Wednesday 28 September 2022
Madam, until recently I intended to open this statement by reflecting on what a privilege it was to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee in June. Despite recent events, I still think it proper to look back with pride on the celebratory events including the lighting of the beacon at Castle Cornet, the Platinum Jubilee Arts Seafront Sunday, the community fete and screening of the Party at the Palace in the Grounds of Government House. The winning design in our Platinum Jubilee Flag competition was sent to Buckingham Palace as a gift from Guernsey as well as being flown around the Island.
And Madam, commenting as I feel I must on more recent events, I want to publicly thank staff and a vast number of volunteers alike who came together to ensure that we, as one of the Crown's oldest possessions, were able to mark the death of HM Queen Elizabeth II with a 96-gun salute, and mark the proclamation of King Charles III in London and in Guernsey with two 21-gun salutes. I am grateful to all those who played a part in ensuring these events were appropriately commemorated.
Madam, just three weeks before the Platinum Jubilee, islanders commemorated and celebrated the 77th Anniversary of our Liberation. The morning saw the traditional parade, Town Church service and wreath laying. Later, thousands lined the streets to watch the Island-wide Cavalcade and seven parishes put on a wide range of entertainment with music, singing, dancing, food and games, bringing communities and different generations together to celebrate. We welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Wessex who enjoyed a special programme of entertainment at Castle Cornet before taking to the dance floor at the Liberation Tea Dance and later assisting in the planting of trees as part of the Queen's Green Canopy project - a living legacy to an inspirational monarch.
Madam, since my last statement I have honoured my commitment to host a presentation updating States Members on the Education Strategy, where some of our senior leaders gave an insight into several key workstreams.
The Committee has sought invaluable feedback from key leaders across the education sector and from a Cultural Values Assessment undertaken across the entire education workforce and has used both to shape the operational policy plans that our senior team is leading. The Commitments and Priorities of our Strategy now drive all operational activity within education and inform our understanding of where to focus limited resources.
A staff group in every education setting champions the Education Strategy, and core group of staff from the States' enabling services meet regularly to ensure that no one loses sight of the part those services play in realising our aspiration for excellence for all our learners. Our students are at the heart of all that we do, so we have also taken feedback from groups of young people and adult learners to make sure our areas of focus are the ones that matter most to them.
Madam, we will publish the Education Strategy Annual Report each January. This report is a key milestone as it will be the benchmark against which all future reports will be measured. The Director of Education recently wrote to the parents and carers of our students to promote the Education Strategy and the website where more information can be found. He reiterated the invaluable role of parents and carers as partners in their children's education, and I echo those sentiments.
I was thrilled to attend our third Joyous childhood conference recently, along with 150 delegates ranging from childminders to college staff. The author Michael Rosen was the keynote speaker focusing on the power of play and reading for pleasure. Early Years specialists delivered workshops with topics including early brain development and sharing best practice in Early Childhood Education.
Madam, in line with the Priorities of the Government Work Plan, the Transforming Education Programme is delivering at pace. We are about to submit a funding request for the Digital Roadmap for Education and, in the meantime, work is underway to roll-out improved Wireless and Local Area Networks to all schools. This will significantly improve connectivity and make an immediate and tangible improvement to the educational experience.
The review of the education law is progressing. The foundational work started by our predecessor committee has not been disregarded but the landscape has changed, even in the short time our Committee has been in office, and we need to ensure our proposals will stand the test of time. Our policy development involves a range of stakeholders so that we understand issues created by the current legislation or, in some cases, by an absence of legislation, and we are on track to consult in both a general and targeted way in the new year.
One of the review's most important strands is the governance of our education settings. The Committee has a voracious appetite to genuinely understand governance at school level and to improve on historic governance practice across the islands. We are determined to develop a governance model that fits the unique context of our islands, including the wider structures of government, and allows settings-based leaders to properly lead: to use their professional skills to drive improvement; to make decisions about how best to do that; and to have the tools to make it happen, whilst at the same offering them appropriate support and challenge.
Any new governance model involves change for leaders and for centrally provided services and must be implemented with care. The Committee is investing time in actively providing governance to individual settings as an interim step - and I stress the word interim, as we explore the right fit for the future. This brings two advantages: firstly, we are holding leaders more closely to account for the outcomes of all their learners; and secondly, our 'on the job' learning is helping to develop the future model in a considered, evidence-informed way.
Work on the redevelopment of the Les Ozouets Campus is progressing well. We have planning permission following the technical design phase and the old buildings have been vacated. I thank everyone who so willingly moved into new, and in some instances temporary, accommodation to enable us to build Guernsey's state-of-the-art post-16 campus. The construction tender is well-progressed, and we anticipate commencing work on-site at the turn of the year. In parallel, we are ensuring that the Les Varendes site meets the requirements of our new secondary model, including bringing the site up to the modern standards of our other 11-16 schools; and progressing designs to repurpose the pool to be home to the Music Service; Youth Commission and SHARE.
Madam, the pandemic put hold some aspects of the continuous professional development of the education workforce. I'm pleased to report this is very much back on track. We are scheduled to deliver over two hundred training sessions covering topics as wide ranging as safeguarding, mental health first aid and subject specialist development this academic year.
Despite the pandemic's disruption to education, the percentage of children finishing Reception Year who obtained a good level of development are the highest for several years. This reflects the positive impact of preschool funding and the improved oversight and support offered to this sector as a direct result.
Children in year 2 and year 6 of primary school have had pivotal years of their education disrupted by COVID, and results in reading, writing and maths reflect this. Schools are working hard to raise attainment levels, particularly where individual children have gaps in their learning, and we have secured additional funding to help bridge these gaps and to provide more health and wellbeing support for students.
In the main, this year's GSCE results held up favourably against 2019's, which is the last time there were formal public exams, and reflect the hard work of learners despite the disruption they have faced. Our sixth form students had a different challenge this year because, exceptionally, A level or IB exams were their first experience of sitting public exams. The proportion of young people achieving an A level pass grade exceeded that in England and the proportion achieving the top two grades increased from the last time exams took place.
We are beginning to see post-pandemic recovery across all areas of sport & recreation, not only across our own sites but Island-wide, and visitor numbers at our heritage sites have returned to near 2019 figures. Guernsey Museum will stage five exhibitions this year, including The People's Collection, which showcases some fantastic artworks held in the Museums reserve collections.
We have played our part in enabling significant private investment in sporting facilities, and the refurbishment works at Footes Lane will enable us to showcase our Island facilities at the Island Games next year. I can't mention the Island Games without passing on our grateful thanks to the Organising Committee, and their growing team of volunteers. The 1-year countdown to the Games started as we hosted delegations from over 20 islands around the world to finalise arrangements. 2023 will be quite the year for sport, including establishing the next phase of Active-8 - our Plan for Sport.
The Guernsey Language Commission has now been formally established and launched, and next month the Committee will again meet with the Arts Commission to review its progress towards establishing a local, sustainable Plan for Art; we look forward to continuing to partner with both of these Commissions as their exciting work gathers pace and momentum.
And finally Madam, it was a pleasure to welcome the Costa Rican Ambassador to the island earlier this month to unveil a Guernsey Museums Blue Plaque for William Le Lacheur, recognising his invaluable contribution to Costa Rica's economic and educational successes.