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The Education issues election candidates must grasp

The Education issues election candidates must grasp

Thursday 19 May 2022

The Education issues election candidates must grasp

Thursday 19 May 2022

As the 2022 election approaches, I have been contacted by numerous candidates, asking for my views regarding education.

Here were the issues in 2018:

• lack of resources in States schools
• inequality between schools
• staffing levels
• staffing expertise
• digital education
• inlusion
• pedagogy

Unfortunately, all these issues remain.

It all started promisingly until Senator Vallois fell on her sword to be replaced by a succession of deputies that were, quite frankly in my view, not up the mark. We had a Director of CYPES working partially off-island replaced by another from Health. How has this 'musical chairs' benefited the children of Jersey?

The pandemic has shone a light on the lack of leadership in Education.

Having meandered aimlessly for years, our system needs ambition, innovation, direction. This begins with establishing a pedagogy.

Most forward-thinking economies are turning to a less prescriptive style of teaching. You may have heard of STEM approaches to teaching and learning but there are others. This entails teachers being given time to innovate, to get pupils to problem solve, to create and to take ownership of their learning.

Over time, pupils gain a full range of cognitive skills, not just the ability to recall facts and figures. Results would improve, not linearly but exponentially.

To make this happen would involve changing the emphasis from target setting to a more open-ended approach to teaching and learning. It would also require dismantling the present results-led approach that is so divisive.

Target setting and micro-management has created a crisis among staff, as recent survey results show. Many are leaving because their expertise is stifled as schools chase results, and schools are left with teachers having to plug the gaps, sometimes faced with larger classes or unfamiliar subjects. Supply teachers are a sticking plaster.

That schooling has not collapsed is down to the dedication and resilience of remaining staff and pupils, all of whom have soldiered on. Even though their wellbeing has been trashed, their vocation has held firm throughout.

Compare this to the Finnish education system.

Teachers there are empowered to deal with every aspect of their work. There are no heads of department and no co-ordinators of this and that. Teachers are paid a high salary, but they must have a double degree. To achieve this level of competency would require significant investment but long-term the island would reap the benefits economically and educationally.

A progressive agenda for change with an immediate, medium, and long-term plan is needed. Moves are afoot post-16 to offer more vocational options. It would be moot to start this earlier, in Year 9, as they do in countries like Germany. This would have a knock-on effect of improving standards of behaviour. Digital education should be compulsory in every school, as was done with IT in the 1990s.

Then let's consider inequality.

The Independent School Funding Review identified a £1,100 per annum difference in student funding, per pupil, in favour of Hautlieu compared to Highlands. This could be seen as an example of the over-emphasis on academic education.

Proportionately, Jersey has more private education than anywhere else in the world, but little is said about the disparity between funding for State schools and private schools. If politicos are serious about 'levelling the playing field' they will have to confront this issue head-on.

The ISFR stated that £6,000 per annum extra was spent per pupil in the private sector. Yes, they could trim funding here and there, but this will do little to address the imbalance. If they are not prepared to cut funding to the private schools, then they must match fund the state sector and/or make the private sector do more to earn their subsidy.

Inclusion is an illusion, but it is an issue easily resolved, if the will is there. The island can bumble along or it can invest seriously in education for all.

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