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By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us) exclusively for Bermuda Online
There are schools in every one of the nine Bermuda Parishes.
Those from overseas unfamiliar with Bermuda, including some educators, teachers and parents of children attending schools or places of higher education, often believe wrongly that Bermuda is in the Caribbean or West Indies. It is not, Bermuda is 900 miles north of the Caribbean and is not part of any Caribbean educational system. Only very few Bermudian or Bermuda-based students later attend any schools or colleges or universities in the Caribbean.
Bermuda is a tiny, isolated (600 miles due east from the nearest mainland, North Carolina, USA, 900 miles from the nearest Caribbean island to the south and 3500 miles from the UK) island group of only 21 square miles or 56 kilometers in total land area. The educational system here is completely independent of the systems of any foreign country such as the United Kingdom, USA or Canada or beyond. Unlike in far larger countries with significant multi-cultural populations and cultural and educational facilities and laws and faculties to match, no laws or facilities of any kind exist (because there is no or insufficient demand for them) in Bermuda for non-English-speaking children to be taught while at school in any language other than English. Newcomers working in Bermuda from countries where English is not the official language with a young child or children should note that all schools in Bermuda are taught in English only.
All education, whether at a Bermuda Government funded or maintained and taxpayer-supported school (a public school) or private school (not taxpayer-supported but with fees paid by parents) is administered and controlled by the Bermuda Government's Ministry of Education, see http://www.moed.bm/default.aspx, 7 Point Finger Road, Paget DV 04, P. O. Box HM 1185, Hamilton HM EX phone (441) 236-6904. Fax 236-4006, Bermuda. Application forms for teaching posts at Bermuda Government-operated public schools (bit not for private schools) can be obtained from that website. All enquiries about education in Bermuda not shown in this file should be directed to the Ministry of Education, not to this author.
All teachers in Bermuda, whether Bermudian or married to one or an expatriate (foreign, non-Bermudian) teacher on a contract, are required to apply successfully for and hold a valid licence from the Bermuda Educators Council (BEC). There are about 700 public school teachers. All expatriate teachers who may be given initial one year contracts with a Bermuda public or private school should know they may not always be renewed (see Work Permits for non-Bermudians) as preference is always given to similarly qualified Bermudian teachers. They should also make a point of reading Newcomers to Bermuda also Bermuda Cost of Living - and Bermuda motor vehicle private transportation costs, all substantially higher than in USA, Canada and UK, etc.
Teachers at Government schools are expected to become members of the Bermuda Union of Teachers (BUT), at Seventy Two Teachers' Place, 72 Church Street, Hamilton HM 12. P. O. Box HM 726, Hamilton HM CX. Phone (441) 292 6515. Fax (441) 292 0697. Founded February 1, 1919. In 1964, it combined with the Teachers Association of Bermuda (see book The Teachers Association of Bermuda (1949 to 1964). Any accredited and qualified teacher at any private school in Bermuda can also become a member of BUT if they wish. It has a representative on the Labor Advisory Council and Public Service Superannuation Board, both Bermuda Government Boards.
Non-nationals accepting teaching posts in Bermuda from the United Kingdom should note that unlike in the UK there are
The Bermuda Educators Council Act came into effect in July 2002. It improves standards in the profession and increases the esteem in which teachers are held. It sets the framework for registration, not for licensing, but as a result all Bermudian and imported teachers - not those in an administrative role - will now have to be licensed.
The Education Amendment Act 2003, among other things, sets the stage for the regulation of home schools.
Education in Bermuda is compulsory for all children from 5 to 16. It is free for parents of students at Government schools, namely primary schools, middle schools, senior schools and special schools - all day schools - comprising preschools, junior, special and secondary schools - administered by Bermuda's Ministry of Education. It is NOT free for parents of students at local private day schools (there are no local boarding schools in Bermuda).
Newcomers with children of school age can choose whether to enroll them in a Government or private school, in Bermuda or overseas.
For basic details see http://www.moed.bm/Documents/BermudaPublicSchoolSystem.pdf.
Taxpayer-funded, unlike private schools which are not. The mission of Government-owned or maintained schools, also known in Bermuda as public schools, is the provision of an environment in which each student may develop academic, practical and physical skills; practice critical and creative thinking; exemplify aesthetic, social, moral and spiritual values which characterize a secure, self-confident individual who is capable of constructive participation in the community and effective functioning in an age of change, with life-long, self-directed learning.
All teachers in the government schools are eligible for membership in the Amalgamated Bermuda Union of Teachers, which negotiates salaries and conditions of service. All principals in government schools are eligible for membership in the Association of School Principals, which similarly represents their interests. Programmes of professional development, salaries and conditions of service for teachers and principals have been continually improved. Negotiations on these terms of employment take place every two years and their outcome is confirmed in published agreements with the Government.
Questions about any government schools should be directed to the Ministry of Education at telephone (441) 236-6904 extension 3659 or 3660.
Government grants for primary education began in 1816. The government educational system of today derives, however, from the Schools Act 1879 and is based on the traditional British pattern. The Education Act 1949 established the right of all children within what was then the compulsory school age (7 to 13) to receive free primary education. By 1969, the compulsory school age had been expanded to 5 to 16 and all children within that age are entitled to free primary and secondary education. In 1985 the Education Act was amended to entitle children to remain in secondary school up to the age of 19 years in order to complete the secondary programme.
The government system comprises a number of primary schools, access to which is determined mainly on the basis of proximity of residence to a school. The system at secondary level consists of a fewer number of schools, is selective and is divided between academic and general schools. Principals of the secondary schools select pupils on the basis of performance in an examination taken at the end of the primary school stage and of parental preference. Technical and prevocational education is provided in the general secondary schools. Provision is also made for the education of children with special needs in six special schools, which have been in operation for more than 20 years, and in special programme classes, which have operated for more than 10 years, in regular primary and secondary schools. Special education provides a continuum of services appropriate to the range of special needs of the students concerned. Free education is provided in a number of pre-schools for four-year-old children. Curriculum guides at all levels have been in place for several years. At the pre-schools, the curriculum objectives are related to social, cognitive and motor development, as well as to language, mathematics, social studies and science. The Government has restructured the educational system in order to remove selectivity from the secondary level and to provide equal access to the curriculum for all students. The system has three levels - primary, middle and senior secondary. Since May 2010 the Bermuda Public School System has adopted the UK's Cambridge International Curriculum as the basis for teaching English, Mathematics and Science in the government primary, middle and senior schools. The Cambridge Curriculum has four phases, each of which dove-tails into the next, beginning with Primary (age 5-11), Lower Secondary (11-14, equivalent to a Bermuda Middle School). Middle Secondary (14-16, equivalent to S1 and S2) and Upper Secondary (16-19).
Bermuda College, see by name below.
Adult Education School, see by name below.
2019. July 5. Plans to have signature schools open in a little more than a year’s time are “very aggressive”, the education minister said yesterday. Diallo Rabain added that members of team that would lead the Government’s plan to axe middle schools and introduce senior-level signature schools had not been selected. He said: “That is still being worked on. As we move along, we will furnish updates of what’s going on with that process.” Mr Rabain said that “some preliminary work” had been done, but that the task to assemble the team will not “be as easy at it seems”. He explained: “There are specific skill sets that we do want on this particular team and so that is the process we are going through now — who can be on that team. We realise that this is not something that our employees can do on a part-time basis. This is something that we are actually going to have to bring people in from different parts of the Government and actually second them to do this for us.” The Department of Education had 314 full-time equivalent employees in 2017-18 according to the 2019-20 Budget book. Mr Rabain said that the number, location and focus of the signature schools had “been discussed”. He added: “There are potential scenarios that have been pushed forward. When we are ready to start the consultation process, that’s when we will come out with the various scenarios.” David Burt, the Premier, told MPs in May that it was hoped that “school year 2020-21 will be the first with signature schools”. He said that the school year starting in two months’ time will “ideally” be the last “under the current system”. Mr Burt added that the Government “will not rush this just to make this particular timeline”. Mr Rabain said that he could not yet say if the time frame was possible. He added: “What I can tell you is that that is the aim — and we will always look to hit our mark.” Mr Rabain said: “It is critical to get this transformation right the first time. So we will go at the necessary pace to ensure its smooth transition. We will be guided by what is right for our students first and foremost.” He reiterated that consultation will take place before a final plan for the school system change is decided. Mr Rabain said last July said that a three-pronged process, expected to last 18 months, would be used to develop proposals for signature schools. He said that the first would involve consultation and the second phase would develop proposals. The final phase would involve a review of the proposals. Mr Rabain said at the time that he expected each phase would last about six months. The promise to phase out middle schools and introduce signature schools was made in the Progressive Labour Party’s 2017 election platform.
2019. June 27. Pupils and their teachers staged a protest yesterday against planned class mergers at their school and fears that staff might be made redundant. Dozens of children and staff from Paget Primary School congregated outside the Anglican Cathedral on Church Street in Hamilton to complain about the move to cut the number of classes. One teacher said other concerns at Paget Primary were the lack of support staff, including teaching assistants, known as para-educators, and an education therapist, as well as the lack of a music teacher. The teacher added: “It is difficult to say whether we need more Para educators, but we do need to maintain our class sizes in P1, P4 and P6. We also need to keep our educational therapist full-time. About four years ago, for some reason, they reduced that time to three days.” The teacher said the school had not had a permanent qualified music teacher for at least three years. We have been using substitute teachers, whether they are certified or not, to do music with our students.” It is planned to reduce the number of Primary 1 classes and Primary 4 classes from two each to one each. The school submitted a letter of opposition to the merger plans to the Ministry of Education and to the Bermuda Union of Teachers on Monday. The teacher added: “We have heard that one of the lines of defence for the Ministry of Education having smaller classes is based on the school reorganization report which the Government paid for a number of years ago. Some feedback we got back is that the report has not been adopted by the ministry so it can not be used as a line of defence.” The teacher said: “We will continue on. We are going to stand up and be heard and be seen. I have heard of other schools in a similar situation, but not names — I am sure that they will follow our lead.” Diallo Rabain, the education minister, said there would be no job losses at the school. Mr Rabain said after the protest that one teacher would be moved to another school as part of a re-evaluation of class sizes across the public education system and another teacher thought to be affected by the mergers would remain at the school. He added that he and Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, had met representatives of the school’s PTA and the principal yesterday. Mr Rabain said: “The PTA representatives were forthright in sharing that the teachers of the schools had reached out to them and asked for their support. It is unfortunate that the narrative of teachers possibly losing their employment has been driven by some of the teachers themselves.” But he insisted: “I can confirm that there will be no loss of employment.” There had also been concerns that the two Primary 6 classes would be merged, but teachers at the school were told yesterday they would remain unchanged. Class sizes proposed for September are one Primary 1 class with 17 pupils; two Primary 2 classes with a total of 21 pupils; two Primary 3 classes with a total of 27 pupils; one Primary 4 class with 22 pupils; two Primary 5 classes for a total of 28 pupils; and two Primary 6 classes for a total of 25 pupils. Mr Rabain said that standard classes sizes were set at one teacher to 25 pupils at the Primary 4 to Primary 6 level and one teacher to 18 pupils at the Primary 1 to Primary 3 level. He added that some teachers had “gotten comfortable” in recent years with smaller class sizes. Ms Richards confirmed that other schools had been identified as potential candidates for class mergers but declined to give details. Mr Rabain would not confirm whether any school closures were being considered, but that the ministry was evaluating the system. He said a decline in public school enrolment was expected to continue until 2026. Mr Rabain added: “This reality will require us to continue to examine staffing allocation at our schools and also means that we will continue to reassign staff.” Mike Charles, the general secretary of the BUT, said that the union would need to meet its members before it decided on its course of action.
2019. June 19. The Government has dragged its feet to determine the fate of a school’s Primary 1 class, a worried parent said yesterday. Teretha Talbot, whose daughter Brialla, 5, was due to join two older siblings at Elliot Primary School, said that she still did not know whether her children would attend the school come September. She said: “I am very concerned about this.” Ms Talbot was speaking after a post appeared on social media last week. The advertisement, on the Bermuda Public Schools Facebook page, encouraged parents still in search of a P1 spot for their five-year-old child for September to consider the Devonshire school. It read: “Elliot Primary School may be the place for you.” The post said that interested parents should contact the school to arrange a tour and that enrolment applications are available on the Ministry of Education’s website. A Government spokeswoman confirmed yesterday that a decision had not yet been made about whether the class would be offered next term. She said that the education ministry and Department of Education “are working with Elliot to bolster enrolment and is also engaging with parents about options for P1”. The spokeswoman added: “A decision on the status of the P1 class hasn’t yet been made as parent consultation still needs to take place.” She said that the consultation process would be completed “in due course. It is our intent to ensure that all stakeholders are consulted prior to a final decision being made.” Ms Talbot said that she did not understand why the school would be advertising to parents of P1 pupils when the future of the class was unclear. She added: “For them to post the ad they had on Facebook about enrolling more children at the school — it’s confusing.” Ms Talbot said that she also did not understand the Government’s statement about consultation with parents. “They’ve been having meetings all this time.” Ms Talbot said that safety concerns for Brialla would mean moving her other children Chanse, 6, and Charm, 9, from the school if their sister could not also attend. She was earlier warned in a letter that the P1 class at the school could be axed because only four children had enrolled. The letter, from Valerie Robinson-James, the education ministry’s permanent secretary, said that it was the “provisional view” of Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, that the class be cut. Potential Elliot parents were offered spots at other schools. Ms Robinson-James said that Mr Rabain, whose daughter attends the school, would consult parents who decided not to accept alternatives before he made a final decision. The Parent Teacher Student Association at Elliot declined to comment yesterday on questions about the P1 class. A representative said: “Please contact the Ministry/Department of Education as they are the appropriate channel to address these questions.”
2019. June 5. A “lack of confidence” in the public-school system is to blame for the loss of pupils to private institutions, the education minister said last night. Diallo Rabain said: “There is a belief that the private schools are better. That’s why we see that flight. Our job is to change that mindset. Our job is to put a system in place that produces a quality of graduates, the quality of grades, that people can now say ‘I can trust my child to be here’.” Mr Rabain was speaking at a town hall meeting on education held last night. The event, organised by the Progressive Labour Party, took place at the Bermuda Industrial Union headquarters. Several dozen people attended, including principals, teachers and parents. Mr Rabain disagreed with the suggestion from an audience member that the private-school system was better than the public. He added: “One thing that I do want to make clear — the direct apples-to-apples comparison is just not possible at this time.” Mr Rabain said that there were problems related to pupil needs that private schools “do not have to deal with. The Education Act states that as long as the student has the ability to learn, we have to figure out a way to teach them.” Mr Rabain said that public-school classrooms were made up of pupils that included the “high flyer” as well as pupils with special learning needs. He added: “The private schools, they only have one type of student. And that really is the biggest difference there.” O’Brien Osborne, the principal at Somerset Primary School, asked Mr Rabain to “dispel this myth” that all students in private schools are smart. He said: “And when I say smart, I mean above average. That is not true. I am a former teacher in the private-school system.” Mr Rabain said that the Government will start to collect more in-depth pupil and school data to allow for public and private schools to be more accurately compared. Other topics raised by event attendees focused on middle schools, pupil assessments, class sizes, school zones, special education and how resources are distributed. Mr Rabain thanked the teachers in attendance. He said: “Teaching is the only profession that teaches all other professions. We have a great admiration and respect for our teachers. We might not get along at times, we might butt heads, but at the end of the day I think we all have the same thing in mind, and that is to ensure that our students get the best that they can get.” A second town hall event will be held at Somerset Cricket Club on Thursday at 6pm.
2019. June 3. Teachers will return to schools today after industrial action on Friday. The Ministry of Education said yesterday that all public schools would be open and ready to receive students today. Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, said: “I want our parents to be assured that the Government is committed to ensuring incidents like Friday’s are relegated to the past. Discussions with the Bermuda Union of Teachers also revolved around changing the nature of the relationship between the Ministry of Education and the BUT. Clearer lines of communication will be put in place, allowing more access to myself and the entire body of teachers. The disruption of our children’s education is unfortunate under any circumstance, and we must do what is necessary to prevent this from happening again. I am happy we could discuss these outstanding issues and look forward to a renewed and reformed relationship with the BUT, as was discussed in our meetings on Friday.” The Bermuda Union of Teachers said yesterday that the decision was made for its membership to return to classes after their meeting with David Burt, the Premier, two days ago. Shannon James, the president of the BUT, said: “As a result of the discussions led by the Premier on Friday evening, we are asking teachers to report to school as per normal on Monday.” A Ministry of Education spokeswoman said discussions with the BUT on Friday regarding the issues that led to teachers not reporting to class on Friday, was positive and fruitful. She added: “Over the next few weeks, attention will be brought to several issues that have been outstanding for many years, as well as plans put in place on how to address other items before the start of the 2019-20 school year.” Teachers did not turn up for school on Friday after the BUT called an emergency meeting at 8.30am to discuss a range of issues including support staff and mould. Parents were asked to pick up their children at noon.
2019. June 1. Children were dropped at school yesterday by parents unaware that there were no teachers to look after them because of an industrial dispute. Many principals across the schools system were forced to look after 100 or more pupils before the Ministry of Education advised parents to collect their children at noon. One woman with a son at a primary school said: “As a parent who is heavily involved in my children’s lives and by extension their school, I empathize with the teachers. However, today was an example of how not to keep that bridge open. I understand the need to take action to make sure their voices are heard but never at the expense of my child’s wellbeing. My children had a grandparent to go to, but many people didn’t and, with the buses working to rule, some parents were still trying to find out where their kids were at lunchtime.” The Bermuda Union of Teachers gave notice of a meeting over grievances just before 6pm on Thursday. A Ministry of Education spokeswoman said at 7pm that teachers were expected to report to school for a regular day. The grandmother of a six-year-old boy said she found out by chance that there was a potential problem after she logged on to her computer to check her e-mails. She said: “His father dropped him off thinking everything was normal. He would not have had a reason to question why anything might be different. I called the school and asked where in the world is he now? The receptionist said he’s in the classroom, maybe with the principal or the deputy. This is the third or fourth time he’s been dropped off and the teachers haven’t been there. This is beyond ridiculous. The woman asked: “What kind of message is this sending to the children when it comes to education, discipline and order?” One woman, who has children in primary and high schools, said she supported the teachers, but the last-minute notice of the meeting was “a recipe for chaos”. She said: “My child in high school is preparing for end of year exams so he’s missing critical work reviews. It’s not a major issue as it’s only one day out of class. Thankfully we have a strong support system and were able to keep our children home and not miss work.” But the woman added: “It’s annoying that the BUT could not organize better communication to parents so that we could plan appropriately. I’m in full support of the teachers in having their issues addressed. But as a parent I would prefer full transparency and disclosure so we can help where we can.” One senior education official in the public-schools system said: “Most of the deputy principals will be in the schools supporting the principals. Sometimes some of the PTA members will stand in as well at times like this.”
2019. June 1. A decision on whether schoolchildren will return to the classroom on Monday is in the hands of teachers, the education minister said last night. Diallo Rabain, speaking after teachers downed tools as part of an industrial dispute, said: “That was something that was not finalized in our discussion.” Mr Rabain added that he had asked Department of Education employees to come up with a contingency plan if teachers did not return to their schools on Monday. But he said: “We are very hopeful that we have answered the questions sufficiently enough for the Bermuda Union of Teachers that they will come into the classrooms on Monday and get back to doing what it is they do best.” Mr Rabain added: “We have held up our part of the bargain.” He was speaking yesterday afternoon after a meeting between government education figures and the BUT. Shannon James, the president of the BUT, said after the meeting that progress had been made. He added the two sides “were in a much better space” and that a statement from the union would be released later. The talks followed an emergency meeting held by the BUT yesterday morning where teachers identified nine urgent problems they wanted tackled. These included problems with teaching assistants, contracts and job evaluations. Enrolment and staffing problems at Elliot Primary School and the reopening of TN Tatem Middle School were also identified as stumbling blocks. Mr James offered his “humblest and sincerest apologies to the parents and students of Bermuda” at the teachers’ meeting. He said that teachers would much rather be in the classroom. But Mr James added: “We believe that the ministry has left us no other choice.” He said that the union had voted to demand a meeting with leaders of the education department, including Mr Rabain, Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, and Valerie Robinson-James, the permanent secretary. Mr James added: “We demand that this meeting take place with the entire BUT membership.” Teachers picketed Parliament after the union meeting. David Burt, the Premier, announced outside the House of Assembly that the meeting would take place. In a letter dated yesterday addressed to Mike Charles, general secretary of the BUT, Mr Burt said he had previously invited the union to speak to him before “things escalate to this point. This offer has not been taken up in this instance and I would hope and implore that you would do this in the future. When teachers in our public education system withdraw their labour, this causes immense strain and hardship on parents and support staff who have to make alternate plans at incredibly short notice. Industrial action which leaves very little space for parents and other persons to plan cannot be seen as ensuring that we are as productive as possible. In the best interests of our children, we need to return relations between the BUT and the Government to a collaborative place where walk outs are not needed.” Mr Rabain said that better communication was needed between the Government and the BUT. He added: “We need to change the dynamic of this relationship. We cannot continue to have situations arise where we have things that are disrupting our children’s learning. The only people who suffer are our children.” Mr Rabain earlier accused teachers of going “absent without permission”. He told the House of Assembly that principals were “holding the fort” at schools while teachers attended their meeting. Mr Rabain added: “The simple fact is that school is not off.” But a spokeswoman for the education ministry said at noon that a decision had been made to close public schools for the rest of the day “in the interest of the safety of students, teachers and other school staff”. She added that the ministry had been informed that teachers would not return to class until a meeting was held with the minister and officials.
2019. May 31. The Bermuda Union of Teachers has called for an emergency meeting of members to take place this morning. But the Department of Education said the union had not requested for members to have time away from work for the meeting. A spokeswoman for the department said: “Therefore teachers are not authorized to absent themselves from work but are expected to report to school for the regular school work day. However, the Department will work with the BUT in alignment with correct protocols to find a more suitable time to hold a general membership meeting rather than disrupt the teaching day for students.” The meeting as announced was to take place at the Heritage Worship Centre on Dundonald Street at 8.30am.
