Report Highlights Problems For Islands’ Post-16 Education

Some of our Islands’ young people could be doing badly in post-16 education on the mainland through a combination of financial hardship and poor accommodation.

That’s the finding of a report commissioned by the Council’s Children’s Services Department into why some children from Scilly do relatively worse in mainland education even though they get good Key Stage 4 results here.

Young Islanders wishing to take further studies, such as A-levels or vocational courses, have to leave their homes on the islands at 16 years old, two years earlier than their peers on the mainland.

And while the report, written by Dr Gill Haynes of Exeter University’s School of Education, states that Children’s Services is preparing them well for studies on the mainland, it makes a number of recommendations about how this might be improved.

Children get the opportunity to visit three mainland colleges in year 10 and the report recommends moving this to year 9.

There is also a part-time Youth Support Officer employed to help the students during their studies by making at least one visit to the student each year and providing emergency support. Some parents were critical and felt this should be a full-time role.

Accommodation on the mainland was a big concern for parents, one of which described it as “like a lottery.”

Most parents preferred their children to attend state boarding schools, rather than going to colleges where they have to find ‘digs’, as they felt this would provided them with better care and supervision.

Unfortunately, only pupils taking A-levels can choose this option. Those taking vocational courses can’t board and some parents called for Truro College to provide a boarding house, similar to that provided for Off-Islanders at Mundesley House on St Mary’s.

Councillor Roy Duncan said they had been talking about setting up a boarding house in Truro for twenty years and wondered if they were anywhere nearer a solution, but Keith Grossett said this could only be done if Councillors agreed to explore it further.

Councillor Chris Savill says this should be down to the College to provide, adding Truro College must have students from abroad who might also benefit from a boarding house.

She said if the authority provided it, there might be pressure on parents to send their children there which will limit choice

Children considering studying on the mainland also highlighted concerns over personal safety although interestingly, those already living on the mainland felt this had been “overstated and caused unnecessary anxiety.”

The report recommends reviewing the process for CRB checking accommodation providers.

Some students and their families also struggled with the cost of mainland education, including accommodation, food bills and transport and this has been made worse by the withdrawal by the Government of the Education Maintenance Grant.

In future, parents may start getting information when their child is in year 7 so they can plan ahead for the costs involved.

Homesickness could also be a problem. Roy Duncan said some people give up courses because it is so bad although Director of Community Services, Penny Penn-Howard said parents often make this worse.

She said they need to work with parents at an early stage to help them face up to their child moving away.