Jersey has been for centuries and remains a highly successful community. This has been possible only because of the skills and enterprise of the people of Jersey, who for many centuries have built up and maintained globally successful industries – cider-making, cod fishing, cattle rearing, potato growing, tourism, conservation and financial services.
However, continued success cannot be taken for granted. Success can be maintained in an increasingly competitive global environment only by world-class education and lifelong learning.
Education is also critical in support of objectives to increase social mobility and reduce the impact of a disadvantaged background. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds start behind their peers in terms of attainment and about 80% of the difference in GCSE results between rich and poor children has already been determined by age 7.
Chris Lakeman, CEO of Every Child our Future, has pointed out that there is a gap of between 15% and 20% in outcomes between children who qualify for the Jersey premium and those who do not “so you are more likely if you are eligible for Jersey Premium not to be reaching the age-related expectation at the end of foundation stage, Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2, GCSEs.”
The excellent report of the independent members of Jersey’s Economic Council has as one of its five themes –
Unless Jersey innovates and aspires to the highest levels in education and skills development across our entire population, our economy will not prosper.
It is worth quoting in full the relevant section of the report –
A world-class education system is fundamentally crucial to the future prosperity of our community and building back better.
The Island’s primary economic resource is the intellect and creativity of its people, which over the last 60 years has been so successful in establishing Jersey as a word class financial centre, and innovating our traditional industries of agriculture (including aquaculture) and hospitality. But we need to ensure that we develop a talent pipeline that supports our future economic strategy.
Education underpins each of the four strategic drivers already outlined by the Economic Council, with the Council focusing its ambition for ‘education and skills’ around innovation and creativity.
It is essential that (i) the Island educates children and young people for the working world they will enter, one that aligns with our economic strategy; and (ii) beyond primary and secondary education, the Island must adopt and embrace a culture of lifelong learning, anchored by a further/higher education system that focusses on skills necessary to empower our workforce to thrive in the new economy.
This will be how the Island develops and maintains a strong talent pipeline, encouraging entrepreneurs and enterprises to build and grow businesses in the Island, and in turn, driving our future economic success.
The Economic Council made the following specific points –
These points are endorsed. It is clear that Jersey’s economic prosperity depends to a large extent on its education system. But also Jersey owes it to its young people to provide them with world-class education so that they will be able to have successful careers whether in Jersey or elsewhere.
To be successful any organisation needs to know how well it is performing as a whole and how well the individual components of it are performing. This enables strengths and weaknesses to be identified and appropriate actions taken.
In most jurisdictions, there is extensive benchmarking of attainment levels within and between schools. This is not part of a “blame game” but rather is an essential component of a programme to raise standards.
In England, it would be standard practice for a local education authority or academy chain to benchmark its schools against each other, against schools in comparable areas and against published national data. And within schools, there is benchmarking of subject areas, classes and year groups.
At an international level the OECD operates the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which measures 15-year-olds’ ability to use their reading, mathematics and science knowledge and skills to meet real-life challenges. Over 80 countries are covered.
The most recent report, covering data for 2018, shows, for example, the UK in 14th place for reading and science and 18th for mathematics. It would be interesting to know where Jersey would fit in the tables, and if it does not involve excessive work this should be done.
There is very little on the Jersey Government website that gives data on how well Jersey schools are performing. It is significant that the Government report Schools, pupils and their characteristics has nothing on attainment.
The Jersey Government website gives bald statistics for Jersey and England for A levels and GCSEs. They do show attainment levels in Jersey schools improving both in absolute terms and in relation to England as a whole.
However, there is no commentary and no attempt to compare with comparable parts of England. The Jersey Primary Assessment Framework (JPAF) is used by all Government of Jersey primary schools to assess pupil attainment. There is a comprehensive report on primary education but this has no comparative data on other jurisdictions.
Indeed, readers are warned against making comparisons. “The Jersey Primary Assessment Framework is unique to Jersey and therefore comparisons to teacher assessments in other jurisdictions is not possible.”
The only comparative data on school performance, and funding, is from the Independent School Funding Review, published in 2020. Among the points it made were –
There is systematic underfunding in the system, meaning that Jersey’s education system is not funded at the level necessary to meet the policy intent for children and young people.
Jersey’s spend on education is lower than that in most high-performing jurisdictions, with particularly low spending relative to the group of high-performing comparator nations at Pre-primary (Nursery and Reception) and Primary (KS1 and KS2) levels.
Comparing Jersey non-fee-paying schools with their like-for-like equivalents in England shows Jersey non-fee-paying schools underperforming relative to England.