2019. May 25. Primary school principals have met their teachers to discuss the threat of class mergers. A primary school staff member said that teachers at the island’s primary schools were this week asked by principals to supply information on the potential to merge their classes. It is understood that principals met on Thursday and were to report their findings to the Department of Education. The teacher said: “Many of the primary schools have been low on numbers. Principals told classroom teachers that they have to determine whether or not they want to be moved and they had to let the principals know by Wednesday. It is not just Primary 1 classes they are looking at — it includes all primary levels and it depends on how many children are in the classes.” Danielle Riviere, a former member of the Score committee on schools re-organization, which examined the state of the island’s 18 primary schools and looked at the potential for primary school mergers and closures, said there had been “a far lower” registration of primary school pupils for September. Ms Riviere, a former president of West Pembroke Primary School PTA and a parent of a primary school pupil, added: “When I was part of the Score Report committee we decided that schools had to be looked at individually rather than across-the-board statements being made. We have to look at class sizes and school sizes. If the Government look back on that Score Report, they might find some information that helps them to look at this.” St David’s Primary School, Heron Bay Primary School, Prospect Primary School and Gilbert Institute were all listed as candidates for closure in the report, published under the former One Bermuda Alliance government. The meeting of schools staff came after it was announced that the Primary 1 class at Elliot Primary School in Devonshire could be axed because of low enrolment numbers, although a decision has still to be made. Ms Riviere said that the requirements of pupils with learning problems had to be considered if classes were merged. She added: “There are always concerns because they need to have enough teachers’ assistants and Para educators to be able to support children who need additional help. There is a shortage of Para educators — they need more.” The teacher backed Ms Riviere’s views. The teacher said: “If they are mixed in with regular learning students, there will need to be Para educators or else they will fall behind — they will be more likely to fall between the cracks. You might not be able to reach those children with challenges the way you need to.” It is still unclear if mergers would result in job losses among teaching staff. The Ministry of Education sent a letter to Kimberley Creighton, the principal at Elliot, on May 17 about an earlier meeting that had taken place with her and her staff and Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, about Primary 1 enrolment for the next school year. The letter, also copied to Valerie Robinson-James, the education permanent secretary, Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, and Lisa Smith, the interim Director for Educational Standards and Accountability, said the meeting had been productive. But it added that it “did not provide an opportunity for engagement with you and your staff on possible options for moving forward”. The letter said: “We kindly request that you develop options for the educational provision of how the P1 students would transition through to P6.” The letter asked for options and evidence in support of them to be submitted by Monday. It is understood that next Friday is the deadline for teachers to be told if they will be transferred to other schools. The Ministry of Education did not respond to a request for comment.
2019. May 10. Bermuda’s education commissioner has asked schools to let the business world know how they could boost education. Kalmar Richards, in a contribution to The Royal Gazette’s Bermuda National School Salute, said public schools could not function or meet the needs of pupils without backing from businesses. Ms Richards said the schools had to provide information about their needs to potential partners. She said: “Businesses do not always know which schools are in need, or what those schools need. Potential partners can use the information to access whether they have the resources to match the needs. Next to support from parents and guardians, public schools need unwavering and sustained business and community support if they and our students are to be highly successful. These business and charitable organisations, many of whom have sustained partnerships with our schools over the years, are helping Bermuda’s public schools to meet the diverse needs of students by expanding the variety of teaching and learning resources and establishing programmes to support increased levels of student achievement.” The Bermuda National School Salute has focused on sport, academics, the arts, and science, technology, engineering, art and maths this week. Today’s edition, which includes Ms Richards’s article, was designed to highlight community service.
2019. May 9. The cancellation of a school’s Primary 1 class could split up brothers and sisters or force parents to move them to other schools to keep children together, a worried parent said yesterday. Teretha Talbot, whose daughter, Brialla, 4, was due to join brother Chanse, 6, and sister Charm, 9, at Elliot Primary School in Devonshire in September, said she was now looking to move all three to another school rather than split them up. She said: “They will all be in the same school together. Truthfully, I’m trying to figure out if I should move my other children.” She was speaking after she got a letter that warned that the P1 class at the school could be axed next year because only four children had been enrolled. Ms Talbot said the letter was a surprise. She added: “I was actually in shock, because I had heard quite the opposite.” Ms Talbot said that she had heard suggestions that there had been too many applications received by the school. She added she had been happy with the quality of the education her older children, two of whom have now moved on to Whitney Institute in Smith’s, had received at Elliot. The letter, from Valerie Robinson-James, the education ministry’s permanent secretary, said that the “Minister of Education determines the maximum enrolment for primary schools based on school registration”. She added: “While he has not yet made a decision on the maximum enrolment for Elliot Primary School, it is his provisional view that Elliot Primary School should not have a P1 class due to low enrolment in September 2019.” Potential Elliot parents were offered places at another school. Ms Robinson-James said that Diallo Rabain, the education minister, would consult parents who decided not to accept alternatives before he made a final decision. Ms Talbot said that she had not accepted the placement offer and she had not spoken to Mr Rabain. Staff at the school said yesterday they had been kept in the dark about the threat to the P1 class and that “morale appears to be at all-time low” due to fears over the school’s future. A statement said staff were not told until April 23 that the class might be cut — a month after the letters were sent to parents of potential pupils. It added that staff had “grave concerns about the manner in which we were informed. The school principal, Ms Kimberly Creighton, and the school staff body were not informed of this plan and have not been part of the consultation process.” It added that Ms Creighton and other staff members only learnt of the possible class cancellation “due to irate parents who spoke to some staff members about their concerns”. The statement claimed that the actions of the education ministry “has led to heightened concerns about the future of the students, school and employment status”. It also questioned why staff were not consulted about the possible loss of the class, plans for the future of the school and the possible impact on staff members. The Government announced in March that there was to be a delay in school registration for preschool and P1 pupils because of low enrolment. The education ministry did not respond to a request at the time for the number of applicants this year and last year for the island’s 18 primary schools and ten preschools. A government report released last February showed that enrolment numbers for public primary schools were 2,431 in 2016-17, down from 2,585 in 2014-15. Preschool enrolment in 2016-17 was 320 pupils, down from 330 in 2014-15. Plan 2022, the Government’s blueprint for education, published in November 2017, listed total enrolment at Elliot at 172 pupils. Mr Rabain did not respond to a request for comment by press time yesterday.
2019. May 8. Teachers not informed of a possible class cut at their school were disrespected, the shadow education minister said yesterday. Cole Simons said that parents had not been provided with adequate information about public school enrolment problems. Mr Simons said: “The ministry could have been more transparent when they received the March data from all of the year one primary school intakes across the island.” He said that Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, could have held a press conference to share enrolment numbers with the public, as well as the Government’s plan. Mr Simons added: “The parents could have been put on notice, the teachers could have been placed on notice, and they would have been better prepared for any decision. As a matter of fact, our teachers should have been advised first.” He was speaking after some parents were warned in a letter that the primary one class at Elliot Primary School could be axed next year due to low enrolment. The undated letter, from Valerie Robinson-James, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, said that the “Minister of Education determines the maximum enrolment for primary schools based on school registration”. She added: “While he has not yet made a decision on the maximum enrolment for Elliot Primary School, it is his provisional view that Elliot Primary School should not have a P1 class due to low enrolment in September 2019.” Ms Robinson-James said that only four pupils had been enrolled for the P1 class for the next academic year. Mr Simons said that he did not know the letter had been sent to parents. He added that he had been “reliably informed” that teachers at the school, located on Hermitage Road, Devonshire, had been told of the possible class cut by the Parent Teacher Association at the school — not by the principal and the Department of Education. Mr Simons said: “This demonstrates the height of disrespect for those teachers.” Jamee Jones, the president of the PTA at Elliot, declined to comment yesterday on the possible loss of the P1 class. She said: “At this moment, I am not in a position to have this conversation.” Mr Simons said he was not aware of any similar letters having been sent out in regards to other schools. But he added: “It has come to my attention that the P1 numbers are down in a few other schools as well.” The Government announced in March that there was to be a delay in school registration for preschool and P1 pupils owing to low enrolment. The education ministry did not respond to a request at the time for the number of applicants this year and last year for the island’s 18 primary schools and ten preschools. A government report released last February showed that enrolment numbers for public primary schools was at 2,431 students in 2016-17 down from 2,585 in 2014-15. Preschool enrolment in 2016-17 was at 320 pupils down from 330 in 2014-15.
2019. May 7. The future of a primary one class is under threat after only four pupils were enrolled for the next academic year. Parents were told in a letter that the class at Elliot Primary School could be axed. The undated letter from Valerie Robinson-James, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, said: “Each year, the Minister of Education determines the maximum enrolment for primary schools based on school registration. While he has not yet made a decision on the maximum enrolment for Elliot Primary School, it is his provisional view that Elliot Primary School should not have a P1 class due to low enrolment in September 2019.” The letter is believed to have been sent in March to parents of potential P1 pupils at the Hermitage Road, Devonshire school. Ms Robinson-James said that Diallo Rabain, the education minister, believed that a full-sized P1 class would give pupils a “more suitable education and that having a class of only four students would not be an effective use of human, facility or financial resources”. Ms Robinson-James told the parents: “However, being in a class of more than four children would allow for an enhanced educational experience, and your child would also have greater opportunities to form relationships that would enrich their interpersonal skills, and help them to learn how to be a member of a team. These are all skills which are acquired from their entire school experience.” Potential Elliot Primary parents were offered an enrolment place at another school. But Ms Robinson-James told them: “However, it is your choice whether or not to accept the offer.” She said that the Department of Education would arrange for parents to visit other schools and cover the cost of school uniforms. Parents were given a week to accept or decline alternatives and were asked make their decision by March 28. Ms Robinson-James said that Mr Rabain, whose daughter is an Elliot Primary pupil, would consult parents who decided not to accept alternatives before he made a final decision. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Education said yesterday that the education department was “looking at further options” because of low enrolment numbers at preschool and primary-school levels across the public school system. She added: “We are in the process of consulting with the potentially affected schools and parents who have applied for enrolment into P1 for September 2019. Once that consultation process has been completed, we will inform the relevant stakeholders of the decisions.” The spokeswoman declined to comment on whether a decision on the future of the Elliot class had been made, or when the decision would be announced. She also did not respond when asked if similar letters had been sent to parents whose children were due to attend other schools. The Government announced in March that there was to be a delay in school registration for preschool and P1 pupils owing to low enrolment. The education ministry did not respond to a request at the time for the number of applicants this year and last year for the island’s 18 primary schools and ten preschools. Questions sent to the Parent Teacher Association at Elliot Primary were not responded to by press time. The Bermuda Union of Teachers also did not respond to a request for comment.
2019. May 2. Personal prejudice played no part in the choice for Commissioner of Education, a lawyer for the Board of Education told Supreme Court yesterday. Delroy Duncan said: “There was no possibility that this process was affected by bias.” Mr Duncan was speaking on the first day of a civil case launched against the Public Service Commission and the BoE by Gina Tucker, a former primary school principal who has also worked in several other senior roles in education. Dr Tucker claimed in her affidavit that she had “not been fairly treated or properly considered” for the job, which was given to Kalmar Richards, the former principal of CedarBridge Academy, last September. She said that her relationship with Valerie Robinson-James, the permanent secretary at the education ministry, had soured after a disagreement over a decision to offer the Commissioner of Education post to Paul Wagstaff, a British education expert, in 2016. Dr Tucker added: “It is my view that the permanent secretary has orchestrated this entire matter.” Mr Duncan said that there no evidence that the clash between the two had influenced the decision to hire Ms Richards. He added: “It’s an assertion that has no basis whatsoever.” Mr Duncan highlighted scores awarded to Ms Richards and Dr Tucker by a five-menber panel when the two candidates were interviewed for the job last July. He said: “On everybody’s score ... Kalmar Richards outperforms Dr Gina Tucker. Not by a small margin.” Mr Duncan added that even if Ms Robinson-James’s scores were taken out, Ms Richards “still far and away surpasses the score that Dr Tucker achieved”. Mark Diel, for Dr Tucker, said that there was “clearly bad blood” between his client and Ms Robinson-James. He added: “We contend that the permanent secretary set out, and in fact was successful, in orchestrating the appointment of her chosen candidate for the role.” Mr Diel said that it was not necessary for his client’s case to focus on unfair treatment. He explained: “The real problem here is that, whatever the motivation, the process was not followed in any manner of speaking.” Mr Diel added that Ms Richards did not meet the minimum academic qualifications for the job. Richard Horseman, for the PSC, said that the commission had forwarded their recommendation for Commissioner of Education based on information provided by the BoE. He added: “Their recommendation cannot be faulted.” Mr Horseman said that if Dr Tucker had a problem with Ms Robinson-James sitting on the panel that interviewed her, she should have mentioned it at the time. Dr Tucker wants the appointment of Ms Richards quashed and an order made for the application process to be held “fairly and in accordance with the Education Act 1996 and the Public Service Commission Regulations 2001”, as well as costs. The hearing, which was adjourned to a later date, continues.
2019. April 25. A veteran Bermuda teacher and administrator has launched a lawsuit after she was passed over for a top job. Gina Tucker said in her affidavit that she had “not been fairly treated or properly considered” for the role of Commissioner of Education. She added: “It is my view that the permanent secretary has orchestrated this entire matter.” The Supreme Court civil case against the Public Service Commission and the Board of Education was filed last November, two months after Kalmar Richards was appointed to the post after she had been acting commissioner for nine months. Dr Tucker, a former principal at Victor Scott Primary School who has also worked in numerous other education roles in Bermuda, said news of the appointment was “painful”. She added: “I have more qualifications than Ms Richards and considerable experience in the department and Ministry of Education. The public perception since I was not awarded the position is that there ‘must be something wrong with me’ as more than one person has put it. Consequently, for my professional reputation, it needs to be demonstrated or admitted that the process was not carried out fairly and in accordance with the requirement under the Act and Regulations.” Dr Tucker wants the appointment of Ms Richards quashed and an order made for the application process to be held “fairly and in accordance with the Education Act 1996 and the Public Service Commission Regulations 2001”, as well as costs. She said that she had expressed interest in the job after the departure of Edmond Heatley in 2014. Dr Tucker added that three other candidates, Freddie Evans, Lou Matthews and Llewellyn Simmons, were all given the chance to serve as acting commissioner, while she was not. She said: “All the acting posts arose solely due to the decision of the permanent secretary, Ms Valerie Robinson-James.” In her affidavit, she said that her relationship with Ms Robinson-James had soured after a disagreement in June 2016 about the decision to offer the commissioner of education position to Paul Wagstaff, a British education expert. Mr Wagstaff turned down the job in 2017. Dr Tucker said that the position was then offered to Dr Evans “on the recommendation of the permanent secretary”. She added that she had been told by board members that they were informed that she was no longer interested in the job. Dr Tucker said: “This was clearly not true. At no point was I invited to meet, nor did I meet with the BoE to discuss my continued interest, or lack thereof, in the post after the overseas candidate declined.” She said that she had written to the PSC to complain about the hiring of Dr Evans after he was sacked in October 2017. Dr Tucker said: “In December 2017 the permanent secretary met with the senior team of the education department to inform us that she alone had decided to bring principal Kalmar Richards in to act as commissioner of education.” She said that she had again applied from the job last May and was told in July she had been short-listed. Dr Tucker said that she was “surprised” by the application process at the time “as it appeared far less rigorous than the 2016 application process”. She added: “Notably, during the most recent commissioner of education process, Ms Richards in no way acted as one might expect in an ‘acting’ position, instead setting executive leadership team meeting agendas and issuing education and department policy and directives that would extend well into the eventual full-time appointment of commissioner of education. Put another way, she acted at all times as if the post of commissioner of education was ‘in the bag’.” Mark Diel, Dr Tucker’s lawyer, said that the process to select Ms Richards, the former principal of CedarBridge Academy, “was flawed from the outset. It’s accepted in the affidavit evidence filed by the BoE that Kalmar Richards did not meet the minimum academic qualifications.” Mr Diel said there were provisions in the regulations for the PSC to recommend a candidate who did not meet the criteria. But he explained that a determination needed to be made based on merit that the applicant was the best candidate for the job. He added: “That process never happened.” Mr Diel said that the process to select a commissioner of education was based on recommendations made by the BoE that went to the PSC. He said that the PSC’s role was to consider the applicants and forward a recommendation to the Governor. Mr Diel said that there were seven applicants for the commissioner’s post, but that was narrowed down to two. But Mr Diel said: “The whittling down was done not by the BoE. It was done by civil servants.” He said that Dr Tucker and Ms Richards were then interviewed by a panel “which was not appointed by the BoE”. Mr Diel said that the panel then recommended Ms Richards to the BoE. The BoE went with the recommendation of the interview panel. The PSC did not conduct any interviews." Mr Diel represented Dr Evans in a legal action launched against John Rankin, the Governor, and the Government after he was sacked as Commissioner of Education. The Government agreed to settle with Dr Evans for an undisclosed sum, thought to be six figures. Mr Diel said that there were similarities between the cases. He added: “Unfortunately, it appears that there is almost a systemic problem with the process that has been — certainly in recent years — undertaken by both the BoE and the PSC in appointments in general.” The Government did respond to a request for comment by press time yesterday.
2019. April 20. Support staff at CedarBridge Academy fear their hours could be cut by 40 days a year. Employees said they were told the reductions were needed to prevent job losses and that the cost-saving exercise came after years of “money mismanagement”. Administrative, office, IT and maintenance staff were among up to 25 people who it was believed will be affected and concerns were raised about the impact on salaries and the time available to fulfil workloads. The school’s board of governors said “nothing has been finalized” and that it was committed to preserving jobs and the long-term financial security of the school. It was understood employees were informed about the move in a meeting with Jason Wade, the chairman of the board, and Kenneth Caesar, the principal. One staff member heard that the measure had already come into effect, although the board denied that suggestion. The employee told The Royal Gazette: “We were called into a meeting and informed that effective April 1, which had already gone, they would be changing our days from working full-time, which is 260 days, to 220, and we’re really losing about six weeks worth of pay. And if we don’t accept that they’re going to go to redundancies. What they’re saying is that they want us to give up six weeks but some people won’t have summers off to get other employment, they would be getting some Fridays off, for example. We were told that money has been mismanaged for about ten years or so — now we have to sacrifice or we’re going to lose staff members.” The board responded: “Several media queries have sought to determine if employees’ hours had been reduced. This is not true. We can confirm that in our meeting with employees on Monday that we announced our commitment to our employees and to finding solutions that would preserve jobs and the long-term financial security of CBA. With union negotiations set to begin in May 2019, nothing has been finalized and any decision will be made in collaboration with our union partners and with a shared goal that neither faculty nor students will be negatively impacted.” It was feared some monthly salaries could shrink by hundreds of dollars and that students could also be affected if staff have less time to carry out their work, such as upgrades to computer systems or deep cleans of school infrastructure. The staff member added: “The majority of us are not too happy about it, it’s going to affect our livelihoods — what people can take home to their families, and also the services we provide to the children. By the middle of the month we’re already scraping for money, so that could be happening by the first week of the month. We’re working with our unions and in the process of starting negotiations but it’s a Catch-22 because we don’t want to say ‘we’re not going to accept this proposal’ because then people are going to lose their jobs and we don’t want people to lose their jobs.” Collin Simmons, the Bermuda Industrial Union’s education officer, said he could not comment because the union was “still involved in negotiations”. Kevin Grant, the Bermuda Public Services Union’s assistant general secretary and education division chairman, did not respond to requests for information.
2019. April 20. Health complaints from staff and a pupil at a now-closed middle school cannot be linked to the building without further medical information, a new report has claimed. The Cabinet Office report, from the Office of the Safety and Health Co-ordinator, said that symptoms reported by eight teachers and one pupil at TN Tatem Middle School were “very general in nature”. It added: “The symptoms that were reportedly being experienced were also not deemed specific enough to determine any specific etiology, any direct cause and effect relationship, or reliable and objective associations in the absence of any doctor’s report or other medical information from a trusted source. All the symptoms described will require further investigations and objective medical diagnosis to validate”. The report, released today, is based on inspections performed at TN Tatem Middle School last week. Titus Gordon, the Cabinet health and safety officer, conducted the inspections at the Warwick school. The 26-page report includes a breakdown of the symptoms described by the nine complainants. Symptoms reported by teachers included breathing difficulties, headaches and eye irritation. The complaint from the student described itchy and watery eyes over the last four months. Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, said that the health concerns detailed in the report did not have medical documents to support them. Mr Rabain added: “As we review the forms and we get the proper documentation we will act upon it.” The report said that health and safety problems previously identified at the school “that were previously addressed for the most part have apparently resurfaced in and across certain areas of the school’s facilities again. Additionally, earlier reports did warn that if timely proactive steps were not taken to remedy the litany of minor outstanding findings that had remained to be resolved that they would eventually morph into greater and more serious issues. This now appears to be the case.” The report provided the findings of inspections done in 20 parts of the school, including several classrooms, and the school’s library and auditorium. A backstage room of the auditorium was found to have “mould-contaminated ceiling tiles, floors and walls”. Store rooms were also found to have “mould-contaminated walls and ceiling tiles”. More mould-contaminated walls were discovered in an IT server closet located between the school’s music room and auditorium. The music room was also found to have “poor indoor air quality” and a “lingering mould stench”. Early mould growth was noticed along window sills in the school’s science labs. A “dirty and mould-contaminated air conditioning unit” was reported in the design and tech lecture room. A custodial closet and outside storage area were found to have “mould-contaminated walls”. Mr Rabain provided excerpts from the report at a press conference today. He pointed to reports carried out in 2013 and 2016, which he said “outlined concerns related to the general maintenance and upkeep of the school’s plant concerning roof and ceiling leaks, excess fugitive moisture intrusion into the building via damaged areas of the building envelope, poor housekeeping and general cleaning, sanitation and hygiene practices”. All public schools, including TN Tatem, were inspected between August and October 2017. Subsequent inspections were performed at all public schools between September and October 2018. An additional assessment was made at TN Tatem this February. Mr Gordon’s report found that “outstanding works were still yet to be completed from the time of the previous inspection reports”. It added: “These incomplete works have now served as the catalyst for further damages, even to the areas that were previously rectified. Leaking sections of the roof/ceiling continue to plague the school, although intermittently in most cases, and has caused water damage to areas previously addressed, as well as new areas that previously had no damage.” Mr Gordon found that “inconsistencies in the scope, frequency and quality of cleaning” at the school remained a problem. Also highlighted was the “improper storage of materials and supplies. Some teachers continue to hoard outdated, obsolete and infrequently used materials and supplies and of which they have failed to properly keep and maintain.” Mr Rabain said that the issue of the improper storage had started to be addressed at the school before it was closed last week. He said that Mr Gordon’s report would now be reviewed to determine if necessary works could be completed by the end of August. The minister added: “The students, parents and teachers will be kept up to date on these works.” Mr Rabain announced last Friday that the school would remain closed for the rest of the year. It was closed last Tuesday after a walkout by teachers and pupils over health fears. The closure order was sparked by a letter from the Parent Teacher Student Association to education officials that highlighted “grave concerns about the health of the learning environment”.
2019. April 17. The mother of a pupil forced out of a mould-plagued middle school may refuse to send her child to another school to finish the academic year. The concerned parent warned yesterday that other parents and pupils could also stage a strike in protest at the emergency transfer of pupils from TN Tatem Middle School because of health fears. The woman, who asked not to be named, said that she had not made up her mind on whether she would allow her daughter, an M3 pupil, to report to another school. She added: “I doubt it.” The woman said she had spoken to other TN Tatem parents who said their children would not go to the schools assigned to them. She added: “A lot of people are saying they are not sending their children back to school.” She told education officials: “You cannot tell parents where their children are going. You have not even consulted us, as parents, to see how we feel about this whole situation. You cannot put something like this out on the table without a plan.” The woman was speaking after a meeting on Monday night at Bermuda College, attended by dozens of TN Tatem parents, set up to outline plans for the school. It was organized after it was announced last Friday that the school would remain closed for the rest of the year. The Warwick school was closed last Tuesday after a walkout by teachers and pupils over health fears. The closure order was sparked by a letter from the Parent Teacher Student Association to education officials that highlighted “grave concerns about the health of the learning environment”. Parents of M1 and M2 pupils were told at the meeting that their children would begin classes at either Dellwood Middle School, in Pembroke, Sandys Secondary Middle School, or the Whitney Institute Middle School, in Smith’s, beginning today. The meeting was closed to the media. A meeting for M3 parents is scheduled for Monday. The woman said she had already received a letter that said her daughter was to finish the year at the Whitney Institute in Smith’s. However, she said: “You’re not going to tell me where my child is going. You have to consult with us parents. Give us a choice, give us an option.” The woman said that she wanted to see the Government “do their job right”. She added: “I would like for them to show these children that they care about their education.” The woman said that she also wanted increased health and safety staff numbers so schools could be inspected more often. She added that she was tired of problems at the school being treated as a political football. The woman said: “It’s time for all of them to come together and show these children that even though they are different parties, they can come together and help sort out this situation.” Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, said on Monday that the meeting had gone “very well”. But he admitted: “I would not say that all parents were pleased, but I think the main thing is that everyone understood where we are and why we are doing what we are doing. Of course, we anticipate that there will be some teething pains with this transition ... but I do believe that we will come out of this with a better system.”
