not subscribe to paragraph 11.1, which states;

“ The organisers plan to generate funds in part from contributions from HNWI individuals and there is always the risk that those funds cannot be raised but this is purely a matter for the proposers.”

With all due to respect, comparisions made with horticulture, finance and export sector are not valid, a university is a completely different kettle of fish.  You can’t just  switch it off.

Private universities can and do fail for a number of reasons, such as the backer pulling out, failing to meet quality assurance standards, or just not being able to attract enough students to make it a viable business.

It will be necessary for the States to plan for this eventuality and mitigate the risks for the Island. Whether this is secured through insurance or by other means, it still needs to be thought about at the start.

So, that is the University’s business model. But what about the wider impact of having a University with 2,000 students. On the one hand, yes spending on goods and services should increase. It might result in Beau Sejour, bus service and Aurigny becoming profitable and for other leisure facilities to either be developed or enhanced. However, there is a need to consider the impact on our infrastructure and other services.

 

Whilst we have been told about how Loughborough and Birmingham have benefited from their Universities, Research done in Pennsylvannia in 2007 showed that there can be a negative economic impact on a host municipality compared to towns without universities. This was because of the fiscal regimes in that State that meant the Universities and students ended up benefiting from the services of the towns without contributing to the provision of those services.  This could be the case for Guernsey.  For example, the work of the Border Agency will increase, with visas having to be dealt with. The police and health services will also be affected. This will require expenditure and we can’t expect our local resident population to pay for it.

One method adopted in Pennsylvania has been a scheme called PILOT, Payment In Lieu of Taxes, which the educational institutions pay. Guernsey would need to consider such a method to ensure we get back what we put in.

In addition, we need to consider whether a University would provide a net economic benefit to Guernsey. With the reliance on a flying faculty, will we get any of the potential tax take from lecturers. Based on our current fiscal regime we could find that fees come in and fees go out without the States seeing any of it. I therefore believe Treasury & Resources need to start thinking laterally, seeing how we can do things differently from what we do at the moment. This might involve consideration of withholding taxes or other fiscal measures that mean the risks of allowing such a body to set up here to be worthwhile financially.

My second amendment relates specifically to the activities of the University itself and directs Policy Council to report to the States on the necessity for any future University to be regulated.

And by this I don’t just mean regulation in terms of financial matters, but also in terms of quality assurance.

I felt it necessary to place this amendment as I was not convinced from reading the report that the Policy Council had given this any thought, although the risks, both financial and reputational could potentially be quite high.

By ensuring that the University is adequately regulated it will provide assurance to the States of Guernsey that such risks are being adequately managed.

The need for quality assurance is essential to ensure that the University can award degrees that are internationally recognised.

In addition, we must be satisfied that the finances are such that the States of Guernsey have assurance that the business is viable, before it is too late.

Whether this is something that CICRA could or should be involved in may need to be considered. It is not something I have the answers to, but as I said at the start, I think it does needs proper review. Instinctively I believe regulation is required, but I believe this is something Policy Council should be looking at formally before we allow anyone to establish a University in Guernsey.

I hope fellow members will understand the need for these amendments.

Primary School Closures

I took an active part in the campaign against the closure of St Andrew’s Primary School. It was a tough battle but I was honoured to be part of a fantastic team of people who worked so hard to try to save their wonderful school.

Sadly,  it all came to nothing and we lost the debate. It was really lost before the debate took place but no-one involved in the campaing could have done more. That result was utterly depressing. St Andrew’s is at the heart of the Parish and a little bit of Guernsey history is being destroyed as a result.

This was not about the quality of the other schools. I have personal experience  of St Martin’s school and know what a great school it is, both my children having gone there. It was all about retaining a sense of community and also, the fact we did not believe the figures provided by the Education Department actually stacked up.

Time will tell who was right.

This was the longest speech I have made to date, but it was essential that I put across the reasons why the schools should remain open. Due to its length I have added it as an attachment.Education Final



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