Ambitious plans for world-class education to give children the best opportunity to succeed

By Press Release Jul 9, 2024

Children and young people on the Island should have a “world-class” education which gives them the best opportunity to succeed.

This is just one of the key aims of the IW Council’s draft education strategy published today (Monday).

The strategy sets out a clear ambition to transform the school system from one that has consistently underperformed compared to national trends, to one that is nationally recognised for the quality of its education.

By 2030, the council’s vision is that all children on the Island will be equipped with the skills and aspirations to access opportunities of their choice.

The new draft plan provides an overarching blueprint of how this will be achieved, underpinned by five priorities:

  • High aspirations from all and of all.
  • Enriching curricular experiences with meaningful pathways into adulthood.
  • High-quality special educational needs and disabilities (SEND provision on Island for children and young people.
  • A well-trained workforce, with a range of continued professional development and clear career routes.
  • A sustainable school system.

Ashley Whittaker, director of children’s services, explained: “Every child growing up on the Isle of Wight deserves access to a high-quality education, whatever their needs and circumstances.

“Education empowers children with the knowledge, skills and critical thinking abilities that are necessary for personal development.

“It promotes social mobility, reduces inequality, and encourages the cultural understanding and tolerance needed to foster a more inclusive and cohesive community.

“Education equips children to grow into happy and successful adults who can make a positive contribution to society.

“Our children are the Island’s adults of the future, and the Island needs a future workforce that is able to adapt and innovate for whatever that future might bring.

“Ultimately, a high-quality education is a key building block for a future that is better for individuals and society as a whole. This is why a new Island education strategy, that guides us to the next decade, is so important.

“Working together across the wide range of organisations involved, and in collaboration with families, and with children and young people themselves, we will deliver on our shared commitment to fully unlock the potential of the Island’s children and young people, and allow them to truly thrive.”

This opportunity to shape a new vision for the Island is being led by a new, impassioned Island-based children’s services team who are determined to drive forward improvement to ensure the very best for Island youngsters.

Since taking over from Hampshire in February, the team has visited every Island school and worked closely with head teachers and governors to understand what is important to them.

They have also met with children and young people and reached out to Island communities to gather their views.

This combination of grounded and calm strategic thinking, balanced with due care, deep listening, transparency and empathy towards staff and students has been welcomed by school leaders who have given the team their full support.

But why the need for change?

The Isle of Wight currently ranks in the bottom ten per cent for key education performance indicators. This unchanging scenario demands immediate action to secure a brighter future for Island children.

One significant challenge is the level of surplus places within schools, which means they struggle to maintain a broad and high-quality curriculum.

As of last October, there were 1,898 unfilled school places. By September 2027, this number is forecast to rise to 3,056.

The financial impact is stark: for every empty seat, schools lose more than £4,300, affecting resources, opportunities and the quality of education children receive.

The actions, commitments and improvements contained in the Draft Education Strategy aim to create a modern school system that is not only financially sustainable, but also flexible to the needs of Island children to ensure every child can receive the education they need to succeed.

Above all, it’s a plan that places children at the heart of decision-making.

Councillor Jonathan Bacon, Cabinet member for children’s services, added: “I think this is a document that has been needed for a long time.

“There are increasing challenges across the education field that need to be addressed and so it is essential that we have a clear overarching strategy to ensure that all sectors are borne in mind when decisions are being made.

“In addition the aim of the new strategy is to ensure this is done with the key focus being upon ensuring the best possible provision for all our young people to enable them to access the best possible opportunities as they prepare for adult life.

“We are determined to make a difference and ensure the Island’s education system flourishes.”

There will be a further opportunity for people to comment on the draft strategy over the summer and throughout the autumn, before it is finalised later in the year, or early 2025.

Islanders can find out more by visiting the council’s website and are welcome to provide feedback by emailing: strategic.planning@iow.gov.uk