Further, when you examine “value add” metrics such as Progress 8, non-fee-paying and feepaying state-maintained schools in Jersey add less value to their pupils’ performance than the equivalent schools in England, while the state-maintained fee-paying schools add significantly above average value – on average adding half a grade per subject to each pupil.
Comparing the percentage of pupils who left KS4 and went on to take a Level 3 qualification (A-Level or equivalent), Jersey is found to also perform less well than the UK. In 2016, 61.4% of pupils went on to Level 3 study, including pupils who studied for AS levels, compared to 71.2% of pupils in the UK.
Early intervention and early years are a top priority in the New Children’s Plan for Jersey, however, at present, only 57% of children reached the expected level of development at the end of Reception. Further, compared to benchmark countries, Jersey comparatively spends little on Early Years at a per pupil level.
The executive summary commented –
Current funding for non-fee-paying education is low, at £9.2m below the level needed to match high-performing jurisdictions. With this level of funding, children on Jersey achieve academic outcomes broadly in line with England, though disadvantaged children do not currently achieve well.
There are also significant mental health and wellbeing challenges for children on Jersey, particularly around anxiety. Overall, there is a significant gap between current provision and the aspiration for a world class education system.
The current low level of funding is most acute for disadvantaged children and those on vocational pathways. In 2019 the school system ran a deficit of £2.4m, and this review has identified that a further £2.8m is needed to properly fund current provision.
This would also go some way to closing the gap in spending between students at fee-paying and non-fee-paying government schools, currently standing at £15k across a student’s school career.
It is also worth noting comments made by the charity Every Child Our Future, which does great work in tackling the issues of literacy and numeracy in disadvantaged groups, in evidence to a scrutiny panel –
We too often observe that Putting Children First has become an initiative focussed on child protection and safeguarding to the detriment of many other factors that hamper children from reaching their full potential.
It is worth reminding the Panel that 80% of the difference in GSCE results between rich and poor children has already been determined by age 7.
A programme of work has been put in place to implement the recommendations in the funding review and significant additional resources have been agreed. The task is now to secure speedy and effective implementation.
In December 2021 the Independent Review of Inclusive Education and early years was published. This reported many elements of good practice and a sound foundation of which to make further progress, but also highlighted some aspects of the education system that are not inclusive –
From a systems perspective, inclusive education can only be partially developed when schools are differently advantaged at the point of pupil recruitment. Inclusive education in this context becomes ‘inclusion for some’. This is inconsistent with the principles underpinning current GoJ strategic planning for education.
In Jersey, admission to both primary and secondary schools is an approach that, ostensibly at least, is informed by parental choice. However, this is restricted by the incapacity of many to pay school fees, by level of a child’s attainment. CYP experiencing barriers because the lack of availability of specialist provision for SEND.
Whilst under Jersey Law all parents/carers have a legal right to decide where they choose to educate their child, the concept of indicating a ‘preference’ (often termed ‘choice’) which this encapsulates is unduly narrowed for many because of these factors. The present school structure is, therefore, one that does not address inequalities in access; in consequence, it is a barrier to greater inclusivity.
As one senior leader stated: ‘The right to choose is held up as really important, especially by those who can afford to pay for this choice. However, choice is meaningless for families who can’t or don’t have a choice’.
The report makes 50 recommendations, some of which require administrative action that can be put in place quite quickly, others of which are by their nature far-reaching and long term such as “The Jersey community as a whole should be invited to express their preference regarding school selection, including at 14+ and the future structure of Secondary schooling”.
The report should be welcomed and its recommendations fully and promptly considered with an action plan being developed by the end of 2022.
The Jersey curriculum requires Jersey-specific teaching in respect of history, geography and personal, social and health education. However, teachers do not have the material to teach the curriculum adequately. All the relevant material exists but no attempt has been made to make it accessible to students and teachers.
This can be remedied very quickly by a basic website providing easily accessible authoritative information on all aspects of Jersey, including links to key documents and other sites.
Related to this point, it is unacceptable that there are almost no books for children on Jersey or on anything relevant to Jersey (cows, castles, the sea etc). One exception is a book prepared as part of the 75th anniversary of the Liberation What’s in your pocket Peg – a story of life in Occupied Jersey, written by Penny Byrne.
This is excellent – but it is just one publication. Immediate action should be taken to commission from local authors a range of books for children on Jersey for which sponsorship should be readily available.