2019. April 16. Children at a middle school plagued by mould will be taught at three different schools for the rest of the school year, parents were told last night. The pupils in M1 and M2 at TN Tatem Middle School will begin classes at Dellwood Middle School, in Pembroke, Sandys Secondary Middle School, or the Whitney Institute Middle School, in Smith’s, beginning tomorrow. Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, said after the meeting, which was not open to the media, that it had gone “very well”. However, he added: “I would not say that all parents were pleased, but I think the main thing is that everyone understood where we are and why we are doing what we are doing. Of course we anticipate that there will be some teething pains with this transition ... but I do believe that we will come out of this with a better system. Our students will be in school, where they need to be, and they get the resources that they need to fulfil their potential.” Dozens of TN Tatem parents attended the event at Bermuda College. The meeting came after it was announced last Friday that the school would remain closed for the rest of the year. The Warwick school was closed last Tuesday after a walkout by teachers and pupils over health fears. The closure order was sparked by a letter from the Parent Teacher Student Association to education officials that highlighted “grave concerns about the health of the learning environment”. Mr Rabain said on Friday that inspections had been carried out at the school by Titus Gordon, the Cabinet health and safety officer, the day before. He said at the time that a report would be completed that day and released to staff at the school yesterday. But Mr Rabian said last night that the report had not yet been finalized. He added: “What we are waiting for is some documentation from the teachers themselves.” Mr Rabain said that the results of the report would be released as soon as it had been completed. Albert Wilson, the president of the TN Tatem Middle School PTSA, did not respond to requests for comment by press time last night. But Mr Wilson said last week that he was concerned about disruption to pupils’ education. He added: “The parents have not been a part of the conversation before these decisions were made.” Mr Wilson also said that at least 15 people at the school — 11 teachers and four pupils — had become sick. Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, said last week that emergency accommodations for TN Tatem pupils had been arranged. Pupils from the M3 class were yesterday to go to Purvis Primary School in Warwick and M2 pupils were to attend Heron Bay Primary School in Southampton. Ms Richards said that M1 pupils would be taught at Hamilton Fire Station. A further meeting for the parents of M3 pupils is scheduled for Monday.
2019. April 13. Schoolchildren alleged to have sold e-cigarettes to classmates at two public schools have been identified, the education minister said yesterday. Diallo Rabain added that “appropriate actions were taken”. He said: “The students were brought in, their parents were brought in.” But he added: “I can’t talk about what happened to the students.” Mr Rabain said that he could not comment on the intended use of the vapor pens or how many had been confiscated. He added that police had launched an investigation. Police announced on Wednesday that vapor pens, often used as a cigarette substitute, had been sold at Dellwood Middle School in Pembroke and CedarBridge Academy in Prospect. The pens are designed to heat a liquid until it is vaporized and can be inhaled. The liquid often contains nicotine, as well as flavors and other additives, although products without nicotine are also produced. The US Surgeon General has warned products can contain harmful and potentially harmful ingredients, including heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead, ultra fine particles that can be inhaled into the lungs. E-cigarettes also contain diacetyl, a chemical linked to lung disease. The devices have also been linked to the consumption of illegal drugs, including marijuana.
2019. April 13. At least 15 pupils and staff at a middle school plagued with mould have become sick, the head of the parent teachers association said yesterday. Albert Wilson, the president of the TN Tatem Middle School Parent Teacher Student Association, said he was aware of 11 teachers and four children who had reported illness at the school — which is to be off limits for the rest of the academic year. Mr Wilson said: “If people are getting sick, what is causing them to get sick? That’s the grave concern.” He added that the total number of teachers was “about 11” and that the education ministry had been informed. Mr Wilson said he did not have an exact figure for the number of children who reported feeling ill. He added: “I know just from parents complaining to me, that by my own estimate there’s four.” But he said: “There probably is more, but parents haven’t come forward yet.” Mr Wilson was speaking after Diallo Rabain, the education minister, said yesterday that the Warwick school, which was closed on Tuesday after a walkout by teachers and pupils over health fears, would stay shut until the end of the school year. The closure order was sparked by a letter from the PTSA to education officials that highlighted “grave concerns about the health of the learning environment”. Cole Simons, the shadow education minister, claimed earlier this week that mould had made two teachers sick and questioned if pupils at the school had suffered similar problems. Mr Rabain said yesterday that he was unable to say if conditions at the school had led to pupil or staff sickness. He insisted: “We are unaware of any teachers that have been made ill, based on the reports that we have received.” Mr Rabain said that school staff had provided health and safety reports this week. He added: “We are in the process of reviewing them.” Mr Rabain said that the health and safety of TN Tatem staff and pupils was of “paramount concern We are taking these steps with that in mind.” Mr Rabain said most of the work needed to fix problems at the school — including structural and water problems — were scheduled for the summer. He added: “If we are able to repair, we have a reasonable understanding that they shouldn’t occur again.” He said that surveys would be conducted to see if the school could be made ready for the next school year. “If we cannot get the school ready for September subsequent announcements will be made.” Shannon James, the president of the Bermuda Union of Teachers, said that the union backed the closure of the school for the rest of the year. We do ask that the necessary attention be given to the school so that the teachers and students do not find themselves in this predicament two years from now. There are so many variables involved but the Government must ensure that they do everything in their power to ensure that the building is properly remediated. This cannot continue to happen.” But Mr James questioned the use of Hamilton Fire Station as a temporary location for some TN Tatem pupils. He said: “Since it will house the youngest of the students, the M1s, we do hope that things like how they can adjust with the new bus routes were taken into consideration.” Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, said emergency accommodation for the school had been arranged. Pupils from the M3 class will go to Purvis Primary School in Warwick on Monday and M2 pupils will attend Heron Bay Primary School in Southampton. Ms Richards said that M1 pupils would be taught at Hamilton Fire Station. She added that Garita Coddington, the TN Tatem principal, would meet parents of M1 and M2 pupils at Bermuda College on Monday at 5.45pm. “At that time, she will provide specific details of next steps.” Ms Richards said Ms Coddington would meet the parents of M3 pupils a week later. She added that Ms Coddington would meet school staff on Monday to discuss the relocation. Ms Richards said “All of the staff will be given some time to plan and to prepare for the transition, which we certainly hope will be a smooth one. We hope that the transition to other schools will be smooth for students and staff.” But Mr Wilson said that he was concerned about disruption for pupils and that parents should have been consulted. “The parents have not been a part of the conversation before these decisions were made. A political blame game on who was responsible for the crisis at the school was a total waste of time. What happens is that we get caught up in the politics and we forget about the children. Whether you’re OBA or PLP, all your kids are part of this education system.”
2019. April 12. The education minister stayed tight-lipped yesterday over the closure of a middle school because of mould. Diallo Rabain was sent several questions about TN Tatem Middle School, which was closed on Wednesday. Mr Rabain was asked when pupils and staff would return to the Warwick school and if the school would be safe to attend. He was also asked about what was being done to tackle mould at the school and what would be done to make sure that it did not return. The minister was also asked whether conditions at the school caused illness in pupils or staff members. But responses to the questions were not received. Mr Rabain said last night on ZBM that an announcement would be made today on what would be done with the school. Cole Simons, the shadow education minister, claimed on Wednesday that mould at the school had caused one teacher to leave due to illness. The One Bermuda Alliance MP added that a replacement who had taken over from the former teacher in January had also been affected by breathing problems. The claims were backed up by a source at the school. Michael Weeks, the former minister of social development and sport, blamed the former OBA government for the problem. He said: “The mould issue is a legacy issue from the OBA administration. Most alarming is that the recommendations from the OBA’s own 2016 report were never fully implemented by the OBA and that is the cause for the re-emergence of the issues we have now.” Mr Weeks accused the Opposition of an attempt to “exploit this extremely serious issue for political gain”. He said that the Progressive Labour Party since it won power in 2017, had started renovation work and carried out tests at the school in February and March “to ensure the building was being worked on in order to be fit for students and staff”. Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, said on Tuesday that the school would be closed on Wednesday and Thursday. Public schools are closed today. She said the closure came after education officials got a letter from the school’s Parent Teacher Student Association that highlighted “grave concerns about the health of the learning environment”.
2019. April 12. E-cigarettes should not be in the hands of children, the head of an anti-drug abuse charity for young people said yesterday. Truell Landy, the interim executive director at Pride Bermuda, said: “These devices are not for children and should not be sold to or used by children. The research on the impact of the use of vapor pens is still being conducted and initial results show that the chemicals in the devices can be potentially harmful.” She was speaking after police said on Wednesday that vapor pens, often used as a cigarette substitute, had been sold at two public schools. Ms Landy explained that children were “very curious and risk-takers”. She said: “Educating our youth on the dangers of using substances before their brains have fully developed will help them make better choices. Pride Bermuda will continue to do the work of advocating and aiding in the prevention of substance abuse and health-risk behaviours in children.” A spokesman for the police said that staff at Dellwood Middle School in Pembroke and CedarBridge Academy in Prospect “reported confiscating a quantity of e-cigarette-type devices that were allegedly being sold by one student at each school to their respective peers”. It is understood that 50 pupils may have been involved at Dellwood. The pens are designed to heat a liquid until it is vaporized and can be inhaled. The liquid often contains nicotine, as well as flavors and other additives, although products without nicotine are also produced. The US Surgeon General has warned products can contain harmful and potentially harmful ingredients, including heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead, ultra fine particles that can be inhaled into the lungs. E-cigarettes also contain diacetyl, a chemical linked to lung disease. The devices have also been linked to the consumption of illegal drugs, including marijuana. Police declined to comment on the number of devices seized or what the pens had been used for. A police spokesman said: “Due to ongoing inquiries, no further comment can be made at this time.” Wayne Caines, the national security minister, also declined to comment on the police inquiry. However, he said: “I can say the sale of any narcotics, or cigarette-related products, are prohibited in our schools, and anyone found selling them will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We will do everything in our power to ensure our students are in a healthy and safe school environment.” E-cigarettes are classified as a cigarette product under the Tobacco Control Act 2015 and their sale is forbidden to anyone aged under 18. Kenneth Caesar, the principal at CedarBridge, and Tina Duke, the principal at Dellwood, did not respond to requests for comment yesterday. A representative of the Dellwood Parent Teacher Student Association said that the matter had been dealt with by school staff. The spokesman added: “The PTA has nothing to add at this time.” The CedarBridge Parent Teacher Student Association did not respond to a request for comment. Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, said on Wednesday that the incidents were “very serious” and that the Department of Education had requested “detailed reports” from both schools.
2019. April 12. The Ministry of Education is reminding all students that the deadline for Government Scholarship and Award opportunities is quickly approaching - with applications closing on Monday, 15 April, 2019. Scholarship and Award opportunities are outlined below:
For more detailed information about scholarships and award opportunities, including eligibility and application requirements, visit www.Bermudascholarships.com. All questions should be emailed to: email@example.com.
2019. April 11. A spin doctor for the crisis-hit public schools system is to be appointed, it has been revealed. The post-holder will be expected to use social media and podcasts to tell people about the work of the Government’s education department. The education ministry said it wanted to hire a communication consultant to help promote achievements by teachers, pupils and other staff and highlight the achievements of Government’s Plan 2022 for schools. Education authorities have battled problems over the past few months, including staff sick-outs over a lack of teaching assistants, a work-to-rule by principals working over fears that the behaviours of some pupils was a safety risk, mouldy classrooms and a catalogue of delays in the introduction of standards-based grading. A request for quotations was posted to the Government’s online procurement page last week with a deadline of April 22 and a start date in July. The contract will run for a year with a possible six-month extension. The RFQ said: “The Department of Education is seeking a suitable organisation or individual who is able to provide reliable strategic communication services that are aligned with international best practices and who will ensure that all stakeholders and our community at large are informed and kept abreast of the progress with Plan 2022 and the work that is being carried out at the Department of Education and in our schools.” The RFQ explained that the work would include the design and delivery of a communications plan and data collection. Plan 2022 was announced in December 2017. Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, told MPs in the House of Assembly last month that the plan included an increase in pupil engagement, making sure pupils were ready for college or careers and improvements to school buildings. The successful bidder will be expected to “use various social media to communicate key messages and information to key stakeholder groups” and “create public awareness videos and podcasts”. The individual or organisation will work with the Government’s Department of Communications and “liaise with their representatives to collaboratively prepare media content”. In addition, the consultant will “develop relationships with the local media and prepare positive stories about schools for the print, television and electronic media.” The RFQ added that the charm offensive was expected to include “enlisting persons to tell stories about public-school education and unearth new and interesting stories”. And it said teachers and staff could also be taught how to play a part in the promotion of the schools system. A list of requirements in the RFQ included: “In collaboration with the Department of Communications provide advice to schools, department managers, officers and staff regarding effective internal and external communication strategies.” It added that the contractor would be expected to “set up a protocol and procedure for sharing communication strategies with senior leaders that they can use with those they supervise.” The consultant will also have to develop marketing materials, create an electronic database that will include pictures and newsletters and set up a data collection system to monitor the “information interests and needs of the community”. A separate request for information was issued last month by the Cabinet Office and asked members of the media how they could help the Government highlight its work. The notice explained: “The Department of Communications is looking to work with local media outlets to create new avenues to share news and information with the public. The department wants to hear creative and diverse suggestions on how your organisation can help us to reach your audiences. The objective of this request for information is to get the right information to the right people at the right time.” The Government has a fee-for-service contract with Inter-Island Communications, which is owned by Glenn Blakeney, who was a Progressive Labour Party MP for more than a decade. A spokeswoman said last month about $24,000 had been spent with the broadcaster on radio adverts and interviews with “personalities”. She added that other media organisations, including The Royal Gazette, were also paid to promote campaigns since the agreement with Inter-Island Communications started in December last year. The Department of Communications, which has seven full-time employees and a $3.15 million budget for 2019-20, is under Walton Brown, the Cabinet Office minister. But Cabinet colleague Jamahl Simmons was given responsibility for keeping the public informed in a ministerial shake-up last November. David Burt, the Premier, said then: “To reflect the importance of communication, consultation and public engagement in governance in this modern era, I have invited minister Jamahl Simmons to focus on these matters as Minister without Portfolio.” The Government also has social-media sites and a television station, CITV, which features programmes about its work. In a statement today, Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, said that during public consultation before Plan 2022 was released it was decided the department would “increase high-quality communication to parents and all education stakeholders”, which was spelled out in section 5.3.1 of the strategy. She explained: “The RFQ released by the Department of Education for a local communications consultant is a direct response to this consultation-driven recommendation. Having a dedicated expert to carry out Strategy 5.3.1 will enable the department to meet the overall goals of Plan 2022. It also reinforces the Ministry of Education’s aim to create job opportunities for Bermuda residents. The successful candidate will learn about the intricacies of the Department of Education and communicate information within the context of the work that we do, achievements as well as challenges, and with improved timelines. We are excited to have someone come on board to execute this particular Plan 2022 strategy. It is an indication of commitment to Plan 2022 and additional evidence of the progress that we are making on behalf of Bermuda, and for Bermuda.”
2019. April 11. An investigation was launched after vape pens were reportedly sold at a middle school and high school, the Commissioner of Education confirmed last night. Kalmar Richards said a number of agencies were involved in the inquiries that focused on Dellwood Middle School and CedarBridge Academy. It is understood an adult had given the smokeless devices to a pupil, asking the child to sell them. Ms Richards said: “These are very serious incidents of which the Department of Education has requested detailed reports from each school. We can further confirm that the Bermuda Police Service were notified and an investigation has commenced. As this matter is under investigation by the BPS, the Department and Ministry of Education, and other relevant agencies, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.” Vape pens are a form of electronic cigarettes in which a flavored liquid is heated to give off a vapor. They have soared in popularity in recent years with people trying to give up smoking. Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, said last night that “preliminary investigation” had shown that an adult passed on vaping pens to a student to sell at Dellwood. He added: “We’ve subsequently learnt that the same adult had passed vaping pens to a student at CedarBridge Academy and asked for the same thing. We’re in the process of collecting the data to see exactly what has gone on.” A BPS spokesman said last night: “Police officers attended Dellwood Middle School and CedarBridge Academy today after Dellwood and CedarBridge school officials reported confiscating a quantity of e-cigarette-type devices that were allegedly being sold by one student at each school to their respective peers.” Anyone with information was asked to call 295-0011.
2019. April 11. Mould at a middle school has made teachers sick, the shadow education minister claimed yesterday. A source at TN Tatem Middle School backed up the claim and the One Bermuda Alliance’s Cole Simons questioned if pupils at the school had suffered similar problems. Mr Simons said that a teacher, who has since left the school because of her illness, was forced to wear a mask at work after she contracted bronchitis sparked by mould. He added that a replacement had taken over from former teacher in January, and had also been affected by breathing problems. Mr Simons said: “She was not aware of the challenges faced by the previous teacher in the same classroom, and she is now faced with similar bronchial attacks.” A source at the Warwick school confirmed that a teacher had left because of health problems and that her replacement had experienced “similar, but early symptoms”. Mr Simons and the source were speaking yesterday after the school was evacuated over health and safety fears. Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, said on Tuesday that the school would be closed yesterday and today. She said the closure came after education officials got a letter from the school’s Parent Teacher Student Association that highlighted “grave concerns about the health of the learning environment”. Requests for comment sent to the president and vice-president of the PTSA were not responded to by press time yesterday. Ms Richards said that the Cabinet safety and health official was expected to carry out inspections at the school yesterday morning. Mr Simons said: “We have tests after tests performed by the Government’s health and safety officers, water consultants and other local and international consultants. The scale of the problem has been identified and well defined, but Government’s remediation plans are not working. As a consequence, our students and teachers continue to be at risk.” Mr Simons said he understood that 12 teachers and three pupils had reported health and safety concerns to the education ministry. He said that the school was in a “chronic state and needs immediate attention and lasting remediation plans”. Mr Simons added: “Just lowering the levels of mould to acceptable levels and respective species counts is not good enough as this only addresses the symptoms of the problem and does not address the root cause.” He said that a proper remediation plan had to be created or the school must be “repurposed”. Mr Simons added: “This state of affairs just cannot be allowed to continue.” The TN Tatem closure was the latest in a string of mould incidents at the school. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Education insisted in February that the school was “safe for teaching and learning”. She said then: “While there may be some ongoing minor challenges, the school’s administration, with the steadfast backing of the ministry and Department of Education and the full support of the Minister of Education, will continue to make the safety, health and wellbeing of teachers and students alike, a top priority.” The spokeswoman was speaking a day after education officials revealed that a room at the school had been closed “for an extended period of time” after “potential mould” was found. The ministry said that a mould assessment programme by Bermuda Water Consultants would start on February 18. The independent firm’s report said that the “root cause of the current and past problems of excessive mould and poor indoor air quality ... is directly related to inadequate routine and general maintenance at the facility”. It added: “The issues that we noted today are the same issues which we noted back in 2013 and are the same issues that closed the school in 2017.” The report highlighted six causes for the mould and air-quality problems, including water leaks and faulty windows, as well as “inadequate housekeeping”. TN Tatem staff and pupils in December 2016 were forced to relocate to Clearwater Middle School, St David’s, for several weeks amid health fears. Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.
2019. April 9. Teachers have accepted a pay rise and leave for new parents in line with other public sector workers, it emerged last night. Mike Charles, the general secretary of the Bermuda Union of Teachers, said that negotiations with the Government had “paused” after an agreement was reached on three issues. He explained that talks are to resume this month because a number of concerns remained outstanding. Mr Charles said: “To say that we’ve reached an agreement is sort of a half-truth. After two years of negotiating, we reached agreement on three items and we had a myriad of items.” He said teachers were offered a pay rise at 2 per cent, which was accepted after other public service unions agreed to the same amount. Mr Charles added: “Unfortunately, teachers have already lost that 2 per cent because in January premiums on the Government Employee Health Insurance went up. We were able to agree on two other items and that’s maternity and paternity leave, which the government workers union the [Bermuda Public Services Union] agreed on before, so really it just brought us up to the standard of other government workers.” Mr Charles explained that there was “no fanfare” when the terms were reached towards the end of last month. He added: “Imagine accomplishing that after about two years of negotiating, so there wasn’t much to celebrate. We closed off on that so that at least our teachers can receive the 2 per cent — that’s the main reason why we paused negotiations. We didn’t say we reached an agreement because there are a number of other important items which we have to get back to the table to discuss.” Mr Charles explained that the priority was to secure better salaries for para-educators. He added: “They work with students who, in a lot of cases, other people can’t work with. They do a lot of work that other teachers can’t do or won’t do, so they need to be remunerated properly.” Mr Charles said a meeting with the Public Service Negotiating Team had been scheduled for today but was postponed to April 30. Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, said in an interview with ZBM News that aired last night: “Negotiations with the BUT have concluded; they were concluded late in March.” He said the parties were waiting for terms to be signed off on paper. Mr Rabain explained: “Obviously that brought about the closure of the negotiations that have been going on since June of last year and I’m happy to report that the Bermuda Union of Teachers have agreed to a 2 per cent uplift, which was what we had put on the board last year in June, when we first started. And I do believe the other part of the negotiations is that the maternity leave will now be on par with their BPSU counterparts.”
2019. April 9. Alternative classroom have been found for students at TN Tatem Middle School in Warwick after a walkout this morning over ongoing problems with toxic mould inside the building. On Wednesday and Thursday of this week, M3 students will report to Purvis Primary school; M2 students will report to Heron Bay Primary School; and M1 students will to report to Paget Primary. This afternoon Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, issued a statement, saying a letter of concern had been sent on Monday evening by parents and staff to officials at the ministry and the Department of Education. The letter, which was signed by the Parent Teacher Student Association president and the school’s Health and Safety Coordinator, expressed “grave concerns about the health of the learning environment”. A request was made for testing indoors for air quality and levels of mould, as well as repairs. Ms Richards said alternative learning venues were also requested. The letter included a request for response by noon tomorrow. Students and staff returned on Monday from their spring break to a smell of mould throughout the school, The Royal Gazette understands. A source at the school said mould had returned in “the exact same three rooms” that were closed off two years ago, when TN Tatem was temporarily relocated to Clearwater Middle School. Teachers arrived at school this morning, but later on brought students out at about 8.30am. An officer from the Department of Education went to hear concerns, while staff and remaining students were sent to Purvis Primary School, within walking distance, for the remainder of the day. Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, met with staff at both schools, along with a host of education staff. According to the source, TN Tatem parents supported the move, which was done for health and safety reasons. “They changed the ceiling tiles, they changed the drywall, but they never got to the source of the damp,” the source added. The ministry advised that public schools will be closed on Friday for the Annual Exhibition. The statement continues: “Students should attend their respective sites with a packed recess and lunch. Parents must give their children clear instructions for the after school dismissal plan, specifically students who will be at Paget Primary as the bus route is different. All after school programmes, which normally take place at TN Tatem, have been cancelled for the remainder of the week. Tomorrow, the Cabinet Safety and Health Officer will carry out inspections at TN Tatem in the morning, and conduct a training session with staff after school. When it comes to health and safety, the Ministry and Department of Education are taking the concerns raised by teachers and parents very seriously. Any time the health of our students, teachers and staff is potentially at risk, and the learning of our children is disrupted, we have an obligation to listen, assess and take the appropriate action. We also thank the leaders and staff of Purvis Primary, Heron Bay and Paget Primary for opening their doors to the staff and students from TN Tatem.”
