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Olly Newton takes a trip to Jersey

What can we learn from a small island nestled off the coast of France, you may well ask.

Well Jersey is much more than that – a Crown protectorate within the British Isles it is free to set its own education policy. In many respects it mirrors the English system but with the opportunity to tweak, diverge and most importantly preserve elements that we have failed to nurture on the mainland.

With a population of just over 100,000 and around 5,000 young people in secondary schools at any one time, it is a similar size to a small English city like Chesterfield, Bedford or Worcester. One of the strengths of Jersey is people’s willingness to do the best for the island and similarly sized areas of the mainland can harness the same power. Whilst businesses or individuals might feel only a slight affinity to an area like ‘the Midlands’ or ‘the North West’ they are prepared to go out of their way to help young people in their town. We have seen this recently in the excellent work being done on the Crewe and Macclesfield Pledges, harnessing employers’ connection to their local area to offer opportunities for local young people.

Jersey’s careers guidance and skills system provides a sobering reminder of just what we have lost over the last decade in England. Trident, Jersey’s work experience programme, offers all young people in Year 10 the opportunity of 2-3 weeks in a local employer – 97% of young people take it up and 96% of those said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their experience. One of the great strengths of the programme is that it has been going for 32 years so the owners and employees providing work placements remember their own experience, an important reminder of the power of stability in this area, which is so sadly lacking in the English technical education system.

In 2014, Jersey introduced a ‘foundation apprenticeship’ programme for young people who were not sure of what they wanted to do next – a problem exposed by our own Longitudinal Study of Level 3 learners, the first wave of which showed a significant group of young people drifting between default options. The programme blends a Prince’s Trust personal development programme, two days per week of real work experience, a customer service qualification and the support of a trained mentor. The results speak for themselves – all of last year’s cohort went into positive destinations, half into employment and the rest into apprenticeships and further study. In the new Industrial Strategy, the Prime Minister reinforces the messages originally set out in the Post-16 Skills Plan about the creation of a ‘transition year’ for those young people who need it and Jersey’s programme provides an important model for how this kind of intervention could work.

The team running Jersey’s apprenticeship programme, Trackers, have come up with some fantastically innovative ways for apprentices to develop their skills through distance and online learning alongside employment. One feature that sets it apart from the English system is the investment in trained mentors who provide each apprentice with one-to-one coaching and support at least every three weeks. The team feel that this is a crucial ingredient for helping resolve any issues, promote reflective learning and help apprentices get the most out of their experience. The results speak for themselves – at 98% completion, this is more than 25% higher than in England, suggesting that this investment of time and money is more than repaid.

With a well organised Youth Service and a careers service that provides face to face support to young people in schools, Jersey has succeeded in preserving support that makes a real difference to young people’s lives and careers. These lessons and experiences will be vital for us as the pendulum swings back and we look to recreate some of these missing services for young people in England.