Why Guernsey may decide to channel Scottish approach
Inspectors from Education Scotland are to travel to Guernsey in 2015 to carry out their first comprehensive inspection of an education system outside their own country.
The move is the latest sign of the island's growing admiration for the Scottish system, which could result in its adoption of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) in schools.
Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands, is largely self-governing and does not form part of the UK, although schools have traditionally followed the English curriculum. TESS has learned, however, that a consultation of teachers and other education staff has resulted in its state-run schools picking the Scottish system as the favoured model for educational reform.
Now, Education Scotland is to carry out an "independent, strategic inspection" of Guernsey Education Department, which is both an arm of the island's government and a local authority.
A spokesman for Education Scotland confirmed that, although it had undertaken work in countries such as Malawi, this was the first comprehensive inspection outside Scotland.
TESS revealed last year that, prompted by concerns over the reforms of former Westminster education secretary Michael Gove, Guernsey officials had started discussions with leading figures in Scottish education ("Guernsey may swap A-levels for Highers", 5 July 2013).
Details have now emerged of a consultation on the future of the island's secondary school qualifications, which presented five options: following the model of Scotland, England, Wales or Northern Ireland, or using a mix of international qualifications.
Adopting Scotland's approach was the top choice among state-school staff, with 31 per cent approval, despite fears that it could lead to difficulties in recruiting teachers from England.
The Scottish model would "provide a stable education system that is less likely to be affected by unpredictable UK politics", said one respondent, while another noted that it "seems to be well-respected internationally".
Others admired Scotland's attempts to create a system where end-of-year exams did not dominate, and its focus on health and well-being. Although a switch to CfE would result in "drastic changes", one staff member said that children "would benefit from [Scotland's] inclusive curriculum".
"In contrast to England, education is seen as apolitical and there is all-party support for Curriculum for Excellence and the new qualifications framework, which provides the sustainability and stability.required [in Guernsey]," stated the authors of the consultation document.
Guernsey education director Alan Brown said that the island shared Scotland's philosophy and principles in areas such as the early years, curriculum development and school improvement. As well as Education Scotland, he and his colleagues have held discussions with Scottish school staff, the General Teaching Council for Scotland and the Scottish Qualifications Authority.
Mr Brown added: "Their commitment to excellent outcomes for all young people is clear and we are reaping significant benefits from working with our colleagues in Scotland."
Despite the support for the Scottish curriculum, Guernsey -which has four state high schools, one grammar school and three grant-aided colleges - decided that the "massive" change of adopting it wholesale all at once would be too risky.
Instead, Guernsey education officials, whose remit also covers the island of Alderney, have devolved extra decision-making powers to schools. By the end of the academic year schools will decide whether to adopt the Scottish education system.
A mixed approach, drawing on aspects of different systems, was favoured when officials consulted the public after the survey of education staff. Although there is no imminent prospect of Guernsey adopting Scottish qualifications such as Highers, Curriculum for Excellence remains the front-runner to shape the education system in the years ahead.
"We are proud of our international reputation for excellence," Scottish education secretary Michael Russell said. "I am pleased that Guernsey Education Department is working with Education Scotland and will be able to benefit from its expertise."
Scottish officials will also keep a close eye on approaches in Guernsey that could provide "opportunities for new learning" in their own country, according to Alastair Delaney, Education Scotland's director of inspection.