2019. March 26. A school janitor who claimed he was infected with mould at Francis Patton Primary School has criticized the pace of the Government’s response. Omar Smith, 51, said blood tests had confirmed he had mould in his bloodstream and that he was prepared to take legal action. He added: “This is not about money. It’s the principle and how this situation has been put out to the public.” He said he now had to wear a surgical mask at work and used an inhaler to help him breathe. Mr Smith has also suffered sweating, headaches and stomach pain since he became ill a few weeks after he started work at the school last August. Mr Smith said he had seen an inspection report for the Hamilton Parish school written in September last year, which highlighted mould contamination in several areas of the school. The report recommended the problem should be dealt with by the end of this summer. Mr Smith said: “I wouldn’t want anyone to go through this — we have kids as young as 5 and 6 in that school.” Mr Smith spoke out after an article in Friday’s edition of The Royal Gazette highlighted a report from October 2017 that outlined health and safety problems in the public schools system. The Francis Patton report from six months ago flagged up a “mould stench” in the school’s janitorial supplies store and mould contamination in the principal’s office and several other rooms. The report concluded that “the majority of the school’s facilities have been deemed relatively safe and do not pose any immediate threat to the safety, health and wellbeing of teachers or students at this time”. However, Mr Smith said yesterday: “How can it be safe if I am sick?” He said he had been off ill last week but, despite getting a doctor’s letter that advised he should be moved elsewhere, he had received no word on a transfer. Mr Smith said: “Mould affects everybody differently. It came as a surprise — I was sweating, then I had problems with my stomach, and headaches. I got blood tests this month and found that I have mould actually inside my system.” He said the age of the building contributed to the problem and that the ministry was “trying to tread lightly with a lot of issues”. Mr Smith added: “There’s so much that they’re dealing with, such as the new grading system. But I think this is more severe.” The report seen by The Royal Gazette last week said that all schools had some level of mould contamination, but that there were no major safety concerns. Mr Smith said: “Nobody has said anything about Francis Patton, which is why I’m putting this out there. “At the end of the day, I am a credible witness. It needs to be sorted out now.” The Francis Patton report said mould concerns would be “jointly addressed” by the ministries of public works and education by the end of the summer. Mr Smith added he decided to speak out in a bid to get the problem fixed sooner and that he had also alerted the Bermuda Union of Teachers. He said: “I am putting this out there because it’s a bad situation for everybody, especially the kids. Things need to be appreciated on a higher level. I am a parent, too. I have a daughter who goes to Paget Primary and a son at Victor Scott. Knowing that I am infected with mould, I have concerns for all the kids.” A spokeswoman for the education ministry said officials were “aware of the health and safety report for Francis Patton, as we are for all schools. Some works have already taken place or are under way and other issues will be tackled during our scheduled summer works.” The spokeswoman confirmed the ministry had received a report from Mr Smith about the school a week ago and was “in the process of addressing that report”.
2019. March 22. A string of health-and-safety breaches have been exposed in reports into the state of the public school system, government documents have revealed. The problems included rodent infestation in some schools, exposed and damaged cancer-causing asbestos, mould, poor first-aid kits and un-serviced fire extinguishers and fire-safety devices. Inspectors also found that schools were not cleaned properly. The shock findings were made after inspections carried out at all public schools 18 months ago, but follow-up investigations completed just five months ago found that many of the problems had not been tackled. The education ministry’s 2017 inspections found there were “numerous shortcomings relating to the overall quality and scope of cleaning, upkeep and maintenance, in tandem with improper modus operandi practices, and other omissions by school administrators, academic and custodial staff at the respective schools”. The report added: “There were also several breaches of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1982 and the enabling Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 2009 that were noted.” The summary said that all schools were found to be “relatively safe, within time and scope comparative to their operations and related practices”. It added: “All schools had challenges relating to sanitation and hygiene, maintenance and upkeep of their buildings and related facilities. The majority of findings were not considered significant enough to be deemed to be posing any great immediate threat to the safety, health and wellbeing of teachers or students at the time of inspection, except where and as noted otherwise.” Inspectors found that the majority of first-aid and medical kits at most schools “were non-compliant with regulatory requirements” and that there had been “improper inspection and servicing of fire extinguishers and other fire-safety devices and supporting apparatus. Control of pests such as cockroaches, ants and termites at the schools was found to be poor. Some schools also had incidences of rodent infestations.” Damaged and exposed asbestos was also found in two schools and all schools had mould contamination. But the report said: “No school had identified mould problems sufficient or significant enough at the time of inspection to warrant any major concern”, or that could pose “any immediate imminent risks to the safety, health and wellbeing of students or teachers, at the time of inspection”. The inspectors also highlighted that most schools “had issues relating to the improper layout and alignment of electrical and/or information and communication technology wires. These continue to pose trip and fall hazards and must be stored, properly aligned and controlled. Security at the schools was also deemed insufficient”. The news came in three documents released by the Government yesterday that outlined school inspections carried out in 2017 and last autumn. The Royal Gazette last month submitted a public access to information request that asked for the report connected to the inspections conducted in 2017. A 42-page report on the findings of the 2017 inspections, as well as an executive summary, were released yesterday. An executive summary based on “follow-up and verification inspection field work” conducted between September and October last year was also released. The summary for the 2017 round of inspections said officials had difficulty carrying them out — because they could not find a car to get around the schools. It explained: “Primary among the challenges was the initial unavailability of a motor vehicle to consistently conduct all field- work exercises”. The summary said that another roadblock was the “unavailability of some school principals and related administrative officers to facilitate the inspection of their schools on the assigned dates”. It added that “areas of some schools were found to be locked-up and school principals and other administrative officers having no access or key to such areas of their schools”. The executive summary for last year’s follow-up inspections said that many of the failings had not been dealt with. It said: “Throughout and at the close of inspection activities, numerous shortcomings relating to the overall quality and scope of cleaning, upkeep and maintenance in tandem with improper modus operandi practices, and other omissions by school administrators, academic and custodial staff at the respective schools, were observed and documented.” The summary also detailed “several breaches” of health-and-safety legislation and regulations. Walton Brown, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, said yesterday that a programme of “immediate and ongoing improvements had taken place since the first inspections were performed. Strategies that have, and continue to be, implemented are yielding satisfactory results arising from the review of occupational safety and health within public schools. A concerted effort had been made to ensure that every school undergoes a consistent maintenance routine. This includes scheduled and timely upkeep and repair activities so that schools are being optimally cleaned and maintained in an acceptable state on a regular basis to ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of our teachers and students.” Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, said that school safety was a top priority of the Government. He added that most public school buildings were more than 50 years old. Mr Rabain said: “We are at the stage where rebuilding is needed, and this is a direction we must seriously begin to look at in the near future.”
2019. March 18. Press statement from Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education. "We are confident that teachers in the Bermuda Public School System are qualified to assess what has been learned by students each day. We appreciate the hard work our teachers do for our students, and wish to thank them for understanding the critical obligation to inform parents about student academic progress. The Department of Education has consistently communicated to principals, teachers and the Bermuda Union of Teachers that we are not yet a Standards-Based Education System. We are a traditional system that has begun the process of transitioning to a Standards-Based Education System. While we transition, we have put an interim grading system in place for the 2018-2019 school year. The BUT indicated that our teachers require more training to implement Standards-Based Grading practices. In October 2018, the Standards-Based Grading Committee was empanelled and has developed a four-year plan to transition the System. Initial training started in January 2019 for all primary and middle school principals, teachers and staff. Another training session was held in February 2019. The January session reintroduced the tenets of Standards-Based Grading and the February session introduced learning intentions and success criteria. Given where we are with the transition to a Standards-Based Education System, we cannot expect teachers to implement Standards-Based Grading. It is with this understanding and with the understanding that most teachers in our classrooms are using traditional grading practices that all teachers at the primary and middle level have been asked to convert percentages, a traditional grading practice, to a scale of 0 to 4. To clarify, to convert from percentages to a scale of 0 to 4 is not a Standards-Based grading practice. This is an interim measure we are using as we transition to becoming a Standards-Based Education system. This is an acceptable practice that is used by many jurisdictions, including jurisdictions that use PowerSchool. We reached out to our overseas consultant who was made aware of the conversion table from percentages to a 0 to 4 scale, and they indicated that we should continue with what we are presently doing, with the understanding that it is only an interim measure until the end of this school year. On Friday, March 8, 2019, the Department of Education and the BUT released a joint statement indicating that we would work together to ensure parents had report cards in hand by Friday, 15 March, 2019. We entered this joint-agreement in good faith. The BUT had asked for an extension of the deadline for progress reports from 8 March to 15 March, 2019. The Department of Education honored that request and extended the date to 15 March, 2019. To achieve the goal of ensuring parents were provided with report cards on 15 March, 2019, the BUT indicated that teachers had retained hard copies of grades and that teachers would need time to input the grades. The Department of Education honored this request. Principals were officially asked and gave teachers time to input grades during the week leading up to 15 March, 2019. The BUT also indicated that some teachers would need to be shown how to input grades. Principals, teachers and the Department of Education PowerSchool Administrator worked together to provide that support and teachers at all schools were able to update their grade books and input grades. The Department of Education honored the requests for support that were identified by the BUT. Also, the Department of Education assigned IT Technicians to schools in the event of any hardware challenges with PowerSchool. The Department of Education can also confirm that PowerSchool, the data management system that is used to store students’ grades, is and has been operational to receive grades since September 2018. The Department of Education can also confirm that grades have been placed in PowerSchool, by some teachers, between September 2018 and March 2019. Teachers in the Bermuda Public School System have a duty to ensure that students and parents are provided with information about their progress. Parents were provided with academic and social skills progress reports on Friday, March 15, 2019. We thank principals and teachers for ensuring report cards were provided to our students and parents. We trust our teachers to provide parents with an accurate assessment of their child’s progress."
2019. March 15. The Bermuda Union of Teachers issued the following statement on Standards-Based Grading: "We, as a body of professional educators, are not opposed to Standards-Based Education/Grading and feel that it has the potential to be a very positive way forward for the Bermuda Public School System. We are, however, left deeply frustrated by how poorly it has been implemented. Since it was first introduced in 2015, we have received very little training and were left completely unprepared for its supposed hard launch in September of 2018. This failing was finally acknowledged in a direct address by the Department of Education through the Commissioner in January of this year. The Department admitted there had been “insufficient support, training and communication”. Despite this, we have still been required to enter grades into an inadequate and problematic online grading system known as Power School which has not been properly formatted to address our system needs and loosely reflects an SBG format. System-wide training for use in this programme has never officially taken place, with training instead occurring at the individual school level based on the initiative of principals. This has left teachers across the system with various levels of competence in the use of the programme. This is compounded by the fact that, even though it goes against best practices, we as a body of professionals are being required to convert all grades into a 0-4 scale resembling the grades that will eventually be used when SBG is fully implemented. In short, it is our belief that these grades are ‘fake’ SBG and will cause confusion about student performance. We as education professionals feel that our lack of training in the correct use of Power School and this flawed conversion chart make a mockery of SBG and diminish the integrity of the grading process, which will only serve to confuse parents and agitate teachers. We feel that we have been coerced into entering grades that are inaccurate and misleading. Due to the threat of disciplinary action, we have entered these grades under duress. We feel it is our duty to inform the public about these matters. We want to make it clear that as education professionals we consider it our duty to educate children, to assess their learning on what has been taught, and to report this learning to parents with clarity, confidence and integrity. We feel that the way we are currently being forced to grade GREATLY inhibits our ability to accomplish this mandate.
2019. March 9. Progress reports for public primary and middle school pupils due to have been sent out today have been delayed another week. Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, said in a letter sent to parents that reports could now be expected next Friday. She added that the Department of Education was in talks with the Bermuda Union of Teachers about the reports and “related matters”. Ms Richards said: “During those meetings, the BUT asked that the deadline to provide progress reports to parents be changed from March 8, 2019, to March 15, 2019. The Department of Education has agreed to honour this request. Principals are working with teachers to ensure that the much-awaited progress reports are provided to you by Friday, March 15, 2019. On behalf of the Department of Education, I apologise for this delay and would like to thank you for your patience and understanding.” The Department of Education and the BUT confirmed the delay in a joint statement and pledged to work together to meet the new deadline. Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, last month called on the BUT “to place children first and to ensure parents receive progress reports in hand on March 8”. Mr Rabain set the date in a press release on February 25. The move came after the BUT passed a no-confidence vote in Ms Richards and Valerie Robinson-James, the Permanent Secretary of Education. A press release from the BUT said that the vote came after the union’s Annual General Meeting “where members expressed dissatisfaction surrounding a series of decisions which impact the Bermuda public school system”. Teachers have been locked in conflict with the Government over a series of problems, including standards-based grading.
2019. March 6. Extra cash from cost savings in the Department of Education have gone to finance special programmes, the Minister of Education said. Diallo Rabain told the House of Assembly that there was no increase in the department’s $114 million budget, but it had found $2.3 million in savings and reallocated the funds. Extra money has gone to finance autism spectrum education, the continued implementation of standards-based grading, and science, technology, arts and maths programmes. Mr Rabain said Steam classes have been added to primary schools, with eight more to be added this year. He added the department would release annual reports on progress on the Plan 2022 blueprint for the education system. He also told the House work was under way on succession planning for the island’s principals. Mr Rabain said that although the budget for substitute teachers had decreased, the change was offset by increased funding for teaching assistants. The Minister highlighted the Government’s intention to phase out middle schools in favour of specialist signature schools and promised that a round-table group will be set up to help introduce the change. Cole Simons, the Shadow Minister of Education, said he was happy to see Government make progress on Plan 2022, and that the budget for the Ministry showed “signs of financial discipline”. He added: “Teachers have said they are still taking money out of their pockets to pay for supplies for their classrooms.” Mr Simons said it was a “perennial problem” that had to be tackled. “We need to somehow support these teachers, reimburse them for any expenses they have to make things better for their students.” Mr Simons also asked for more information about how many pupils required special needs education and how many high-risk pupils were being treated by school psychologists. “We need to know the scale of the challenge because these people are our loved ones and we need to give them the support they rightfully deserve.” Mr Rabain said there were 706 pupils on individual educational programmes.
2019. March 5. The Department of Education has asked the Bermuda Union of Teachers to a meeting to tackle fears over a new grading and reports system for pupils. Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, announced that the meeting would be held today with help from the Labour Relations Office. Ms Richards said: “Our goal in meeting with union representatives is to bring resolution to their concerns, to ensure progress reports are sent home to parents this week and to encourage the BUT against taking any further irregular actions that will have an adverse impact on the teaching and learning of our students. The Department of Education considers keeping students and parents informed about ongoing student progress to be of paramount importance and uses the PowerSchool database and report cards distributed throughout the school year as the methods for doing so.” Ms Richards added that the database showed some teachers were already using the system and that the education department was committed to supporting teachers and principals to ensure that parents got the new-style report cards by Friday. The meeting was set up after weeks of conflict between the Government and teachers over the introduction of the new standards-based grading system. Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, claimed teachers had “refused” to enter grades. But the BUT said teachers had not been properly trained in the new system. The Government announced a delay in the introduction of the report cards last December.
2019. February 26. A no-confidence vote in the senior managers of public schools was dismissed yesterday by the Minister of Education. Diallo Rabain backed Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, and Valerie Robinson-James, the permanent secretary at the ministry after the Bermuda Union of Teachers passed the no-confidence vote last week. Mr Rabain said the BUT action was “unfortunate and reinforces the need for continued direct dialogue, collaboration and renewed focus on what is best for our children”. He added: “In the interest of enhanced communication and understanding, the Ministry of Education requests that the BUT provide clarity on the issues of concern.” A press release from the BUT last Friday said that the vote came after the union’s Annual General Meeting “where members expressed dissatisfaction surrounding a series of decisions which impact the Bermuda Public School system”. A union spokesman said that a letter sent to primary and middle schoolteachers this month had caused “angst and great concern”. The letter, written by Ms Richards, was sent to primary and middle schoolteachers and principals on February 8 and advised on grading and reporting procedures until June. It said that parents were to receive a progress report by the end of the month. Mr Rabain said that the ministry had not been made aware by the BUT that it was dissatisfied before it took action. He added: “The ministry wishes to bridge the gap of misunderstanding and seeks the opportunity to work with the BUT to discuss their concerns openly and work towards a solution jointly with Department of Education staff.” Mr Rabain said the union had taken part in several meetings with the ministry and Department of Education and that concerns about standards-based grading had also been raised at monthly Joint Consultative Committee meetings. "The BUT have also been given a forum to have concerns addressed via the Department of Labour between December 2018 and February 2019, as recent as February 20. No concerns were expressed during these meetings or via other communication. A draft of the letter sent to teachers and principals by Ms Richards this month had been given to Shannon James, the president of the BUT, and Mike Charles, the union’s general secretary, before it was delivered. There was no response from the BUT, nor were any concerns raised by the BUT, prior to the letter being sent out. The grading and reporting expectations outlined by Ms Richards were compatible with where we are as a system. This decision was made based on what is best for children and after considering many critical factors. An outside consultant had backed the timetable and grading instructions in the letter. At this juncture, we call on the BUT to place children first and to ensure parents receive progress reports in hand on March 8.” But Cole Simons, the shadow minister for education, said that Mr Rabain needed to “stop managing from the pulpit”. The One Bermuda Alliance MP added yesterday: “If he wanted more dialogue and collaboration, he should have met with the BUT this morning to clear the air and to determine what the real issues are which led to the monumental no-confidence vote.” Mr Simons said that the union and Government should be working together “for the best interests of our students and teachers”. He added: “To imply that the BUT, and our teachers, are not putting our students first is irresponsible and places a dark cloud over education in Bermuda. Our teachers deserve more — and more support from the minister.”
2019. February 23. Almost half-a-million dollars will go towards the introduction of a new pupil grading system, the finance minister announced yesterday. Curtis Dickinson said that $473,000 would be used “to continue the implementation of a standards-based grading system covering site-based professional development training” for primary and middle schoolteachers. The announcement came as Mr Dickinson delivered the 2019-20 Budget Statement in the House of Assembly. He added that $539,000 would be set aside “to address the urgent need” to increase bandwidth at primary and middle schools. Mr Dickinson broke down Ministry of Education spending by school level. He said that $327,000 would be used at the preschool level to implement an autism spectrum disorder programme and to hire an early childhood quality assurance officer to “provide professional training and coaching for preschool teachers”. He said that the cash would also allow foreign languages to be introduced and parental education programmes to be continued. Mr Dickinson said $770,000 would be spent at the primary level to fund the deployment of the Steam — science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics — programme. The cash will be used to cover teacher training, updates to social studies curriculum and to expand the literacy programme. At the senior level, $129,500 will be put towards the implementation of the City and Guilds programme in English and the mathematics programme “will be further progressed”. Mr Dickinson added: “A vital job-shadowing programme will be introduced to create a unique experience for students as part of the Career Pathway programme.” A total of $136.9 million was pledged to the Ministry of Education. Mr Dickinson said that about $2.8 million would “support the execution of Plan 2022, the blueprint for education for the next few years, and the introduction of a merit-based College Promise programme for public school graduates to attend Bermuda College”. He added Plan 2022 “articulates a clear mission to provide all students with equitable access to holistic, varied and high-quality instruction that is culturally relevant and empowers students to reach their full potential”. Mr Dickinson said about $2.2 million of the $2.8 million for the plan was found after a “microscopic review of its existing budget for greater efficiencies in operational activity”. The budget for school maintenance in 2019-20 will be $3 million — the same as this year.
2019. February 23. Teachers have backed a vote of no confidence in the Commissioner of Education and the Ministry of Education’s top civil servant. A spokesman for the Bermuda Union of Teachers said that members had “overwhelmingly” agreed on the action against Kalmar Richards and Valerie Robinson-James, the permanent secretary at the ministry. He added the decision was a result of dialogue at the Annual General Meeting “where members expressed dissatisfaction surrounding a series of decisions which impact the Bermuda public school system”. He said that a letter sent to primary and middle schoolteachers and principals this month had caused “angst and great concern”. The spokesman added: “Members agreed that the requirements outlined in the letter were incompatible with teacher and system readiness as it pertains to standards-based grading.” The letter, written by Ms Richards, was sent to primary and middle schoolteachers and principals on February 8 and advised on grading and reporting procedures until June. It said that parents were to receive a progress report by the end of the month. Ms Richards said that a second progress report would go to parents in April, followed by a final report card in June. The spokesman said that concerns over standards-based grading were first expressed by the union at a meeting with the Department of Education last year. He added: “The expectations as mentioned in the letter have caused members much uneasiness.” The spokesman said concerns included the lack of adequate training on standards-based grading. “Despite being made aware of these standards-based grading implementation shortfalls and challenges, teachers are still being directed to follow through with the requests from the letter. The teachers felt that there were some key expectations outlined in the letter that do not support the principles and practices of this new method of teaching, learning and reporting. "The letter’s expectations around the inputting of grades goes on to state that the Department of Education will also provide teams of teachers for technical support and will put technical measures in place to address concerns related to the length of time it takes for the grading system to respond. These provisions have not been put in place.” He said that union members “are calling for leadership that embraces the essential leadership qualities and attributes for sound decision making”. Teachers have been locked in conflict with the Government over a series of problems, including standards-based grading, which the teaching union said had added stress to already overburdened staff. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Education said earlier that teachers had undergone two days of training this month on the standards-based grading system. She added that the IT team working on the computer programme PowerSchool had “made the internet connection perform more efficiently in the short term”. Some training in the new grading system was given to school staff last month after a request from the BUT. The Government did not respond to a request for comment.
2019. February 22. A meeting between public school Para educators and education therapist assistants, and the Bermuda Union of Teachers with the Public Service Negotiations Team, was postponed this morning. A spokeswoman for the Government said the Department of Education had been unaware of the request for staff to attend negotiations scheduled for 11am today. The meeting was called off to ensure the safety and service of students needing the care of support staff, with negotiations to resume next week.
