The 2010 school re-organisation from three to two tiers is still raw in many people’s minds. At the time, it was criticised for being rushed and ill-considered. A lack of support for teachers and pupils was blamed for the low morale, a loss of good teaching staff and the detrimental impact on the achievements of pupils caught in the middle.
So in light of the launch earlier this week of the Isle of Wight council’s latest consultation on school places, it’s understandable that many are concerned at the prospect of yet more changes to the education system on the Isle of Wight.
Shaping education for the next 30 years
At a briefing for the media on Monday afternoon, the intention coming through from the team overseeing the consultation was a desire for “real engagement” with education providers, pupils and parents in order to help them shape education on the Isle of Wight for the next 20-30 years.
Felicity Roe, assistant Director for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, is overseeing the whole process. She said,
“We are absolutely here to get the best for Isle of Wight kids, it is vitally important to us and that’s why we’re launching this consultation.
“We think Isle of Wight children are not necessarily, particularly at post-16, getting a good deal at the moment.
Poor outcomes for A-level students
As already reported through OnTheWight, the outcomes after A-Levels are very poor on the Isle of Wight. Felicity went on to say they want to bring those up to a good national standard.
Structural issues need discussion, she said, but adding that vocational and skills-based provision are good and would not be changed.
Re-organisation a “unfinished job”
Since the possibility of further changes being made to secondary schools and post-16 education was raised near the end of last year, many parents and commentators have voiced their concerns at the timing of the consultation.
Schools are still settling into the two tier system and need longer to adjust, many have said, whilst others have been critical of the range of options laid out in the draft consultation papers, claiming it is ‘rigged’.
Felicity explained the previous school re-organisation had concentrated on merging schools, rather than being based on the most robust school places planning foundations. “This is now the moment to get it right,” she said.
Leader of the Isle of Wight council, Jonathan Bacon, who has retained responsibility for Children’s Services said,
“It’s an unfinished job.”
What’s driving the timing?
As well as the direction from the Department of Education following the rating of Inadequate back in January 2013 (NB: In November 2014 Ofsted announced IWC Children’s Services were no longer rated Inadequate), one of the main drivers for the consultation is the “once in a lifetime opportunity” for a significant investment from the Government under the Priority School Building Programme 1.
In excess of £50m has been agreed to refurbish or fund new buildings at Carisbrooke College, Christ the King College and Ryde Academy.
Deadline to spend the money (wisely)
This is not an open-ended agreement and depending on the outcome of the consultation, the money must be spent and buildings being occupied by end of 2017.
Felicity said there is a public responsibility to ensure the money is spent in the right place and reiterated they are keen to hear suggestions of other options in addition to those outlined in the consultation.
Make sure you’re informed
The issues driving the school places consultation are complex and detailed, capacity, attainment, etc., and although there are two separate strands, 11-16 and post-16, they are closely tied and interdependent.
The consultation period runs until 30th April and starting next week, public information events will be taking place at schools and elsewhere across the Island, providing parents, pupils and providers the opportunity hear more and ask questions.
Before responding to the consultation, Islanders are urged to attend the meetings, read the documents and ensure they are fully informed.
Full details of the consultation can be found on the Council’s Website.