Further education tends to be the poor relation with priority generally being given to schools and tertiary education. This is true in Jersey as it is in the United Kingdom. But further education is vital to the future success of the Jersey economy and therefore the prosperity of Islanders.
There is and will continue to be, a need for vocational courses and as importantly there is a need for an adult skills programme given a necessity now in a rapidly changing economy for lifelong learning. Highlands College currently provides a good range of vocational courses, many employers provide ongoing staff training and Team Jersey provides some specific services to the public sector.
However, current provision is insufficient, and not joined up. Also, the Highlands College campus is simply not fit for purpose and a long way from what is now required to serve Jersey’s economy. Plans have been developed to improve facilities but these seem to have stalled. The development of a new campus, not just for Highlands but also for higher education, is essential.
Most Jersey students who go on to higher education do so at institutions in the UK, and this is appropriate. However, there is also a need for provision on-island, so as to give a choice to students, particularly to those for whom leaving Jersey is not practical, and also to meet the needs of local business.
Currently, there is actually an impressive range of higher education courses through Highlands College, part of which is branded as “University College Jersey (UCJ)”.
They offer degrees in partnership with UK universities, BPPCI which offers a range of courses leading to qualifications with one of the professional bodies in the financial services industry, Digital Jersey which offers a leadership programme, the Jersey International Centre for Advanced Studies (JICAS), which offers a degree in island biodiversity and conservation in conjunction with University of Exeter, and the Institute of Law Jersey which offers degrees and is the leading offshore centre for legal research and learning.
In addition, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, which has a global reputation in conservation training, offers a wide range of courses and programmes.
While the current offerings are good, Jersey should be more ambitious. It should be possible to attract a leading University to establish a specialist centre in the Island in a subject relevant to Jersey, such as sustainability or island studies, and which would attract students from outside Jersey to spend time in the Island, particularly for postgraduate studies.
A possible partner would be the University of Exeter which already has some links with the Island as the awarding body for the degree offered by JICAS and which is the destination for a significant number of Jersey students. The University provides a good model in that it has a number of specialised centres based in relatively small Cornish locations.
Such a centre would certainly help put Jersey on the map in respect of higher education and could enhance its reputation in a number of areas for which Jersey already has some expertise. Students would be attracted to the Island, particularly if a UK university was involved.
The students perhaps could subsequently be advocates for Jersey if their experience is a good one. They may also prove to be a useful source of labour for the hospitality industry.
A specialist university centre would require an appropriate campus, including residential facilities. The point has already been made that the Highlands College campus is not fit for purpose. The need exists for better facilities for further education and the opportunity should be taken to build a campus that would meet the needs of both higher and further education.
There is merit in encouraging Jersey students to take courses in island studies and also seeking to influence the content of existing courses such as that run by the University of the Highlands and Islands. There is also scope significantly to increase the volume of academic research on Jersey-related issues independently of island-specific degree courses.
Many Jersey students undertake research as part of master’s or doctor’s degree programmes and have significant discretion as to the subject of their research. It is quite probable that some such students would elect to undertake research on Jersey-related issues if they were given some support and encouragement.
This encouragement could include bursaries for students doing research on Jersey-related subjects and mentoring support from relevant government officials and business leaders by giving their time and where appropriate access to resources.
Student finance is always a difficult area with competing arguments about the need to invest in the future as against giving financial help to people who will benefit substantially from university education. There are two areas wherein the short term some improvement is required. Grants are means-tested in relation to income but there is also an asset test, which is problematic.
Students are not eligible for a grant if their parents have capital assets, excluding their main residence, of more £500,000. This is very arbitrary. It means for example that a family with a principal residence worth £5 million and with other assets of £400,000 qualifies for support whereas a family with a house worth £700,000 and other assets of £600,000 is disqualified.
The definition of assets also discriminates against those who have made private provision for their pensions, where their pension savings would count as an asset and those with occupational pensions where it would not. It also discriminates against older parents as financial assets normally increase with age. This unnecessary and arbitrary restriction should be abolished, reliance instead being placed on the income test.
The second point relates to funding for postgraduate qualifications. Currently, a bursary of up to £10,000 is available as a contribution to fees and maintenance but there is a limited amount of funding available so applicants compete with other candidates for the grants.
This seems unreasonable and the criteria for choosing between candidates is not at all clear. It would seem better to have a simple test of whether the student meets the eligibility criteria and satisfies the panel charged with considering the application. If there is any limitation on the amount of funding available then priority should be given to those students doing a course relevant to Jersey as outlined earlier in this paper.
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