2019. February 16. Progress reports for public primary and middle school students will be sent out next month, the education minister pledged yesterday. Diallo Rabain said: “We want to assure parents that student reports will be provided in early March, early May, with a final report at the end of June before the close of the school year.” The update came in a ministerial statement made in the House of Assembly. Mr Rabain told MPs that standards-based grading “has been proven to transform teaching and learning. That is, transform the work that takes place in classrooms each day and the way that teachers teach and assess how children learn. It is our expectation that as a result of this grading and reporting system, students, teachers and parents will have more accurate information about what students specifically know in each subject, and what they are able to do.” Mr Rabain said that “both the enhanced teaching and learning that will result from the sustained practices of standards-based grading will help to transform public school education”. He added that a committee established last October had mapped out a four-year implementation plan for the grading system. He said workshops held for teachers on standards-based grading this week were “engaging and empowering. Additional training sessions would be held this month. These types of training workshops will be ongoing for various stakeholder groups in the public school system up until the end of the school year.” Mr Rabain said that parent information sessions would be held at Whitney Institute in Smith’s, Purvis Primary School and TN Tatem Middle School, both Warwick, on Thursday at 5.45pm. He encouraged parents and members of the public to attend “so that they can have a clear understanding of standards-based grading and learn more about how it will benefit their children”. Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, sent a letter to primary and middle school staff last week that advised of grading and reporting procedures until June. It said that pupils were to have a progress report at the end of the month. Ms Richards said that a second progress report would go to parents in April followed by a final report card in June. She added: “These reports will be pulled from PowerSchool.” Mr Rabain said earlier this week that he did not foresee delays to dates outlined by Ms Richards. “Nothing in life is guaranteed, but as far as I am concerned, the commissioner has issued the end of February as the timeline ... and that is the date that they will be released.” Teachers have been locked in conflict with the Government over a series of problems, including standards-based grading, which the teaching union said had added stress to already overburdened staff. Shannon James, the president of the Bermuda Union of Teachers, admitted that not all primary and middle schoolteachers had uploaded grades to PowerSchool because of confusion about the introduction of standards-based grading. But Mr James added that teachers had kept hard copies of pupil grades.
2019. February 15. Out-of-date public school websites are to be tackled beginning this spring, the education commission pledged this week. But Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, said that a decision had not been made as to who would be responsible for updates to the sites. Mr Rabain said that work to transform the ministry’s website would begin in May. He added: “A second tier of this initiative will deal with individual school websites.” Mr Rabain said that each school website would have a designated “owner” and that all owners would use the same process and procedures to update the sites. He explained that current “variances” between the school websites were because “some sites have a designated person to update them and some do not”. Mr Rabain said that going forward school websites would be updated “on regular intervals with a certain standard. As it stands now, we have individual websites that are out there that some of them are run by schools. We just don’t really have an idea how they are being initiated. We’re looking to just bring all of that into one standard.” Mr Rabain said that content for the school websites would be provided by the schools themselves. But he said it had not been decided who would be tasked with website updates. He explained: “We haven’t decided if anyone at the school will be doing it or someone within the ministry will be doing it.” The announcement came after questions were sent to Mr Rabain last week about the state of MoED school websites. The minister was asked who was responsible for updates to the school websites and what, if any, requirements existed on how often they should be updated. Mr Rabain was also asked why some websites had been allowed to become outdated and what was being done to have them brought up to date. A look at several MoED school websites found that many contained old information and little information. East End Primary School’s website displayed a principal’s message from Idonia Beckles. But Julie Foggo is the head teacher at the St George’s school. Mr Beckles is the head teacher at Paget Primary School. The most recent announcement on the Paget Primary website yesterday was a post about Ms Beckles made in October 2015. The only post under the Public Documents section of the school’s website was a September 2009 document about on a parent orientation event. On the Northlands Primary School website, the lone post under the Public Documents section is from May 2008. A single post under the PTA Documents section of Northlands site was about a parent-teacher association meeting in April 2008. The TN Tatem Middle School website’s Surveys section showed results from two polls carried out in 2009. The most recent update under the Public Documents section of the website is a picture of a school picnic posted in July 2015. The CedarBridge Academy website’s sole post under its Public Documents section provides the course calendar for the 2008-09 school year. The School Pictures section of the site show a single image posted in June 2015.
2019. February 14. A directive by the education commissioner for student progress reports to be issued by the end of the month will be met, the education minister said yesterday. Diallo Rabain said: “Nothing in life is guaranteed, but as far as I am concerned, the commissioner has issued the end of February as the timeline ... and that is the date that they will be released.” He was speaking after Kalmar Richards set the deadline for public primary and middle schools staff last week. Ms Richards said in her letter that a second progress report would be sent to parents in April, with a final report card in June. Mr Rabain was asked whether the announced dates were supported by the Bermuda Union of Teachers and the Bermuda Public Services Union, which represents principals. He said that “conversations are taking place” which involve both unions. The minister also gave an update on talks with both unions. Mr Rabian said that he had met the BUT on January 28 for a “very productive” quarterly meeting “that focused on collaboration with the ministry and identifying areas for transforming the public school system”. He added that a joint consultative committee meeting held with the BUT and the Department of Education was also held last month where “several concerns” raised by the union in December were “discussed and resolved”. Mr Rabain said the concerns included new phone systems for Prospect Preschool and Dalton E. Tucker Primary School and fire alarm upgrades. But Mr Rabain added that the BUT had asked for the assistance of the labour office for talks on problems that included primary school substitute teachers and the hiring of teachers on yearly contracts. He said the meeting would take place next week. Mr Rabain also discussed talks on a work-to-rule launched by principals last October. He said that meetings with school principals had made “meaningful progress”. Mr Rabain added: “Of the 24 issues that were initially submitted, there are only three matters that remain outstanding.” He said the rest involved pupil services, the school improvement plan and standards-based grading. Mr Rabain added that talks with the BPSU aimed at ending the industrial action had resumed last week. He said: “We are now waiting to hear back from the principals.” Mr Rabian also discussed “comprehensive” IT audits that were conducted in all 18 primary schools last month. The schools with the greatest number of problems were Francis Patton, Port Royal and Victor Scott. He added: “These issues comprised ageing Cannon multifunction devices, and non-working smartboards and smartboard projectors.” Mr Rabain said that the audit found that 28 computers needed to be replaced. He said the IT team would be back in the schools over the next two weeks to fix the problems. Mr Rabain said that the IT team had also contacted suppliers to look at the possibility of “delivering fibre-optic connectivity and increasing bandwidth to all schools within our system”. He added: “The IT team is also working on finalizing a solution for reducing the response time of PowerSchool, the department’s internal communication platform for parents, teachers, principals and students.”
2019. February 11. A clampdown on an epidemic of “revenge porn” in schools is long overdue, a psychology graduate has warned. Chardonaé Rawlins said that new laws and a standard set of rules to tackle the problem should be introduced across the school system. Ms Rawlins, who has an honours degree in psychology from Kingston University in London, added: “I am in the process of drafting up a demo of anti-bully and revenge porn policies that are referencing the UK policies to give to the schools. “Every school should have it. There are different protocols for bullying than for revenge porn. Teachers and guidance counselors need specific training. Research has proven that children go to the guidance counselor first rather than their parents and so they need to know the proper protocol otherwise it may do more harm than good.” Ms Rawlins, 22, said she was researching the psychological effects of revenge porn and the online posting of intimate images of people without their consent in Bermuda. She is an intern at the clinical psychology clinic Solstice in Hamilton, and will start a master’s degree in child and adolescent health at University College London in September. She is also awaiting approval from a UK ethics committee to carry out further research. Ms Rawlins said: “We’re currently living in a generation where social media is the highlight of our lives. With social media comes the negatives such as cyber bullying and revenge porn as well as various mental health affects that should be addressed. Many people overlook how mental health can be impacted severely based on these things and I think that’s also important to highlight. Research has shown that victims of revenge porn have almost identical mental health effects as victims of rape, including suicide ideation. Hopefully, my research will be able to shed light on what is actually happening in our community.” She added that she wanted to gather statistics on revenge porn and pornography distributed without consent in Bermuda as part of her research. She said anecdotal evidence suggested that the problem was rife in Bermuda’s schools. Ms Rawlins explained that schoolchildren, as well as adults, send out collections of intimate images and videos of people without their consent during some weeks of the year called Leak Weeks. She said: “Leak Week happens a few times per year and falls on the peer support theory of ‘monkey see, monkey do’ — you see your friends sending it out, you think it’s cool and you send it to someone, it gets in the wrong hands and then it just goes all around the island. For the younger generation, they will be sending the news via Snapchat and WhatsApp. It happens randomly and it is specifically for revenge porn.” Ms Rawlins said that her research in Britain showed that half of people who fell victim to bullying or revenge porn reported they suffered from depression as a result. About 45 per cent suffer from anxiety and 11 per cent have attempted suicide. Ms Rawlins told parents: “If your child goes through this or is exposed in Leak Week — help them and seek help for them. Help them to understand that life moves on it is not the end of the world. Give them a tool kit to get through situations like this — you must uplift them instead of tearing them down.” The Royal Gazette contacted high schools to ask if they had policies in place to tackle revenge porn, but only Saltus Grammar School and Warwick Academy replied by press time. Saltus said it had a “robust” technology use policy that included rules against bullying and harassment and that all pupils and parents were required to sign it. Warwick Academy has an anti-bullying, discipline and internet usage policy and its counselors are trained to spot if a child needs psychological help. Dissemination of pornographic images and videos of anyone aged under 16 is illegal and classed as child pornography, even if the material is of the sender. Bermuda has several laws designed to cover child pornography, as well as illegal use of phones and electronic devices. However, Ms Rawlins said: “I believe that we should amend current legislation to add a specific subgroup for image-based sexual abuse because I feel that victims want to prosecute but there is no specific legislation to aid in the process — it is not tailored towards revenge porn. The law would also stipulate that training be mandatory. Teachers have to be trained in the UK, guidance counselors have to be trained — it is legislated. You have to understand the definitions. The laws do not protect older people — the Criminal Code Act is focused on child pornography. We need to come up with new legislation to protect women and men from revenge porn rather than just trying to piggyback off of different acts. ” Kelly Hunt, executive director of the Coalition for the Protection of Children, said: “We must formulate a healthy approach to internet usage that utilizes education and technology itself to prevent harm and protect our children. We urge the Ministry of Education to adopt a clear responsible use of technology policy so that expectations are outlined and actions taking place on school property are addressed.” Information and support:
2019. February 11. Progress reports for primary schools and middle school pupils have to be issued by the end of the month, the education commissioner has told principals and teachers. The information was contained in a letter from Kalmar Richards sent to school staff last Friday on grading and reporting procedures until June, the end of the school year. Ms Richards said that a second progress report would go to parents in April followed by a final report card in June. She added: “These reports will be pulled from Power School.” Ms Richards said that a report on pupils’ “personal and social development” would also be provided. She added: “This report will have to be completed manually and the first report will be sent at the end of February. We recognize that based on what is being asked, we will need to provide professional learning, technical support, and improve the response time for Power School when scores are being entered. The Department of Education will provide the professional learning, a team of teachers will provide technical support, and our IT team has put a solution in place to address technology concerns related to length of time that it takes for Power School to respond when grades are being entered.” Ms Richards added that one of the “major goals” of the Bermuda public school system was to “become a standards-based education system”. She said: “Over the next few years, we will make this transition for the benefit of the children in our schools.” Ms Richards added that a steering committee had charted the path for public schools to move from a traditional grading system to the standards-based model. She said that the expectations outlined in the letter for primary and middle school teachers “take into consideration the reality of where we are in relation to our transition to a standards-based system”. Ms Richards added that the views of principals, teachers and parents were considered and that the targets were “not determined in isolation”. She said that teachers would score pupil assignments using a 0 to 4 scale. A four showed “advanced understanding”, while a zero represented “no or insufficient evidence”. She added that the scale would “promote consistency between scoring from last term and this term”. Ms Richards said: “It is important for you to note well that the scoring process that is expected ... is a traditional approach to grading and that it is only being used as an interim step as we transition to a standards-based education system.” Training in the new system was provided to teachers and principals last month after a request from the Bermuda Union of Teachers. Teachers have been locked in conflict with the Government over a series of problems, including standards-based grading, which the teaching union said had added stress to already overburdened staff. Shannon James, the president of the BUT, admitted last week that not all primary and middle school teachers had uploaded grades to Power School because of confusion about the introduction of standards-based grading. However, Mr James added that teachers had kept hard copies of pupil grades. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Education confirmed last week that there was “variance from school to school” in the addition of pupil grades to Power School. She promised the variations “will be reduced this month forward” and that teachers would be expected to update grades every two weeks as schools move towards standards-based grading. Ms Richards last month apologized to teachers for “insufficient support, training and communication, and for the impact that it has had on principals, teachers and schools”.
2019. February 5. Budding students can apply for funding of up to $35,000 to help cover the costs of their learning. Diallo Rabain, the education minister, announced today that a number of scholarship options will help people of all ages and backgrounds. They included money for books, incentives for teachers in training and second chances for adults to follow college or university studies. Mr Rabain said: “The Ministry of Education has been intent on introducing new scholarships and making them more accessible to students. We have continued to expand opportunities for postsecondary education and training to help support Bermudians of all ages and various backgrounds and career interests. Through these investments, we are demonstrating that we value promise, growth and achievement. The ministry will continue to provide scholarships and awards for public school students, students with disabilities, those studying technical education, mature students as well as top scholars from public schools, private schools and Bermuda College.” The minister said the committee received 301 applications in 2018, which was about double the number for the previous year, and resulted in a total of 50 awards and scholarships. A Non-Traditional Student Award has replaced the mature student award to help people aged 25 and older “who need a first or second chance to attend college or university”. This was previously open only to people aged at least 35 and it has been expanded to include applications for online study at accredited institutions. Minister’s Bermuda College Book Awards help students in financial need to buy books and a Minister’s Exceptional Student Award is for graduating students, school leavers or people with disabilities up to the age of 25. Further Education Awards of up to $10,000 are offered for students with at least a year of college or university credits who are pursuing overseas postsecondary study. The Minister’s Achievement Scholarship is for graduating public school students and offers $25,000 for postsecondary study abroad. Graduating senior school students, as well as college and university students, can apply for Bermuda Government Scholarships of up to $35,000 for postsecondary tuition and basic accommodation. Awards of $5,000 are available for graduating dual-enrolment students in Bermuda College’s Applied Technical Programme. They fund the completion of an Associate’s Degree after public school graduation. A shortage of local teaching candidates in certain areas is addressed with the Teacher Education Scholarship for promising Bachelor of Education students. Subjects included social studies, geography, English language arts, mathematics, modern foreign languages and special education. Successful applicants of the $20,000 awards must return to teach in the Bermuda public school system. A Minister’s Technical and Vocational Award is available for graduating public school students or recent public school alumni attending Bermuda College with a strong interest in technical and vocational studies. More detailed information on scholarships and awards, including eligibility and application requirements are available at www.Bermudascholarships.com. Questions can be sent by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
2019. January 24. 10 finalists have been named for a top teacher award set up by a charity that supports public schools. The Bermuda Education Network unveiled the contenders in the running for its Outstanding Teacher Award 2019. They are:
Candidates were nominated by their peers earlier this month. Finalists were then selected by a committee. The winner is chosen based on classroom observations. Becky Ausenda, the executive director of the BEN, congratulated the teachers “for your exceptional teaching ability and going above and beyond for your students”. She added: “We received a record 50 nominations this year and wish to thank everyone who took the time to send in a nomination. BEN looks forward to honoring these inspirational teachers at our coming event.” The winner will be named as part of the charity’s annual fundraiser, a Chinese new year celebration. The event takes place at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club on February 8 at 7pm. Tickets cost $175 with proceeds to benefit the BEN’s work “supporting both students and teachers and providing experiential learning opportunities in the arts, social studies, science and sailing”. A silent auction will also be held at the event.
2019. January 15. Barriers to the success of public school pupils must be swept aside, the new head of the education board said yesterday. Tim Jackson said: “While we have a significant number of students graduating from the Bermuda public school system who are doing well, we must also address the roadblocks that prevent some of our students from demonstrating their potential and abilities. As a board, we must work diligently to ensure that students and educators operate in schools that are clean, safe and operational.” Dr Jackson was speaking after he was appointed chairman of the Board of Education. The veteran teacher has more than two decades of public education experience in Bermuda and the United States. He served as head teacher at Sandys Secondary Middle School from 2007 to 2016. Dr Jackson also taught at Whitney Institute and was deputy principal at CedarBridge Academy. He said that the public often heard about the “negativity of public schools, and how they are failing our young people”. Dr Jackson added: “While I have the microphone, I will take the liberty of sharing a snapshot of the countless achievements and accomplishments of young Bermudians who have been educated in the Bermuda public school system.” He highlighted one former CedarBridge Academy pupil who went on to the University of Technology in Jamaica for a degree in mechanical engineering and last year completed a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering at Imperial College, London, one of the world’s premier science and technology universities. Dr Jackson added that four former Berkeley Institute pupils are now studying a variety of subjects at St John’s University in New York City, including risk management and underwriting. He said that Bermuda’s Plan 2022 strategy for education insisted that public school leavers must be “well prepared socially, emotionally and academically for postsecondary success. All students will have diverse and engaging learning opportunities. Furthermore, students will not just be exposed to a college-focused curriculum. They will also have access to career-focused training. Plan 2022 will ensure that each child is on an individualized pathway to personal success — a pathway that truly takes into account personal needs and interests.” Dr Jackson said that the board looked forward to “rolling up our sleeves and doing what is in the best interest of one of our most precious natural resources.” Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, said that Dr Jackson had a proven track record as a teacher. He added that a strong board of education was crucial in helping to improve the education system. Mr Rabain said: “We need strong visionaries and people committed to not only providing guidance but willing to hold those leading this reform accountable.” He added that the public education system faced “unique challenges”. Mr Rabain said: “The new board chairman and members have given their commitment to performing the tasks needed to reform education in Bermuda.” He added that the board had been asked to tackle increased incidents of disruptive behavior in classrooms and add its views on the Government’s proposal to phase out middle schools. Ru-Zelda Severin was appointed to the deputy chairwoman’s role. Ms Severin is a senior lecturer of Music and Education at Bermuda College. She has taught from preschool to university level during her 30-year career in education.
2019. January 14. A ground-breaking ceremony for an $11 million technology centre has been celebrated at Bermuda High School. Linda Parker, head of the school, said the start of construction was an important milestone. Ms Parker added: “This ambitious project was envisioned in response to the local and global need for more girls to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics, in combination with the arts. We have a responsibility to prepare our students for the jobs of today, as well as to anticipate future trends.” The school’s new Innovation Centre will prepare pupils for careers in science and technology-based subjects. The 15,000 sq ft centre, which will be built on part of a car park behind the school on land donated by the Bank of Butterfield, will include five new science labs, two computer science labs, and a leadership centre for girls. The centre was designed by architectural firm Linberg & Simmons in collaboration with education architects from Gensler in the United States. The Butterfield building next door will be renovated to house the new Arts Wing. Construction firm BCM McAlpine will oversee building work, which is scheduled to be completed by autumn 2020. Ms Parker said Grosvenor Tucker, the school’s founder, would have supported the construction of a “cathedral of learning”. She added: “Were she alive today, I believe that she would find this new direction entirely in keeping with her vision to provide the very best education for girls.” Catherine Hollingsworth, deputy head of the school, said that the school had done well to prepare pupils for higher education and the workforce. But she added: “Times are changing.” Ms Hollingsworth said the centre would encourage collaboration and communication skills in pupils. She added: “They are the students that we are going to be able to develop much better with our new building.” Ms Hollingsworth said the centre was designed to be “the heart of the school”. Mariette Savoie, school board chairwoman, said the groundbreaking was a “very special moment” for the school. She said that $10.7 million had already been raised to pay for the new building. Ms Savoie told donors: “Your gifts allow BHS to keep alive its promise to help bring the very best education for girls in Bermuda.” Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, said the new building was an example of “what can be achieved when the community and private sector works with education to achieve a goal on behalf of our children”. He added: “I would very much like to see more of these types of partnerships with education across the island.” Mr Rabain said that technology was an important part of education. He added that technical subjects were male-dominated, but insisted “that trend is rapidly changing”. Mr Rabain said: “Young girls across the island are showing their interest in the field and taking their place in these types of industries. For this, I am extremely happy.”
2019. January 8. Primary school pupils are prepared to avoid getting tangled up in gang culture after a six-week course designed to tackle antisocial behavior and violence. Ten students at Prospect Primary School in Pembroke, aged 10 or 11, completed the Gang Resistance Education and Training programme, run by two Customs officers. The youngsters said at their graduation ceremony yesterday they were now prepared to pass on the lessons they learnt. Makeila Wainwright, 11, said: “I learnt that once you get into a gang even though you come out, they will still view you as a gang member.” She added: “Once you get in a gang, you are always in a gang.” Classmate Teresa-Rose Burchall, 10, added: “When you get in a gang, people will see you as someone who is always in the gang and may still come after you when you leave the gang.” Teresa-Rose added: “I learnt that when you get bullied or you get mad, you should go to an adult to solve the problem. Savion Benjamin, 10, said he learnt not to be a bully. He added: “I also learned not to be a bystander. If you see someone bullying others, you should tell a teacher.” The ten said the Great programme was a “life-changing experience”. They also learnt about anger control, and to think about the potential consequences of their decisions. Customs officer Willis Dill said if the children practiced what they learnt then many of society’s problems could be eliminated. He added: “Parents, if your children follow some of the guidelines that we have given them, society won’t have a problem.” Colleague Lalisha Simmons said she enjoyed working with children. She added: “This has been going on for a number of years and it has been successful.” Wayne Caines, the national security minister, told the graduation class that the course was a good opportunity for them. He said: “I know through my life experiences that the building blocks for success actually happen at this stage. As a country, as a community, as a school, we have to do more. The Government will continue programmes such as Great as part of its drive to cut back on violent crime. Other programmes were being run in middle and high schools. The community also needed to work together. We need to start to heal and to help each other. We need to find opportunities where no matter where you are in our communities, we need to advocate for mentorship, for opportunities through education, but more importantly, we need to work as a community for families.” The Great programme was designed to teach life-skills to school pupils in an attempt to tackle antisocial behavior and crime. A total of 513 students in 22 primary and middle schools were trained under the programme last year. A four-strong team of Customs officers were trained last summer as instructors and tasked with carrying out training in six schools.
2019. January 3. It remains unclear when parents can expect to see progress report cards for public school pupils, the Minister of Education said today. Diallo Rabain said that discussions would begin “this week” between Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, Department of Education officers, head teachers and representatives with the Bermuda Union of Teachers “in determining revisions to the roll-out of grades and report cards”. He added: “An announcement will be made very soon on when those report cards will be released.” Mr Rabain was speaking a day after teachers took part in training on standards-based grading after a request from the Bermuda Union of Teachers. Teachers and the Government have been locked in conflict over a range of problems, including standards-based grading, which the teaching union said had added stress to already overburdened staff. Ms Richards yesterday apologized to teachers for “insufficient support, training and communication, and for the impact that it has had on principals, teachers and schools”.
