A number of changes are being introduced at Sark's only school with the leaving age being raised and the starting age being dropped, alongside discussions regarding the future provision for GCSE students.
Following a critical review of education in Sark, a number of the changes have already been made with more planned.
Some of the obvious changes with immediate effect is the appointment of new staff, which was necessary after the school's entire teaching staff resigned earlier this year.
Pictured: Image from the Sark School website which includes a headteacher's welcome and the history of the school
Conseiller Pauline Mallinson who is Chair of the island's Education Committee told Express that the staff body chose to resign and although the earlier report was critical of education in Sark, it was mostly critical of the way the island supported the only school rather than the staff who were working in it. She said Chief Pleas is now offering more support to Sark School to ensure it can flourish. Mrs Mallinson said this includes the creation of a new board for the Education Committee and the addition of new staff roles at the school itself.
So far, a head teacher and two teachers have been appointed, which means there is a reduction of one teacher in the school's staff body. However, Mrs Mallinson said that is the result of a review of duties undertaken by staff. As the head teacher is required to teach, the school is also appointing a part time administration assistant who can take on some of the duties previously carried out by the head teacher. The administration assistant will also offer assistance to the new board.
The island's Safeguarding Officer was appointed in a different role in the island community at Easter, but she has also now been appointed as a teacher at the school so there will be a discussion over whether she can do both roles and if not, that will need to be addressed by Chief Pleas.
The two new teachers who have already been appointed are, Sarah Cullen, who is also the Safeguarding Officer and Nicholas Wolfe. They will be responsible for Class 1 and Class 2 respectively.
The total cost of recruitment for the three posts and relocation for two of the new staff from the UK is anticipated to be up to £15,000. This amount has not been allowed for in the 2018 budget and so the Education Committee has approached Sark's Finance & Resources Committee to find out how it can be covered.
Pictured: Sark School's website details its history and explains how the facilities have been improved this century and now efforts are being made to improve educational outcomes following a critical review of the school
At the Easter Chief Pleas in April, Sark's government also agreed to change the school attendance ages in the island.
Until now, Sark's children could legally leave school before sitting their GCSEs. That meant the island was lagging far behind the UK and Guernsey, where the law was changed 45 years ago and 10 years ago respectively to ensure all children had the chance to gain qualifications before leaving school.
Sark has now also made this change, with Mrs Mallinson telling Express that the legislation was passed yesterday meaning school pupils in Sark cannot leave before they take GCSEs, although there are currently no GCSE age students due to attend the school over the next three years, but that could change if any more teenagers move to the island.
However, even if students do require educating to GCSE level in Sark, they way they are schooled is also now likely to change.
Mrs Mallinson said it is accepted that Sark School cannot offer the same breadth of opportunities for GCSE students as schools in Guernsey can, and therefore Sark's new education board is to meet with staff from Guernsey's Education Services next week. They will be discussing what options are available for 14, 15 and 16 year olds in Guernsey and whether Sark's students can be offered the same opportunity to study at the Bailiwick's bigger schools.
Mrs Mallinson said some teenagers from Sark are privately educated in either Guernsey or the UK at their own parents' expense but the discussions next week will also consider what provision should be made through the islands' governments. Following those talks a public consultation exercise in Sark is also planned to establish what provision residents want for secondary age students.
This could lead to Sark funding the education of the island's children in Guernsey's schools, which has not been done in some years as no child from Sark is believed to have sat the 11+ for a place at the Guernsey Grammar School or one of the colleges in some years.
Pictured: Sark School current offers education to children aged between 5 and 16 but that will be expanded
As well as raising the upper school leaving age legally to 16 in Sark, the island's school is also going to start offering formal education to children as young as three. It will not be a legal requirement and will not be offered full time but Mrs Mallinson said from September 2018, parents of children aged three and four can enrol them at Sark School where they will be able to attend lessons with the school's younger pupils.
This will mean that from September Sark School will be open to children aged 3-16, and it is likely to have 30 pupils aged between three and 13 from next term, although that number and the age range may change if any more families with children move to the island this summer.
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