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Statement by the President of the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture

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Wednesday 25 November 2020

General Update

General Update

Madam, I am delighted to be providing my first statement today as the President of the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture and I am very pleased to be supported in this role by a very capable Vice-President in Deputy Murray and the equally able Deputies Aldwell, Cameron and Haskins.  Together we are determined to make real and tangible progress with policy initiatives across the breadth of our mandate over this political term.  We will shortly add non-voting members to our number and I would like to thank all those who expressed an interest in these important roles.

I provided an update on progress with the Arts Strategy earlier this month following questions from Deputy Queripel.  I won't repeat those details here, except to reiterate that the Committee will work collaboratively with the Arts Commission to support the delivery of its renewed Strategic Aims and Key Objectives.

Over recent months we have all no doubt explored - or more likely re-explored - historic sites that have perhaps reminded us our own childhood, our roots and the rich history that has shaped our culture: our Heritage.  This renewed interest, when combined with the impact that the lack of visitors has had on the "business models" of our heritage sites, means reviewing our Heritage Strategy, and doing so in close partnership with the Committee for Economic Development and our partners outside of government, has never been more important because it will support the reinvigoration of our tourist offering in the post-COVID-19 era. 

And of course our Heritage includes our Language.  The setting up of the new Language Commission will follow the Budget debate so that we are ready to begin work in earnest in 2021.

Madam, I am sure that everyone here today, and everyone listening in, will be keen to hear about the Committee's plans for Education.  And let me be clear that our plans focus on much more than buildings.  They also focus on ensuring an excellent education is available to all learners at all stages of their lifelong learning journey. As I said when seeking election as the Committee's President, this means that we all need to understand the purpose of education. 

We believe that education should foster and build self-esteem, creativity and confidenceso that all learners can flourish and thrive.  It should equip learners with the knowledge and skills to help them to achieve their dreams.  It should instil a commitment to participate within the community as a responsible citizen; and it should provide opportunities to learn joyfullyso that we build a lifelong passion for learning.

This belief is at the heart of our vision for education, which we will realise by ensuring that education equips islanders at all stages of life with the skills and knowledge they need to fulfil their potential and become valuable contributors to our community.

Our vision forms the basis for the Committee's strategy for education which we have already started to develop in partnership with our education leaders.  We will use our strategy to ensure that the education offer that we are accountable for, and the areas that we prioritise, are in line with our wider vision of an education landscape which is equitable, safe, well-led and designed to best meet the current and future needs of our community.  By doing this, we are confident that we can provide excellent outcomes for all, which in turn supports the recovery of our islands and the betterment of our society.

It is important to stress that our strategy for education is not just words, nor is it just about introducing new initiatives.  Continuous improvement is fundamental to our vision and we know that our early years professionals, our teachers, our lecturers and the staff who support and lead them, are always striving to build on what works well and raise the bar even higher. 

The Committee has a keen eye on governance and we will ensure there is a robust reporting framework for all our educational settings.  This, coupled with external validation via a new inspectorate, will help to further embed a culture of continuous improvement so that we meet the needs of all learners.  On-island teacher training has recently been re-introduced; our professional staff are able to undertake the National Award for SENCOs; and a leadership training package will be developed.  Let's not forget that teachers and lecturers are exemplars of lifelong learning too!

The ongoing external review of our Special Education Needs & Disabilities provision and our Inclusion provision will help us to identify strengths and areas for further development in the SEND provision across the island.  Informed by a separate review, a literacy improvement plan is in place to ensure all learners - at all stages of life - have access to high quality literacy teaching which will close the literacy gap for those with the greatest distance to travel.

Sitting alongside these and many other workstreams are our capital programmes.  The Guernsey Institute is fast-becoming a recognisable brand and aspires to be the go-to centre of excellence for learning beyond school settings.  The difficulties and inefficiencies of operating this single organisation across multiple sites of varying quality are well understood.

And the Committee will not shy away from our duty to deliver a model for secondary education.  This is no easy task as there are many variables and possible model configurations.  At the start of the new political term, a series of workshops with staff working in our secondary schools were already underway, and we have waited for them to be completed before being fully briefed on the findings, which we now have been.  Armed with that information, we are now directing the next phase of the review to ensure, by using the right parameters and comparators, it will deliver a model that is best suited to the needs of the island and which our key stakeholders can support.  Because we know how very important the views of those key stakeholders are, and to ensure we don't leave anyone behind, we are reviewing and refreshing plans for further consultation and engagement in respect of the review. 

We recognise the vital role of the employee representative bodies and we have arranged to have both informal and formal meetings with them in the coming days so that we can build an open, transparent and positive collaborative working relationship. 

And we know, because of the vocational calling of those working in our schools, that, like us, they will keep their focus on the most important stakeholders of all - our children and young people.

Through you Madam I urge you all, mindful of what is at stake here, not to sit on the side-lines watching my Committee get on with it.  I am grateful to those who have already offered to help our work in this vital area, and we look forward to working more closely with them as we make progress. 

But each of us here today has a part to play in making sure this work is a success.  Colleagues have been invited by the Committee to a session in early December. 

And Madam I urge Members attend, listen and participate with an open mind and then actively support the work the Committee is doing.  We will never find a model that ticks every box for every single one of us, but through compromise and collaborative working we can find - and implement - a solution that is the very best fit for Guernsey, and we owe nothing less to the children and young people whose precious education we hold in our hands. 

This Assembly is acutely aware, and my Committee equally so, that the workstreams of all of our committees must now be viewed through a new lens as we begin to fully understand the financial and human costs of the global pandemic. 

While much has changed there are some inalienable truths, one of which is that we cannot underestimate the importance - on both our physical and mental health - of an active lifestyle.  Some of you were present in August when, with the restrictions that had been necessarily imposed on our daily lives still very fresh in our minds, the Active-8: A Plan for Sport, Policy Letter was unanimously supported by the Assembly.  I am delighted that the funding needed to enable the start of the Plan has been included within the 2021 Budget report.  Along with our delivery partners, particularly the Guernsey Sports Commission and the Health Improvement Commission, we are confident - assuming this Assembly supports the funding for 2021 - that we can maintain momentum and implement our government's aims to Create Opportunity; Build Community and Support Excellence in sport and physical activity.

Because of its importance for all the participants and in raising the profile of sport and activity and our beautiful island, I am sure we were all disappointed to learn from the recent announcement that the Island Games could not safely be staged in Guernsey in 2021.  But that is not the end of that particular story and I'd like to close by talking about what lies ahead:

I am thrilled that work is now underway to secure a new date for the Games.  There are a significant number of decision-making bodies involved in forward planning and we are expecting news from the International Island Games Association regarding possible new dates very soon.

The local Organising Committee will continue to plan and prepare for the Island to stage its third Island Games in the near future.  We will also ensure that the original Games week in the summer of 2021 is used to celebrate and inspire Islanders.  I am sure that all of us look forward better times in the year ahead and will get behind these plans for this much needed celebration.

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