2019. January 2. The Department of Education apologized to teachers today for “insufficient support, training and communication” about the introduction of standards-based grading. Kalmar Richards, Commissioner of Education, told teachers: “The decision to become a standards-based education system was a decision made for children. It was a decision in support of placing greater emphasis on quality teaching and fair and reliable grading practices; it was a decision to transform education for Bermuda’s children. That decision, although a decision for children, requires site-based execution of standards-based education practices and principles by principals, teachers and other school staff.” Ms Richards added: “When we assess where we are at this very moment with the implementation of standards-based education, we, the Department of Education, recognize that we need to provide more communication, more training and more support for principals and teachers in order to place you in a position to execute SBG practices with fidelity and confidence. We apologise for insufficient support, training and communication and for the impact that it has had on principals, teachers and schools.” The comments came as the Department hosted a workshop for teachers on standards-based grading in response to a request from the Bermuda Union of Teachers. A Government spokeswoman said the training is intended to help develop a “common understanding” of the system, share information about the way forward and communicate what support will be made available to educators. The Government has been at conflict with teachers over a range of issues, including the introduction of standards-based grading, which the union claimed has caused anxiety for teachers. Diallo Rabain, Minister of Education, said teachers had “refused” to enter grades, but the BUT said they had not been properly trained in the new system.
2019. January 2. The Bermuda Education Network will hold a Chinese new year celebration at its Outstanding Teacher Awards ceremony next month. Becky Ausenda, the executive director of the BEN, said: “Following the success of our previous events, we are again pulling out all the stops to deliver the best Chinese new year celebration the island has ever seen, including a repeat performance of amazing traditional Chinese entertainment with a rare performance by a traditional Chinese face-changer.” Nominations for the teacher award can be entered by all educators on the BEN’s website on bermudaeducationnetwork.com. The third annual event will take place at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club on February 8 at 7pm. Traditional Chinese face-changer Yang Shuwang will form part of the entertainment. Proceeds from the event go towards the BEN’s work with public schools. Tickets, available from bdatix.bm, include welcome drinks and a buffet and wine. A silent auction of prizes donated by hotels, artists, photographers, chefs and others will be held, followed by dancing.
2018. December 19. A group set up to support public schools has called on the public to help ease a shortage of classroom supplies. Support Public Schools hopes people will be inspired by the donation of $1,000 to every primary school on the island by the Green family, owners of the Hamilton Princess, after they were contacted by the organisation. Juliana Snelling, founder of SPS, said: “We are all acutely aware of the urgent need that our public schoolteachers have for state-of-the-art classroom supplies and resources. We are so grateful for the generosity of the Green family and we hope that their magnanimous act inspires others to support our public schools. Bermuda is a small place but that just means that this initiative and the public’s generosity can make a real impact and help to enrich our classrooms.” Schools spent the cash from the Greens on items such as colour printers, write and wipe clocks, mini football nets, art supplies and comfy floor seats. The group contacted the family of tycoon Peter Green after they learnt they had given scholarships to Bermudian university students. Alexander Green, one of Mr Green’s sons, said: “We’re pleased to be able to help Bermuda’s public schools and support their teachers in their mission to provide a first-class education for children.” Support Public Schools has generated $85,000 worth of assistance for primary schools since June. SPS was founded to enlist the help of members of the public who wanted to support public schools. Teachers are asked to identify what they need, from board marker pens to musical instruments to language-learning software. The specified equipment is bought at discount prices from Hamilton-based retailers AF Smith and Phoenix Stores. Second-hand supplies, games, puzzles and paper are also welcomed.
2018. December 18. Students in public schools will not receive report cards until next year, according to the Department of Education. A government spokeswoman said: “In response to feedback from key stakeholder groups inclusive of the Bermuda Union of Teachers and school principals, the Department of Education advises parents that we will not disseminate report cards in December 2018. “The next steps in relation to the reporting of grades and the implementation of standards-based grading will be communicated to parents in January 2019, after we finalize with stakeholder groups, the way forward for both of these critical matters. The Department of Education remains committed to working collaboratively with principals, schools and the BUT to improve the outcomes of students in the Bermuda public school system.” The announcement comes after weeks of conflict between the Government and teachers over issues, including the introduction of standards-based grading. Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, said teachers had “refused” to enter grades, but the BUT said they had not been properly trained in the new system.
2018. December 13. Residents have given top marks to teachers who staged a mass sick-out. Members of the public told The Royal Gazette the Bermuda Government should give teachers what they need to do their jobs, tackle long-running concerns about the state of the island’s schools and stop wasting money on administration. The Bermuda Union of Teachers took action on Monday after it claimed the Ministry of Education had not listened to its complaints about a new standards-based grading system, training for teachers, staffing levels, technology problems, and health and safety fears. The Gazette took to the streets in Hamilton to assess the level of support for the teachers’ industrial action. Josie Richardson, 56, said: “Even though it’s unfortunate, they have to take a stand sometimes in order to let the senior management and Government know that they’re serious. I do support the teachers. I think it’s very important that the teachers have the tools that they need in order to do their jobs and they can’t do their jobs effectively if they don’t have the proper tools. The wellbeing of our children is the most important thing.” One man, who is married to a public-school teacher and asked not to be named, said: “This problem has been going on for a number of years in Bermuda, and it’s finally coming to a head. There is a very heavy administration problem in the Bermuda educational system that has to be dealt with. Unfortunately, the action that needs to be taken is going to be very difficult because it’s going to impact people. At some point, you need to make sure that the costs that are going to the facilities and administration are actually being put into the right places — the children’s education.” One Hamilton man, who also asked not to be named, said he opposed the teachers’ stand. He said: “I feel for the students because they missed out on school and were affected. I know about the financial difficulties that teachers are facing, especially with the Bermuda Government and what’s going on with their supplies. I do understand where the teachers are coming from, but I don’t believe that they should have done it in that way.” A woman who also asked not to be named, said: “I probably would have preferred a different approach primarily because I like the Minister of Education and he seems to be doing everything he can to improve our educational system.” Another woman said she had sat on a parent-teacher association. She added there was “never enough supplies” and “always a lot of politics within the system”. The woman said: “Just give the teachers their supplies. They shouldn’t have to send lists every year asking for toilet paper, paper towels, pencils and so on. That should be supplied to our children. Allow the teachers to do their job and do it to the best of their ability. At the end of the day, it’s not about politics, it’s about our children. So to separate it out of the Government’s hands would be a fantastic idea because that way the principals will do what they have to do for our children.” Raven Pearman, 25, said that the strike was “definitely warranted”. Ms Pearman, who wants to be a teacher, added: “I feel like the Government should fix the problem. Why would they allow our youth to be sick? It’s terrible to even think about the schools covered in black mould, and they’re doing nothing about it. I wouldn’t want to be in a school full of black mould, and I definitely wouldn’t want the children to be there. I would be on strike so that the students wouldn’t have to be there.” A poll on The Royal Gazette’s Twitter profile found 79 our of 96 voters were in support of the teachers, but a Gazette Facebook poll found 78 in support and 88 against.
2018. December 13. Failure to fix problems in public schools will allow divisions in society to fester, an independent senator warned yesterday. Michelle Simmons said: “If we fail to fix this, we will continue to be plagued by inequalities in our community.” Ms Simmons, a former Berkeley Institute head teacher, said that the inequalities would lead to “disaffection, feelings of not belonging, a sense that public education is not worth anything, also a sense there is nothing here for me, and therefore the separation continues in our society”. She added: “It really does hurt to see what is happening right now in public education.” Ms Simmons was speaking during the motion to adjourn at yesterday’s Senate session. The warning came after the Bermuda Union of Teachers gave the Government a list of 23 problems that teachers said had to be tackled. The list included concerns over the standards-based pupil grading system, inadequate staffing and resources, technology problems and health and safety fears. Ms Simmons said: “We cannot afford, in this country, to continue to expect the best if we don’t put it in to our schools.” She added that a strong and vibrant public education system ensured “that we are doing right by every person in this country”. Ms Simmons said that parents should not be forced to place their children in private schools to ensure a good education. She added she believed that problems in the public school system could be fixed. But she said that it would require a “unified effort” from parents, pupils, principals, teachers and the Government. She added: “Everyone must be part of the solution.” Ms Simmons said the majority of teachers and administrators in the Government wanted the best for Bermuda’s youngsters. But she added: “There has to be a meeting of the minds — there has to be a coming together.” Jason Hayward, a Progressive Labour Party senator, backed Ms Simmons’s call for all parties to come together to tackle education. He added: “We must get it right — we are aiming to get it right.” Mr Hayward, the president of the Bermuda Public Service Union, which represents head teachers, said that some of the concerns of teachers and principals could not be fixed overnight. He added: “We have had a legacy of issues with public education.” Mr Hayward said the need for additional teaching assistants had created “huge issues”. He said the issues that teachers and principals faced “transcend industrial relations”. Mr Hayward explained: “These are not terms and conditions and contractual issues.” The father of three public-school students said he knew his children were learning. He added: “I don’t view it from a lens where my children are at some severe disadvantage because they are in the public-school system.” Mr Hayward said that Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, was putting his “best foot forward. Despite the challenges, progress is still being made.” James Jardine urged Mr Rabain to “stay the course”. The independent senator said he believed public education had “suffered greatly” from the “swinging door” of education ministers. Mr Jardine added that Mr Rabain had a tough job. He explained: “There is no way he is going to satisfy everyone — and it is mainly because of the numerous issues that are facing the public education system.” Mr Jardine said there needed to be a “strong and building communication” between Mr Rabain and schools staff. He added: “It can be done — and I have no doubt it will be done.” Public schools across the island were forced to close on Monday after a mass sick-out was staged by teachers. Anthony Wolffe, vice-president of the Bermuda Union of Teachers, said on Monday that teacher morale was at an “all-time low” and that industrial action was the only way to get the education ministry to deal with “grave concerns” raised by the union. Head teachers have been on a work-to-rule since October 19.
2018. December 11. Bermuda’s public school system is past fixing, the president of a primary school parent-teacher association warned yesterday. Danielle Riviere, the president of the West Pembroke Primary School Parent Teacher Association, said that it was time that the island admitted “that the education system is broken”. She added: “It’s time to change the conversation from how to fix it to how to replace it.” Ms Riviere was speaking after a mass sick-out yesterday by teachers, who are expected to return to classrooms today. Commissioner of Education Kalmar Richards said last night that Ministry and Department of Education leaders would meet with Bermuda Union of Teachers representatives today, under the guidance of a Labour Relations Officer. Ms Richards said: “We remain optimistic that we can resolve the issues at hand, together.” Ms Riviere said that problems with the public school system were not new. She added that the state of the system was at “an all-time low”. Ms Riviere said: “Now we have a situation that appears to be a literal standoff between the Ministry of Education and teachers.” She said that she backed the industrial action taken by teachers. Ms Riviere explained: “They are on the front lines and have to deal with the constant ramifications of an inept system.” She added: “We need immediate solutions to the current issues plaguing our schools, student behavior issues, lack of learning support teachers, technology upgrades and the standards-based grading debacle. We need the education ministry and department not to bend to the will of the teachers but to find the funds and wherewithal to create an environment that allows teachers to teach in a manner reflective of the 21st century in a country deemed to be affluent.” Almost all the teachers at West Pembroke called in sick last month over a range of complaints, including a shortage of teaching assistants. Ms Riviere warned at the time that similar action could be repeated at other schools. Teaching assistants across the island staged a similar sick-out last Friday. Anthony Wolffe, vice-president of the Bermuda Union of Teachers, confirmed yesterday that industrial action would not continue today. Mr Wolffe said: “Schools will be open. Teachers will be at their positions.” But he added that teacher morale was at an “all-time low”. Mr Wolffe said yesterday that industrial action was the only way to get the education ministry to deal with “grave concerns” raised by the union. He added: “We are here in an attempt to save public education for the future of our children.” Mr Wolffe said that the BUT had given the Government a list of 23 problems that had to be tackled. He added: “First, we demand the retraction of the use of standards-based grading until there is proof, with supporting data, that the infrastructure is in place for its implementation and that all teachers are properly trained and have mastered its use.” Other worries included inadequate staffing and resources, technology problems and health and safety fears. Ms Richards asked the union yesterday to order its members to return to work. She said: “We are ready to re-engage with the BUT, through the Labour Relations Office. We see this as the best way forward for the sake of our children.” Ms Richards said that the new standards-based grading system had been the main concern raised by the union in recent months. Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, announced last Friday that teachers would be given training in the new pupil grading system next month. Shannon James, the president of the BUT, said that yesterday’s industrial action by teachers and principals showed “how strongly they feel about the issues within education”. He added: “While the actions teachers have taken have very regrettably affected students, they feel that the issues that remain outstanding have an even greater impact on our young people. We need to get this resolved and I would invite the minister — and the Premier — to sit down with us and find a way forward. No teacher wants to harm the education of our young people and all teachers want to resolve this situation so they can do what they love doing — helping Bermuda’s young people.” Ms Richards said that additional concerns had been submitted to Mr Rabain by the BUT on November 29 and that the minister had met union executives on December 3. She added: “There was no indication on the part of the BUT that they were dissatisfied with the process that was being followed to address their concerns. In fact, one of the BUT leaders stated that the ongoing communication was beneficial.” Mr Rabain said yesterday that he had backed off on plans to insist that teaching assistants provide a sick note for their absence last week. He added that he had changed his mind in “the interest of strengthening relations with the BUT and focusing on working to fix the problems”. Mr Rabain said: “Consequently, no teacher will have to submit a sick note explaining their absence last week.” He said the Government would continue talks with the BUT “to address the concerns they have raised and to ensure that the interests of our children come first”.
2018. December 10. A mass sick-out by schoolteachers closed public schools across the island today. But instructors will be back in the classroom tomorrow, a union representative confirmed this afternoon. Anthony Wolffe, vice-president of the Bermuda Union of Teachers, confirmed that job action taken today would not continue tomorrow. Mr Wolffe said: “Schools will be open. Teachers will be at their positions.” He added that teachers would remain on the job as long as discussions between the Ministry of Education, the union and the Labour Relations Office “are going successfully”. Mr Wolffe was speaking after Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, this afternoon called on the BUT “to ask members to return to their respective schools tomorrow”. She added: “We are ready to re-engage with the BUT, through the Labour Relations Office. We see this as the best way forward for the sake of our children.” Ms Richards said that the new standards-based grading system had been the main concern raised by the union in recent months. Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, announced on Friday that teachers would be provided with instructions next month on the new pupil grading system. Shannon James, the president of the BUT, earlier said teachers were “confused” on the grading system. Ms Richards said that additional concerns had been submitted to Mr Rabain in writing by the BUT on November 29. She added that the minister had met with union executives on December 3. Ms Richards said: “There was no indication on the part of the BUT that they were dissatisfied with the process that was being followed to address their concerns. In fact, one of the BUT leaders stated that the ongoing communication was beneficial.” A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Education confirmed the job action this morning. She said: “The Ministry of Education regrets to inform the public that due to an island-wide industrial action by teachers, all public schools will be closed today. The ministry is working diligently to attain a swift and amicable resolution to this dispute to ensure the safety and educational security of our children. The ministry apologizes to Bermuda’s parents and students for the inconvenience.” Danielle Riviere, the president of the West Pembroke Primary School Parent Teacher Association, said that problems with the public school system were nothing new. But she added: “Now we have a situation that appears to be a literal standoff between the Ministry of Education and teachers.” Ms Riviere said that she backed the industrial action taken by teachers. She explained: “They are on the front lines and have to deal with the constant ramifications of an inept system. We need immediate solutions to the current issues plaguing our schools — student behavioral issues, lack of learning support teachers, technology upgrades and the standards-based grading debacle. We need the Education Ministry and Department not to bend to the will of the teachers but to find the funds and wherewithal to create an environment that allows teachers to teach in a manner reflective of the 21st Century in a country deemed to be affluent.” She said that it was time to acknowledge that the education system in Bermuda was “broken”. Ms Riviere added: “It’s time to change the conversation from how to fix it to how to replace it.” Almost all teachers at West Pembroke called in sick last month over a range of complaints, including a shortage of teaching assistants. Ms Riviere warned at the time that similar action could be repeated at schools across the island. Mr James said that the job action by teachers and principals showed “how strongly they feel about the issues within education”. He added: “While the actions teachers have taken have very regrettably affected students, they feel that the issues that remain outstanding have an even greater impact on our young people. We need to get this resolved and I would invite the minister — and the Premier — to sit down with us and find a way forward. No teacher wants to harm the education of our young people and all teachers want to resolve this situation so they can do what they love doing — helping Bermuda’s young people.” Mr Rabain announced this morning he had backed off on plans to require that teaching assistants provide a sick note for an island-wide sick-out last Friday. Mr Rabain said that move was made in “the interest of strengthening relations with the Bermuda Union of Teachers and focusing on working to fix the problems. Consequently, no teacher will have to submit a sick note explaining their absence last week.” Mr Rabain said the Government would continue talks with the BUT “to address the concerns they have raised and to ensure that the interests of our children come first”. Evelyn James-Barnett, director of communications for Bermuda College, said that the college remained open today and that exams would be held as scheduled.
2018. December 7. A sickout staged by teaching assistants across the island yesterday was “completely unacceptable”, said the Minister of Education. But the head of the teachers’ union laid the blame for the job action at the minister’s door. The teaching assistants’ sickout came amid continued frustration at the Bermuda Union of Teachers over a lack of resources and staff support at schools. Diallo Rabain confirmed that para-educators “throughout our system” had been “instructed to call in sick”. He said: “Para-educators are an important portion of our teaching experiences. Without para-educators within the school system, we run the risk of putting our students at real risk. And, at the end of the day, it’s about our students.” Mr Rabain was speaking as he delivered an update on talks between the Ministry of Education and the union about teachers’ concerns. He said that, as a parent of a public school pupil, he had faith in the system “to deliver a high-quality educational experience”. But he added: “This cannot be achieved with these constant disruptions we have been experiencing lately. It is having a negative effect on all of our students and their educational experience.” Mr Rabain said that despite “positive discussions” with the union “we are still faced with action from the BUT and their members at an unsustainable rate”. He said the BUT had sent a list of “23 items of concern” last week. Mr Rabain said that some of the concerns “had already been addressed or were in the process of being addressed”. He added: “The concerns remaining require long-term solutions and ways to go about addressing them were also discussed.” Shannon James, the president of the BUT, said yesterday that Mr Rabain needed “to talk less and act more The time for talking has long gone.” Mr James said that inaction by Mr Rabain on teacher concerns had hurt pupils more than industrial action. He explained: “The list of issues we have highlighted all impact the students because our teachers cannot do their job effectively. The sickout was a direct result of the Government’s failure to tackle problems highlighted last week. As I said then, people have just had enough and that has not changed. Many teaching assistants did not get breaks, worked without a job description, and had not been given entitlements under the collective bargaining agreement. We have education therapists with no job descriptions, we still do not have education officers for maths, English and science. Where there used to be nine mentor teachers, there are now three, and there are no allocated substitute teachers at primary schools.” Mr James said that windows and fire alarms in some schools were broken and computers lacked proper software. Almost all teachers at West Pembroke Primary School called in sick last Friday over a range of complaints, including a shortage of teaching assistants. Danielle Riviere, the president of the West Pembroke Primary School Parent Teacher Association, warned that similar action could be repeated at schools across the island. Judith Alexander, the principal of Purvis Primary School, added that “most” problems faced by teachers at West Pembroke “are faced by all teachers”. Ms Alexander said in a letter sent to parents yesterday that the island’s education system was in “a state of uncertainty”. She said that a work-to-rule launched by head teachers last month was “in protest at unbearable working conditions. Talks to resolve problems were not making good progress. There is the possibility that school personnel will be called on to down tools.” Ms Alexander said parents would be notified by e-mail of any industrial action. The head teacher said school staff were “committed to providing the best education. We are appreciative of the support that we receive from our parents.” Cole Simons, the shadow education minister, said yesterday that he was “very distressed with the state of play with our teachers, paraprofessionals, principals, the BUT and the minister. The tension, dysfunction and challenge that we see today truly demonstrates how the minister and the ministry are disconnected from what really transpires in our schools from a teaching, paraprofessional, administrative, professional development and support perspective and, more importantly, parental perspective. More synergy and better communication were needed among all involved so there is a higher level of trust." He suggested the time might have come for an independent education authority.
2018. December 7. Teachers have refused to enter pupils’ grades into an all-schools computer network, the education minister admitted yesterday. But the head of the teachers’ union called the minister’s comments “very misleading”. Diallo Rabain said teachers had been told by the Bermuda Union of Teachers to “not enter grades into our system”. He said: “For teachers to be told not to enter grades into the system is a dangerous precedent that is being set and we intend to address that.” Mr Rabain added that the union move was “completely unacceptable”. He was speaking as he delivered an update on talks between the Ministry of Education and the union about teachers’ concerns. Mr Rabain was asked to confirm that pupils would receive report cards this term. He said that he had earlier announced that midterm report cards would not be issued. Mr Rabain added that parent-teacher conferences would be held to give parents updates on their children’s progress. Shannon James, the president of the BUT, said Mr Rabain’s comments were “very misleading”. Mr James said teachers were “confused” on the standards-based grading system. He added: “Therefore, the grades that have been entered have not been as accurate as they need to be.” Mr James described the standards-based grading system as “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. He explained: “The ways in which teachers have arrived at a grade has varied from school to school due to the lack of training around standards-based grading. Parents have expressed great concern over teachers not being able to explain this new way of grading and it has left them utterly confused.” Mr Rabain announced last month that the implementation of a new standards-based grading system was to be suspended. He admitted that teacher training for the new standards-based grading model “wasn’t as good as it should have been” but that measures had been taken to improve teacher preparation. Mr Rabain added at the time: “We are not looking to have any grading come out until December.” Mike Charles, the general secretary of the BUT, said last month that the union had “advocated strongly” for a delay in the introduction of the new reporting system. Mr Charles said that teachers “widely supported” standards-based grading, but problems with its introduction had caused “a lot of anxiety”. The new grading system was introduced in September. Kalmar Richards, then Acting Commissioner of Education, said in a letter sent to parents in June that the new evaluation system ensured “that all students, no matter which school they attend, are taught the same standards and learning objectives”. Scores of 0 to 4 will be given to pupils for their work under the new system, designed to replace the former percentage or letter grades. The letter said a score of four showed advanced understanding exceeding grade level and a zero indicated no evidence or insufficient evidence of learning. A total of eight report cards a year are to be sent to parents under the new rules.
2018. December 6. A former acting education commissioner has been renamed to the post for a one-month stint. Llewellyn Simmons, Director of Academics with the Department of Education, was appointed to act as Commissioner of Education effective December 1. Dr Simmons will serve in the role until December 31. The appointment was announced in a notice published on the Government’s website on Tuesday. Kalmar Richards was named Commissioner of Education in September. Ms Richards, the former CedarBridge Academy principal, had acted in the role since last December after Freddie Evans was removed from the post two months earlier. Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, said this morning that Ms Richards was on compassionate leave.
2018. December 5. Teachers at West Pembroke Primary School have returned to the classroom after they staged a sickout last week. Mike Charles, general secretary of the Bermuda Union of Teachers, said: “Representatives had a meeting and all the teachers are back at work but the problems have not been solved — these are systemic problems. The teachers are adamant that they need to be fixed.” But Mr Charles added: “It all depends on whether or not the Ministry of Education has the will to do it. I would hope that this action has an impact for the sake of our children because that is who is being disadvantaged by all of this. There are problems throughout the system — it is not only West Pembroke. They are not exactly the same in every school but these are problems throughout the system. We don’t know if other schools will follow suit but only time will tell.” A government spokeswoman confirmed the Ministry of Education had met the BUT and the Parent Teacher Association at the school in the wake of the sickout last Friday. She said: “The issues submitted to the Department of Education by the school’s PTA were discussed and the ministry shared the proposed resolutions, some of which have been in place since November 19. The ministry is making a concerted effort to work with the parents and teachers at West Pembroke to resolve their concerns and that of our entire public school system.” She added that the results of the meetings and proposals by the Government would be revealed later. Almost all of the school’s teachers took industrial action on Friday over a range of problems, including the lack of a teaching assistant for pupils on the autism spectrum disorder programme and a lower-school support teacher. A parent of a child at West Pembroke said that the Ministry of Education needed to be more in touch. The parent said: “It is very obvious the schools and teachers are under-resourced and underfunded for basics needed to maximize learning for our most vulnerable members of society, five-year-old public school students. It appears obvious the ministry is out of touch with the teachers on the front line.” The parent suggested that employees at the education ministry should spend four days a year in classrooms so they could see the problems faced by frontline staff. The parent added: “This should go for the Minister of Education also. If I was minister, this is what I would do to be sure I was in touch and had my finger on the pulse of the front line. To have a single learning support teacher in a school of 200 children when there were two last year is unfathomable and unforgivable if we are genuinely looking to improve our society.”
2018. December 1. Head teachers have demanded details of plans to axe the island’s middle schools. Ed Ball, general secretary of the Bermuda Public Services Union, said yesterday that school principals wanted more information about the Government’s proposal to phase out middle schools in favour of “signature” specialist schools at the senior level. Mr Ball said: “Specifically, principals want to be provided access to the research that supports this proposal.” He added: “Clarification is needed on whether there will be school closures and what will be the impact on staffing levels.” He was speaking as it was confirmed that work-to-rule industrial action started by head teachers last month would continue. Mr Ball said that “principals will strictly adhere to the spirit of their job duties and responsibilities as outlined in their job descriptions”. He added that the prime mover behind the industrial action was “the increased incidents of adverse student behaviors, which are compromising the safety of students, teachers and principals, and must be addressed”. Mr Ball said head teachers and school staff were dealing with behavior that should be referred to internal specialists, including educational therapists and para-educators. He said: “As there is an acute shortage of these services in many of the schools, staff are not equipped, and do not have the resources or clear guidelines, to address disruptive students. As a result of these behaviors, students, school staff and principals are becoming traumatized. Unfortunately, some parents are adding to the stress because they are unaware of the gravity of their child’s behavior that is creating an unsafe environment. This is unacceptable.” Mr Ball said that the special needs of some students made it impossible for them to be enrolled in private schools. He added: “Principals recognize that the Government is committed to assisting these special needs students, however, this must be done with the appropriate resources.” Mr Ball said there had also been an “increased usage of administrative leave” imposed on teachers and school staff who attempted to “physically control an at-risk child”. He added: “This punitive measure against the principals, teachers and support staff is not sustainable.” Several other concerns were raised by the union, including staff shortages, lack of resources and curriculum changes. Mr Ball said that the profession’s concerns “must be addressed immediately”. He added: “The principals have had enough.”
2018. November 30. Almost all teachers called in sick at West Pembroke Primary School today. They have taken action amid frustration at the lack of a para educator for autistic pupils and a lower school support teacher. Most of the 217 pupils did not attend school, but about 14 were under the supervision of a substitute teacher. PTA head Danielle Riviere said parents were fully behind the action and some arrived during the day to collect their children. She warned similar sickouts could take place across the island if the education ministry fails to address staffing problems. It comes after the Bermuda Union of Teachers (BUT) advised teachers were at breaking point over a number of burning issues. BUT general secretary Mike Charles refused today to rule out further action at other schools. And a work-to-rule by public school principals continues, a union representative said this afternoon. Edward Ball, general secretary of the Bermuda Public Services Union, confirmed that the job action started on October 19 was still in place. Ms Riviere said: “Our teachers have called in sick in support of the industrial action by the union. We have stepped in to support our children where we can. We want to make the ministry aware the parents are in support of the teachers. We encourage the rest of the community to be prepared because it will be happening in other schools. The teachers have had enough and as parents we want people to recognize that. Teachers are also having some major concerns with behavioral issues. Teachers are not doing this action for themselves, we are doing it because our children deserve better. The reality is that teachers are salaried individuals, but we as parents are the clients and we have to make our voices heard.” Jamal Anderson, whose son Shiloh, 7, is a Primary 3 pupil at the school, said parents received an e-mail at 7.15am warning some teachers would be absent. He said: “When we arrived at the school, the principal was on hand to say there would be none in today. Parents from the PTA were there just in case, to watch the kids.” Mr Anderson said one of his friends had withdrawn their child from the school because of the lack of teaching support. He added: “Parents support the teachers. The PTA is excellent and has kept us abreast of the situation.” Joan Milner arrived at the school at about 10.30am to collect her 10-year-old granddaughter. She explained: “A friend called me and told me that there are no teachers at the school, I said, ‘What? I haven’t had a phone call from my granddaughter, she would probably call me. I decided to come and see what’s happening and take her with me. We’ve been reading in the papers and a lot of teachers are dissatisfied with the status quo at the moment, and I don’t know if it’s related to that.” Ms Milner, who usually collects her granddaughter at the end of the school day, said she supported teachers taking action. She continued: “I’ve been hearing they need a couple extra teachers to help and other things like crumbling infrastructure.” Ms Milner added: “These are our children, these are our future and the teachers are concerned about the children and their futures and what’s needed to help them.” She found her granddaughter, a Primary 6 pupil, enjoying art tasks with the other remaining students and they were looking forward to pizza for lunch, so she agreed to return later. A father collecting his daughter said parents had been informed of the situation in a social media group chat. He said: “It’s very frustrating, there are kids that are here to learn. My daughter’s upset, she’s a very intelligent little girl and she wants to stay here to learn. I’m sure other kids are the same.” Teachers launched a work-to-rule at West Pembroke earlier in the month after pointing to staff shortages, poor teacher training and low-quality technology. Shannon James, the union president, said on Wednesday that “people have just had enough” and that Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, had heard “in no uncertain way how teachers felt” at a BUT meeting on Tuesday night. Mr Charles said today: “We detailed, this week, a list of issues that we want tackling and this was one of them. In our original statement we said the ASD programme teachers have no breaks, including lunch, no preparation time and lack of adequate staffing. Para educators are working without a job description, many do not have breaks from their assigned students and they are not given their full entitlements under the collective bargaining agreement. West Pembroke has had significant issues in this regard and we are in full support of the teachers there who are working in very difficult circumstances with insufficient support and a lack of personnel which stops them doing the job they need, and want, to do. This action is an attempt to get someone to notice the issues the school is facing. They have had discussions with the Minister of Education and were promised that their issues would be a priority. This, and the other problems we highlighted this week including, the need for special officers for maths, English, science, to be in place immediately, the need for more mentor teachers, job descriptions for preschool administrators, a lack of allocated substitute teachers in primary schools, the need for non-teaching deputies in all schools, a fast assessment process for students who need support services and job descriptions for education therapists, need to be addressed urgently. The question about other schools following this path, is not in our control. The BUT will be guided the dictates of the members.” Mr Ball said: “On October 19, 2018, the Bermuda Public Services Union (BPSU), on behalf of school principals, informed the Ministry of Education that principals had voted to work-to-rule. Work-to-rule means that the principals will strictly adhere to the spirit of their job duties and responsibilities as outlined in their job descriptions. Principals will work from 8.30am to 3.30pm and will continue to follow all safety and other regulations. Principals will not work during their lunch breaks, during extended unpaid hours after school or on weekends. Historically, it has been the norm for the principals to work these extra hours in order to complete their daily administrative core duties. At this time, the work-to-rule action continues. The impetus for the work-to-rule mandate is the increased incidents of adverse student behaviors which are compromising the safety of students, teachers and principals which must be addressed. Principals and school staff are being subjected to student behaviors that must be referred to internal resources such as educational therapists (ETs), ET assistants and special para educators. As there is an acute shortage of these services in many of the schools, staff are not equipped, and do not have the resources or clear guidelines to address disruptive students. As a result of these behaviors, students, school staff and principals are becoming traumatized. Unfortunately, some parents are adding to the stress because they are unaware of the gravity of their child’s behavior that is creating an unsafe environment. This is unacceptable. Many of these students cannot be enrolled in private schools because of their special needs and the costly resources required to provide these daily services. principals recognize that the Government is committed to assisting these special needs students, however, this must be done with the appropriate resources. There has been increased usage of ‘administrative leave’ levied against school staff who attempt to physically control an at-risk child. This punitive measure against the principal, teachers and support staff is not sustainable. Resultantly, the principals have had enough. Added to these concerns, the following items must be addressed immediately:
• Changes to curriculum design during the academic year. In addition, principals are requesting information on the ministry’s proposed transition to signature schools. Specifically, principals want to be provided access to the research that supports this proposal. Clarification is needed on whether there will be school closures and what will be the impact on staffing levels. It is essential that the educators be supported by the Ministry of Education in their continuing efforts to improve students’ outcomes and experiences in the 21st century classrooms. Principals continue to be committed to these outcomes, however, in order to do this, it is essential that they have the adequate resources, training, infrastructure coupled with buy-in from the community and parents.”
2018. November 29. Higher education is “for everybody”, a visiting overseas law lecturer said yesterday. James Slater, a senior lecturer at the University of Buckingham, said that it was essential that pupils not underestimate their potential. He added: “No society can neglect the social mobility that an open higher education system provides. It’s key.” Dr Slater will be representing the university at the Bermuda International College and University Fair, which takes place today at the Berkeley Institute. He said his visit to the island was also to rekindle the relationship between Bermuda and the university to help to promote the school. Dr Slater, 52, explained: “Although there is a fabulous network of alumni, you can’t rely on word of mouth alone. We should have been coming here more often, we should have been meeting with people and making those connection — and that’s what brought me back.” He said that “dozens” of Bermudians had studied law at the school, which opened in 1976. Dr Slater said that all postsecondary schools were interested in attracting high-quality students. He added: “Bermuda is just that kind of place.” Dr Slater was speaking to The Royal Gazette yesterday after a visit to CedarBridge Academy. He described the impression left by students as “very positive”. Stops to private schools the Bermuda High School for Girls, Mount St Agnes and Saltus are also scheduled as part of the trip. Dr Slater described the island’s secondary education system as “very good”. He added: “It’s producing very good 18 and 19-year-olds. So any university would want to be here.” Dr Slater said that Bermudian pupils should consider a law degree because it provided a broad range of knowledge that could be applied to a number of careers. He added: “It’s a bit like the O blood group — it’s very compatible.” Dr Slater said that law offered “a very diverse and challenging and rewarding career”.
2018. November 28. Teachers have hit the limit over a litany of problems hampering performance for schools and students, according to a statement from the Bermuda Union of Teachers. The BUT held a meeting last night, at which educators opted to take an unspecified “appropriate action” and shared their grievances with Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education. Shannon James, the union president, said that “people have just had enough” and that Mr Rabain heard “in no uncertain way how teachers felt”. The BUT agreed to write its concerns to Mr Rabain as well as Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, and the permanent secretary. Mr James said the union executive would settle on a course of action based on “what happens next and whether the minister, PS and commissioner want to meet straight away to get the issues resolved”. Problems at buildings include inoperable windows and fire alarms, outdated computers and software, a lack of wi-fi for staff, and a dearth of basic equipment such as projectors and boards. Autism programme teachers have been left without lunch breaks and preparation time, and were said to be short staffed. Para educators lack a job description, with some also failing to get breaks or their full Collective Bargaining Agreement entitlements, the statement added. Staff were said to struggle with inadequate preparation time, as well as a lack of staffing and resources that includes the absence of a music teacher at Sandys Secondary Middle School, a lack of substitute and learning support teachers, and poor support for students with behavioral issues. Mike Charles, the BUT general secretary, said teachers were “effectively working with one hand tied behind their backs and cannot get the job done properly”. Mr Charles added: “Every teacher is desperate to help Bermuda’s young people — but the conditions and resources are inadequate and the teachers have had enough.” The BUT statement listed other shortcomings, including a lack of education officers, mentor teachers, non-teaching deputies, and specialists for maths, English and science. Job descriptions were said to be lacking for preschool administrators and education therapists, while some teachers had been repeatedly hired annually without yearly contracts. The BUT said there was no curriculum for several departments — and called for a quicker assessment for students needing support, along with less red tape to exempt students from the Cambridge assessment.
2018. November 22. A botched attempt to introduce a new grading standard for schools has added extra stress to already under-pressure teachers, a union leader said yesterday. Mike Charles, general secretary of the Bermuda Union of Teachers, added that the work involved in changing the system distracted the profession from its main role of teaching pupils. Mr Charles said that teachers “widely supported” standards-based grading and that problems with its introduction had caused “a lot of anxiety”. He explained: “They recognized that they were not prepared to meet the revised expectations and, in fact, the expectations themselves were a moving target. Unfortunately, these situations create distractions from the work of serving students and add tension to what is already a very high-stress environment.” Mr Charles was speaking after Diallo Rabain, the education minister, announced this week that use of the new standards-based grading system was to be suspended. Mr Rabain admitted that teacher training for the new standards-based grading model “wasn’t as good as it should have been” but that measures had been taken to improve teacher preparation. He said: “We are not looking to have any grading come out until December.” Mr Rabain said that the proposal for standards-based grading “was something that came into effect three years ago” under Wayne Scott, then minister of education for the One Bermuda Alliance. He added that teacher training for the system started under Mr Scott and continued under his successor, Cole Simons. Mr Rabain said meetings had been held with the teaching union on the training programme for the new grading system as far back as May. He added: “When it came September, we realised we still had a little bit more work to do.” Mr Charles said that teachers’ concerns about the new system were sparked by “the challenges that are real on the ground. We recognize that sometimes the public, and perhaps even the Ministry of Education, think our concerns are just noise. Perhaps some think that we aren’t willing to do the work.” Mr Charles said that teachers were in fact “being proactive and sounding the alarm. There is much work to be done. We are ready to work, but we also need the right support. The union has advocated strongly” for a delay in the introduction of the new reporting standards. While we have yet to learn of a revised plan, we are glad that the Ministry of Education has acknowledged the significant challenges and hope that a more effective implementation plan will be forthcoming.” Mr Charles said a steering committee made up of teachers had been established to help boost training in the new system. He added that he had “heard talk” of teachers who had already been trained in the new system helping to train other teachers. However, he said: “To my knowledge, nothing substantial has been accomplished.” The new grading system was introduced in September. Kalmar Richards, then Acting Commissioner of Education, said in a letter sent to parents in June that the new evaluation system ensured “that all students, no matter which school they attend, are taught the same standards and learning objectives”. Scores of 0 to 4 are given to pupils for assignments and assessments under the new system, designed to replace the former percentage or letter grades. The letter said a score of four showed advanced understanding exceeding grade level and a zero indicated no evidence or insufficient evidence of learning. A total of eight report cards a year were to be provided to parents under the new rules.
2018. November 19. The abolition of controversial middle schools is still a distant target, the education minister admitted today. Diallo Rabain said that “much research is still to be done”. He added: “Although we committed to moving forward with signature schools and the phasing out of middle schools — and it will happen — we will do it with consultation with all of the stakeholders to make sure that we do this right. We have a golden opportunity to develop a system that is right for Bermuda, by Bermuda. So we’re going to do it right this time.” Mr Rabain was speaking at a press conference to provide updates on the progress of the promised education system change. The Government pledged to phase out middle schools and introduce “signature” schools — schools with a specialized focus — at the secondary level as a long-term objective in its 2017 election platform. Mr Rabain said that talks held with teachers and parents while the Progressive Labour Party was in opposition had formed the basis for the move. He added the decision for the education system shake-up was also informed by “stagnant Cambridge Checkpoint results obtained in the middle schools and also the increased antisocial behavior among students in middle schools”. The Hopkins report — a review of Bermuda’s public education system published in 2008 — concluded that the introduction of middle schools in Bermuda was “a mistake”. But the review team, made up of island and international education experts, said that “a structural response would only cause more confusion and instability and leave the real issue — the low quality of teaching and learning — untouched”. Mr Rabain highlighted that the Hopkins report was “ just over ten years old”. He added: “We haven’t seen our middle school system produce the type of graduates that we would like to see. It is time to move in the right direction.” Mr Rabain said that “a number” of meetings had been held with “key public school education advocates. There are still many more stakeholders to reach out to. This is just the start. Comprehensive research had also started into the findings of a commission chaired by Lord Pitt in the wake of the 1977 riots and into the Education Planning Team Report. Pupil enrolment statistics and educational changes made in other countries were also being looked at. Some members of the team tasked with the restructure had already been selected. I will announce the full team once the chairperson and the remaining members have been finalized.”
2018. November 19. Dozens of high school pupils will get cash for college under a new grants scheme, the Minister of Education said today. Diallo Rabain added it was estimated that “a maximum of 60 students” from Bermuda’s public secondary schools would qualify for the College Promise programme, which will cost about $279,000 a year. Mr Rabain said the programme “will incentivise college attainment by rewarding students with financial support to attend Bermuda College”. He said similar programmes provided benefits, including increased access to college, created a “college-going culture”, and encouraged economic development. Mr Rabain said that there were no restrictions on what subject was studied. Duranda Greene said: “At the moment, there is nothing that will restrict anyone from taking up any course that they wish to take up.” Duranda Greene, the president of Bermuda College, said that the programme provided the college with the “opportunity to do our part in making sure that Bermudians are trained at the higher education level”. Dr Greene added that the recent census revealed a “great discrepancy” between Bermudians and non-Bermudians in postsecondary education, but the new grants scheme offered the chance to “close that gap.” Dr Greene added: “We know that by 2020 most of our jobs are going to need some sort of higher education. So this is an opportunity to ensure that all Bermudians are prepared to take their rightful place in their own country.” The College Promise programme was unveiled by the Government in the Throne Speech earlier this month. Government pledged to provide free tuition to public school pupils who achieved a 3.0 grade point average or better. Mr Rabain said this morning that the Government also planned to increase a separate financial aid programme by $200,000 to $500,000. The scheme last year provided $300,000 to pupils with a GPA of at least 2.0 or higher. Mr Rabain added the extra cash would “ensure that students with a demonstrated financial need are not hindered from attending Bermuda College”. He said: “These students would include, but are not limited to, students whose parents are currently receiving financial assistance from the Government, foster care students, ex-foster care students and those who have recently been in the judicial system. Such a programme will also assist in breaking the generational cycles of families being on financial assistance and promote college realization to those individuals who may not otherwise consider furthering their education.”
2018. November 5. Schoolchildren are suffering more mental health problems, educational experts have warned. Llewellyn Simmons, director of academics for the Ministry of Education, said: “Without a doubt it’s a growing problem." He added: “There’s a lot of stress and distress, and anxiety issues that we are beginning to witness more and more in young people — especially in adolescents.” Dr Simmons, a member of the group Men in Action, was speaking as the three-strong organisation prepared for an event to highlight the need for closer attention to the mental health of youngsters at the Bermuda Institute in Southampton. The group, formed in 2011, aims to provide mentoring for young people — especially boys. It is made up of Dr Simmons, Anthony Peets, a counselor at Prospect Primary, and Phil Maybury, an education specialist. The group provides free services, including counselling, consulting and professional development. The organization's Facebook page is used as a platform for other groups working with youngsters. Dr Simmons said that access to mental health services was a problem for some people. He explained: “For a certain segment of our community, they don’t have access to certain persons in those roles — because there’s a certain cost factor. Not everyone can afford the expensive psychologist.” Dr Simmons said that the problem Bermuda faced was how to work out how to provide mental health services “to those persons who have the least resources for the service that is in great demand”. Mr Peets, the director of MIA, said: “All that we do impacts the mental health of our nation. If you have some intentional, targeted practices, you typically get intentional, targeted results.” His presentation at the event will focus on what parents can do to help promote mental health in their children. Mr Peets added: “All of their actions impact their child’s mental health.” He said that parents should make the mental health of their children “a top priority”. Mr Peets added that after targeting Bermuda’s schools to help deliver its message, MIA planned to work with sports clubs. He said that two clubs had already contacted him to report mental health problems that had affected their behavior. “They’re getting hostile over certain things. They have to deal with all these other issues before they can kick the ball.” Tonight’s event, organized by the school’s Home and School Association, will run from 6.30pm to 7.30pm.
2018. October 20. Public school principals started a work-to-rule yesterday after a dispute over their workloads. The school heads walked out of their regular Thursday meeting with Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, sources said. One teacher told The Royal Gazette: “I know that the principals are not happy because their workloads are too demanding. “There are deputy principals but they have teaching roles.” The Ministry of Education confirmed Bermuda Public Service Union general secretary Ed Ball had given informal notice of industrial action by the principals. A spokeswoman said: “The ministry is now waiting for formal correspondence with specific details as to the reason for the work-to-rule action.” The BPSU declined to comment. Schoolteachers worked to rule last year over several problems, including the workload of primary school deputy principals after they were given extra responsibilities.
2018. September 27. Wi-fi in Bermuda’s public primary schools does not cover classrooms, the Department of Education has said. A spokeswoman confirmed that the wi-fi covered “only portions of each school” — the libraries, gyms and computer labs. She added that wi-fi had been operational at all 18 of the island’s public primary schools since the end of August — more than a week before the start of the term — and available for use by teachers for pupil instruction. But she said that a policy to govern its use had still not been provided to teachers and principals. The spokeswoman added: “It is in draft form and will be shared shortly.” She said that the user guide would be used by the island’s preschools as well as primary and middle schools. “The high schools currently have their own governance policies.” Questions sent yesterday about why the wi-fi coverage did not include classrooms had not been responded to by press time. Cole Simons, the Shadow Minister of Education, said that the wi-fi user policy should have been in place before the service was made available. He added: “In most institutions, user manuals are made available in time for the first beta testing and way before the actual system roll-out date.” Mr Simons said that Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education and Workforce Development, “should know better”. He explained: “He has worked in the IT space and should have been more hands-on to ensure that our schools had completed an efficient wi-fi roll-out. He should have ensured that our teachers and principals had what they needed to support this smooth transition.” Mr Simons said he did not have a problem with the restriction of wi-fi to specific areas “because the students need to be focused when in the classroom”. Mr Simons added: “From where I stand, handheld devices should not be used, or turned on in the classrooms unless authorized by our teachers as a part of the education process. Our teachers should have our students’ undivided attention, and as a matter of course, they should not be competing with handheld devices when teaching our young people.” One principal confirmed yesterday that the service was up and running in the specified areas at her school. She said some of her teachers had already started using the service, but that schools were still settling in for a new year. The principal added: “They are still settling the children into their routine. They can access it when they’re ready.” She said that pupils would only have wi-fi access through school-approved devices. The principal, who added that her school had some wi-fi service last year, said she felt it was too soon to say if wi-fi should be in all classrooms. She explained: “What works for me is what works for my teachers. Where we have it now is accessible to all of my children. So that’s what’s most important for us.” Mr Rabain said last month that a user policy for the wi-fi was being created and would be provided to teachers at the start of the school year. He said the policy would govern “how the service is used and who has access to it”. Mr Rabain added: “The purpose of having internet in schools is, in fact, to have it part of the curriculum.”
2018. September 22. Bermuda’s mathematics teachers are up to the job, according to a professional council. Rebeka Sousa, president of the Bermuda Council of Teachers of Mathematics, said that teachers in the public and private sectors had the necessary ability and skills. Ms Sousa said: “It is here. We have it here. We have the resources, and we have the expertise. It’s just about bringing out that expertise and making sure that it is shared across all schools.” The BCMT was founded in 1988 but lapsed several years ago. Ms Sousa said that she decided to resurrect the group last January after she worked for the Department of Education for five years and saw the need for teacher collaboration. The Warwick Academy teacher said the group was working to rebuild its ranks and that recent meetings had attracted about 20 people. Ms Sousa said the group had about 50 people who had expressed an interest, including teachers from both public and private schools, as well as teaching assistants, administrators and principals. She added: “It’s open to anybody who really just has a passion about maths education.” Ms Sousa said that BCMT’s main purpose would be to provide support and resources to teachers. She added: “We want to obviously bring more awareness to mathematics education.” Ms Sousa said that she had seen a lack of collaboration between public and private schools during her time working in both systems. She said the BCMT was “kind of that link to bridge between public school and private school educators — because ultimately we’re doing the same thing. We all have the same purpose and reason for what we do — let’s share some of those ideas.” Ms Sousa said there was a view in Bermuda that dislike for maths was acceptable, and that “maths was only for certain individuals”. She added: “We want mathematics to be accessible for all students. We want it to be accessible to everybody. Maths is not just for those people who are good at it. It is not just for those people who can do quick sums in their head, and it’s not just about arithmetic. It’s about everything around us.” The group is interested in looking at new ways to approach maths instruction to tackle poor exam results “instead of just spinning the wheels”. Ms Sousa explained: “I think it does start in getting a better understanding of what maths is. I think what’s going to change people’s perceptions about mathematics, and how we do mathematics, is seeing that mathematics is an important tool.” Ms Sousa highlighted Dan Myer, a US maths teacher, and his approach that maths should be looked at as power and not a punishment. She added: “I think that’s a movement that we need to make as a country.”
2018. September 19. Boarding schools from abroad are visiting Bermuda for the 25th anniversary of an annual event. The International Schools Fair will take place at the Hamilton Princess today and tomorrow. Tory Dodge, the founder of the fair, said the event was created to provide Bermudian families with information about schooling options. She said: “It was clear that Bermuda families were interested in exploring boarding school options.” Ms Dodge said that some families were attracted to the event because of family tradition, while others attended over concerns about their children’s poor performance in schools. She added: “At that time it was also difficult for island families to find provisions for learning disabilities, attention deficit, delayed development or emotional problems related to a variety of causes. Many local children have benefited from the scholarship programmes offered by boarding schools and I know from experience that my clients with learning disabilities or special needs have experienced great success.” Niall Browne, of British school placement service BvS, who has worked with Mr Dodge for six years, added: “The success of the fair has been its ability to give a choice to Bermuda families. A boarding school education can give children unparalleled opportunities — both inside and outside the classroom — and this is clearly something that Bermuda families recognize.” This year’s event will include 60 schools from the UK, US, Canada and Switzerland, including single sex and coeducational facilities for students aged eight to 18. Valerie Scullion, from Switzerland’s Aegon College, said that school was delighted be in Bermuda for the first time. She added: “Aiglon is a completely international community and offers something quite unique — something we hope will appeal to Bermudians — not the least those who are avid skiers.” Kate Ripping, from Kings College in Britain’s Somerset said: “I have found that students from Bermuda are typically very well prepared for the rigors of the British education system and they quickly adapt to the boarding school environment.” Bermuda students can sit the UK Independent Schools’ Entry Test by appointment until Saturday. An agreement with British Airways will allow the fair to allow special rates and conditions for families flying to schools in the UK. The event at the Hamilton Princess takes place between 4pm and 8pm. More information can be found at eventbrite.co.uk.
2018. September 15. A plan to axe middle schools in favour of specialist “signature” schools has to be backed with hard facts, a top international academic warned yesterday. Peter Cookson, senior researcher at the Learning Policy Institute, based in Washington DC, said statistics had to support a change to the education system. He added: “I would vote for hard data to support decisions of this magnitude.” Dr Cookson, who is also a sociology lecturer at the prestigious Georgetown University in Washington DC, has conducted extensive research on school choice, including the similar magnet schools in the United States. He added: “Data is essential for making strategic changes; otherwise it’s very hard to know where a policy is coming from and its most likely consequence. Measurement is one way we have for knowing the wisdom of a reform.” Dr Cookson was speaking after Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education and Workforce Development, announced in July that work had begun on proposals to introduce signature schools. The schools, designed to have a specialized focus on particular subjects, would be introduced at the secondary level with middle schools phased out. Mr Rabain said the signature schools plan was in line with other countries, including magnet schools in the US. The minister added that the Progressive Labour Party held “extensive” town hall meetings with the public and consulted with teachers after its defeat in the 2012 election. Mr Rabain said the Government’s plan came in response to the public view that middle schools were “seen as a problem” and that a “lack of trust” in the education system started at the middle-school level. But Andy Hargreaves, a research professor at Boston College and visiting professor at the University of Ottawa, said: “Simply saying the public is dissatisfied is not really adequate — unless you can point to what it is they’re dissatisfied with. Everybody has a right to know what is the problem to which this solution is the answer.” A two-page document called “FAQs on the Signature School Process” posted on the government website in July said the decision to phase out middle schools was in response to “community desires for change”. Mr Rabain said in July that the three-pronged consultation process was expected to last at least 18 months. Kelly Bucherie, director of magnet school leadership with Magnet Schools of America, said the Government’s plan to gather feedback was “thoughtful and in the right direction”. Ms Bucherie, a former middle and high school principal, said parents wanted to be involved in the decision-making process, but also wanted guidance from education professionals. She added: “It’s very important not to dumb it down. Nine times out of ten they’ll see right through it, they’ll walk away feeling disenchanted. The consultation process should be a collaboration. It shouldn’t be a room where someone is at the front and the rest are in the audience.” Dr Hargreaves questioned the amount of time allocated for consultation. He said: “This looks like a long consultation period for a pretty small system, to be absolutely honest. A system that is focused should be able to move it a bit faster than that, I would say.” Dr Hargreaves has written more than 30 books, including two on middle schools. He has also worked as an adviser for the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, which created specialist schools in the UK and advised the Ontario provincial government on education policy. Dr Hargreaves said that two factors had to be considered, the likelihood of the success of signature schools and the impact they would have on mainstream schools. He explained that specialist schools worked best when “they are authentically based on the idea that some kids have special talents, that do not fit into regular schools. There’s a really good argument for that, especially when the schools can form partnerships with future employers and businesses and other organisations. It is important that Bermuda thought about the transition from middle schools to signature schools not as a school change, but as a system change. So, the result is the whole system should be better, not just these particular schools. Additional resources and the ability to attract top-class teachers would benefit signature schools, but might damage mainstream ones. The risk could be offset through the involvement of non-signature schools in discussions with other schools on how resources could be shared and professional development." Ms Bucherie said three components were “vitally important” to the success of magnet schools in the US. “Some of the biggest challenges involve transportation. The cost of setting up the schools also had to be considered. If you’re going to do a science, technology, engineering and mathematics magnet, there’s a hefty cost to that. Anytime you are going to do a theme, there is a cost assigned.” Ms Bucherie added that teacher support for the change was also crucial. She warned that failure in any of the components would “absolutely” be a roadblock to success. The education ministry did not respond to questions on whether the decision to move towards signature schools was supported by research.
2018. September 13. Bermuda’s new education chief must fix the island’s public schools, which are failing young black men, a former acting commissioner said. Lou Matthews said Kalmar Richards faced a variety of problems. He added that the island had to make a “radical change” in education funding to give more power to schools. Dr Matthews said a “drastic rethink” was also needed because public schools “are ill-suited for the development of black men and healthy, trauma-free communities”. He said: “My big hope is that we can move through to this and that Ms Richards can lead our system courageously into this space.” Dr Matthews was speaking after Ms Richards, former principal of CedarBridge Academy, was confirmed as Commissioner of Education on Tuesday. Ms Richards was appointed as Acting Commissioner last December after Freddie Evans was removed from the post two months earlier. Dr Matthews said Ms Richards’s appointment came as no surprise and that she was a “consummate professional and leader, with a great deal of experience, passion and expertise in public education”. Dr Matthews added: “She will be great for the country.” He said the greatest challenges Ms Richards faced was the same as her predecessors. Dr Matthews added that past commissioners had “always been confined by political meddling and shortsightedness, budget instability and bureaucracy”. He said that Ms Richards would have to “wade through these waters”. But Dr Matthews added: “She is more than capable of doing so.” He warned that Ms Richards had a mountain of work ahead of her. Dr Matthews said: “We have to improve the learning conditions that teachers and students are required to work in and shift to more culturally responsive education. The biggest challenge is whether we can give her and her teams the full fiscal and strategic autonomy and support to lead education beyond political and bureaucratic interests. I wish her the very best and will support the nation’s efforts where I can.” One Bermuda Alliance senator Nandi Outerbridge said that she was “confident Ms Richards has what it takes to be an excellent Commissioner of Education. I congratulate her on this opportunity to lead all students in Bermuda and towards the successful implementation of Plan 2022. Although there may be challenges ahead, Ms Richards has a record of excellence and I wish her every success as good leadership and stability in education is what our children need.” Ms Richards’s 35-year career in education began as a high school teacher in 1983. She has also worked as a primary school principal before moving on to CedarBridge.
2018. September 12. Kalmar Richards was named as the Commissioner of Education yesterday. Ms Richards, the former CedarBridge Academy principal, had acted in the role since last December after Freddie Evans was removed from the post two months earlier. Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education and Workforce Development, said that Ms Richards had shown “continuous and determined commitment” to Bermuda’s public schools. Mr Rabain added: “With the operationalisation of the Public School Strategic Plan 2022 in train under her leadership, we anticipate greater transformation of public school education and sustained success for our students and their future.” Lorren Wilson, acting chairman of the Board of Education, said: “We look forward to working with her and pledge our support as she leads the Bermuda public school system.” Dr Evans was appointed as commissioner in March 2017, but was removed seven months later after a public dispute with the Department of Education. Previously, the position had been vacant since the short and controversial tenure of Edmond Heatley ended in 2014. A statement said Ms Richards “has acquired extensive experience teaching students, as well as leading, coaching and mentoring teams of instructional leaders and support staff at all school levels in the public school system. During her time as senior school principal, she demonstrated transformative leadership at the CedarBridge Academy, a school initially rejected by the broader community, successfully steering its international accreditation by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools in the United States in 2007 and again in 2017.” Ms Richards’s 35-year career in education began as a high schoolteacher in 1983. She has also worked as a primary school and senior school principal, most recently at CedarBridge. Kenneth Caesar, the former principal at Sandys Secondary Middle School, has served as acting principal at CedarBridge since January.
2018. September 4. A former high school principal has questioned whether the move to axe middle schools is in the best interests of Bermuda. Phyllis Curtis-Tweed, who was at the Berkeley Institute until last year, said she wondered how the Government’s decision to phase out middle schools in favour of signature schools at the senior level had been made. Signature schools would focus on specialist subjects, for example, science or arts. Dr Curtis-Tweed asked: “What data have we used to look at our island, number one?” She also highlighted Bermuda’s ageing population and decline in the birthrate, and asked how many students would be expected in a new school system. Dr Curtis-Tweed asked: “How many signature schools do we need, and how will that work over time? I haven’t seen a clear plan presented.” She said that she had questions about how the signature schools would be funded, the resources they would have, and who would be employed as teachers. Dr Curtis-Tweed added: “Are you going to retool your current teaching staff so that people have the skills required?” She also asked how pupils would be assessed for signature schools. Dr Curtis-Tweed said performing arts instruction at primary and middle school levels was “fading away”. She added: “There aren’t that many programmes that support that. Most people send their children to music, or dancing, or voice lessons external to the school system. How would anyone know that someone should be funneled into a performing arts high school if you are going from elementary school from high school? If we don’t really have science in the elementary school labs and that sort of thing — how will you know if the student should go from elementary school into the science high school?” Dr Curtis-Tweed said a focus on workplace development was merited. She added: “We do want to make sure people are prepared and have jobs. But you have to be careful because a lot of the jobs are kind of temporary. You train someone to help to build the airport — but then once that job is over, are those skills going to be needed and transferable to another job? Or are we again going to have to retool and retrain?” Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education and Workforce Development, announced in July that work had begun on proposals to introduce signature schools — defined as giving students a specialized focus. Mr Rabain said the three-pronged consultation process was expected to last at least 18 months. He added at the time: “We understand that there are many questions about what this will eventually look like, and firmly believe that the answers are in our individual and collective voices.” Mr Rabain said the consultation period would “provide the time for everyone to voice the opinion for or against, so that in the end, the final product is one that is in the best interest of our students and the future of Bermuda”.
2018. August 31. Acting school principals said this week that they were up to the job. Kenneth Caesar, who is in charge at CedarBridge Academy, said there was no difference between a temporary head teacher and a permanent one. Mr Caesar added: “I’m expected to do everything and report to the necessary parties.” He was backed by Kalley Baxter-Williams, acting principal at Sandys Secondary Middle School, who said she was looking at school readiness the same way a permanent principal would. She added: “We want to ensure that all things are in place so that we can have a successful start to the school year.” The two were speaking after Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, said this week that there was no difference in the responsibilities of an acting principal and a permanent principal. He added: “There is no expectation of any reduction in their effectiveness, whether they are acting or confirmed to the post.” Mr Caesar, the former principal at Sandys Secondary, has served as CedarBridge’s acting principal since January. He said he was not sure how long he would continue in the role and that there had been no discussions about him getting the job on a permanent basis. He added he was not worried at the possibility that Ms Richards might return to the school. Mr Caesar said: “I understood what I was getting into, so it doesn’t really impact me. As an individual, I have a vision for what education should be like and I was able to understand the vision of CedarBridge.” A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Education said this week that two new permanent principals and one new acting principal had been appointed for the start of the new school year. She added: “All schools will have either principals or acting principals in place by September 4.” The spokeswoman added that four acting principals already in place would continue in their posts. She declined to name the appointees and the schools they would work at. The spokeswoman also said four primary school positions — one art teacher, one learning support teacher and two classroom teachers — were vacant. The spokeswoman said that candidates had been identified for the four jobs and the posts would be filled by the start of the school year. Two middle school music teacher positions remain vacant and a physical education position and a science teacher post have still to be filled at the senior level.
2018. August 29. The mystery closure of education ministry headquarters could be because it was “a toxic environment”. Susan Jackson, the Shadow Minister of Health, was speaking after it was announced that the education offices in St David’s would be closed immediately and staff relocated. Ms Jackson said she did not know why the headquarters was shuttered, but that she welcomed the decision. She explained: “I have visited that building and its lack of windows and outside air ventilation was probably a toxic environment waiting to happen.” Ms Jackson said she understood the building was used for storage before education officials moved in. She added: “There wasn’t any interior design to make it user friendly for human habitation.” The Ministry of Education and Workforce Development announced the closure late on Monday. A spokeswoman said that a health and safety co-ordinator had ruled that staff should be relocated “as soon as possible”. She added the headquarters had undergone a number of health and safety inspections and repairs in recent years. The ministry refused to answer questions yesterday about the reasons for the closure. A spokeswoman said yesterday that the ministry would provide “updates in due course”. Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, said the closure was necessary. Colonel Burch added: “We have a responsibility to provide the safest possible work environment for our employees and we take that very seriously.” He said the ministry aimed to make a “seamless transition” to a new site to ensure back-to-school preparations continued. Colonel Burch added: “I am working with my team in the ministry to make ready an identified location, complete with the necessary IT interface required for the Ministry of Education’s headquarters team.” Ms Jackson said she was pleased to hear that alternative accommodation had been identified. She added: “I’m hoping that will be a better work environment, from a health and safety perspective.” Dame Jennifer Smith, then education minister, announced the ministry would move from Hamilton to St David’s in 2011 as a cost-cutting measure. She said money would be saved by moving staff from several buildings in Hamilton to a central location in the East End.
2018. July 27. A school safety report will be published by the end of the year after work to fix problems has been inspected, the Minister of Government Reform said yesterday. Lovitta Foggo confirmed the document, which was intended for official use, will be made available to the public. She was speaking after Diallo Rabain, the education minister, backtracked on a claim that the report had yet to be finished despite the completion of health and safety reviews nine months ago. Ms Foggo said: “I wish to stress that by October 13, 2017, all public schools had been inspected. The initial high level preliminary report was received by my ministry at the end of the same month and following the logging and updating of the data, the report was transmitted to the Ministry of Works. I can also confirm that a series of meetings among technical officers ensued in the weeks and months following its receipt by the Ministry of Works.” Ms Foggo said “a great deal of time” has been spent by the safety and health co-ordinator to turn the findings into reports for individual schools that allow them to develop plans for maintenance and repairs. She added, any high risk problems were “addressed ... on an urgent basis. The public can rest assured that the safety and health of our students and teachers is paramount and this government is committed to maintaining a safe learning and working environment for our children and teachers. The Health and Safety Inspection Report for Public Schools, intended for internal use, will be released later this year following an audit of the corrective actions taken to address the findings.” In an update following the Progressive Labour Party’s first year in government, Ms Foggo said her ministry has aimed to “strengthen” administrative infrastructure to deliver “key services more effectively and efficiently”. The work included a technology boost for the Bermuda Post Office to pave the way for a new online shopping system. Mr Rabain said on Monday that a preliminary inspection report on schools safety was “still being compiled”, but confirmed the following day it had been provided to the Ministry of Public Works on January 23. Ms Foggo said she did not know why Mr Rabain appeared to be unaware that the preliminary report had been handed over to the education ministry. She added: “I can’t speak for the minister, but I can tell you that it was supplied, as it was supplied also to the Ministry of Works.” Ms Foggo said the “evolution of the Post Office” was a high priority and after a public consultation earlier this year, advancements in technology could allow island residents to have access to an international mailing address for e-commerce. She added: “Armed with the feedback from the general public, as well as the retail division of the Chamber of Commerce and coupled with the realities of declining mail volumes and an island-wide footprint in terms of physical infrastructure, this government has set out on an ambitious course to expand the product offering of the Bermuda Post Office. We aim to centralize the delivery of government services. In preparation for the change, the Government has procured an IT postal operations solution that will enhance technological capacity and reduce manual processes.” Ms Foggo said an “applications analyst” was added to the team in February. She added: “Implementation of this new system establishes the framework for the roll-out of the new online shopping product.” Ms Foggo said amendments to the Interpretation Act to lay the foundations for the Official Gazette to move from newsprint to online were also under way.
2018. July 14. A school safety report promised last year has still to be completed, the education minister said yesterday. Diallo Rabain explained that the report based on health and safety inspections last autumn was “still being compiled”. Mr Rabain said: “And so I can’t comment on exactly when and if they will be made public.” Lovitta Foggo, Minister of Government Reform, said last October that the Government’s health and safety co-ordinator had carried out inspections from August 21 to October 13. Ms Foggo said at the time that the Health and Safety Office “is currently in the process of preparing a summary report of all inspection findings”. Mr Rabain confirmed at yesterday’s press conference that all schools had been inspected. But he added: “Those examinations are ongoing.” Mr Rabain declined to comment on why Ms Foggo had said last year that the inspections were completed. He said: “That’s a question you should be asking Minister Foggo. But I do know the report is still pending. And once I have sight of the report, then I will be able to comment on the report.” The pledge to conduct an urgent review of health and safety in all public schools was included in the Progressive Labour Party’s election platform last year. Mr Rabain added that he was sure that “parts of it will be released, or the entire report will be released”. He added that the Government wanted to make sure “that our schools are absolutely safe”. Mr Rabain said: “So if the report takes longer than we expect it to take — just to ensure that the schools are safe — then the report will take longer than we thought it should have taken. But I can assure you that the report will be compiled and it will form part of the conditions survey.” Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch gave an update on school condition surveys in the House of Assembly last Friday. Colonel Burch said that the surveys had been contracted out but had been hit with a “number of issues” over the bidding process. He said that a test survey would be completed on one school to “iron out the issues”. Colonel Burch added: “In the interim, a project is under way to get as-built drawings for all schools as well as numbering of rooms for ease of reference on both help desk and reports.” Mr Rabain promised that schools “will be ready to go” for the start of the new school year. But he declined to comment on whether Gina Tucker, acting assistant director for curriculum and assessment, and Kalmar Richards, the interim Commissioner of Education, were in the running for the commissioner’s job. Mr Rabain said he could not discuss who had applied for the post. He added: “I can let you know that we intend to have a commissioner in place by September.” Freddie Evans was fired from the post last October but won a substantial payout after he launched legal action against the Governor and the Government over his dismissal. It was announced in April that Dr Evans would take a job at the Department of Youth, Sport and Recreation.
2018. July 21. Repair work on schools this summer will cost an additional $3 million, the minister of public works said yesterday. Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch said the works kicked off immediately after the end of the school year and were in “full swing”. He said: “All schools have been inspected by both Ministry of Public Works and Ministry of Education facilities management staff with a list of tasks agreed and assigned to various work crews. In addition to these, any issues identified by the Health and Safety Co-ordinator are being included with the tasks.” He made the announcement as part of a near hour-long ministerial statement made in the House of Assembly. Colonel Burch said that the cash would be spent on works including private sector contracts for painting, floor refinishing and roof replacement. He added that it was intended that all personnel within the department would be involved in the works. Colonel Burch added: “This means that there will be seven work units with a total of 102 tradesmen working in schools.” He said that seven summer students were assisting. Colonel Burch added: “They are tackling some 1,081 tasks and 26 capital projects. In addition, there are numerous small and large private contractors engaged in this project.” Colonel Burch also provided an update on the status of school condition surveys. He said that the surveys had been contracted out but that there had been a “number of issues” with the bids and concerns from the bidders over pricing for unknowns. Colonel Burch said that a test survey would be completed on one school to “iron out the issues”. He added: “In the interim a project is under way to get as-built drawings for all schools as well as numbering of rooms for ease of reference on both help desk and reports.” Colonel Burch said that surveys on other government buildings would follow. He announced the condition surveys would be undertaken this year in a ministerial statement made last December.
2018. July 21. Parents will be appointed for two-year terms to committees working closely with the school system. Education minister Diallo Rabain said a Parental Involvement Committee had been meeting monthly with the Commissioner of Education to improve relationships within schools. Efforts in the coming year will include a parents survey, parents’ newsletter, and engagement sessions. Mr Rabain said he wished that more fathers had become involved and said their greater engagement would be worked upon.
2018. July 13. Teachers accused of misconduct on the job have been paid to languish for months on leave and “go through stuff emotionally”, only for investigations to reveal no wrongdoing. Education minister Diallo Rabain revealed improvements to administrative leave yesterday in Parliament after MPs were told that 13 educators had been put on paid leave in 2017-18, at a cost of $250,000, with only one teacher dismissed. Mike Charles, general secretary of the Bermuda Union of Teachers, welcomed the policy changes. He said incidents of student complaints, some of which were believed to be “frivolous”, appeared to have risen. “That was one of the major issues of the last school year,” Mr Charles said. “I don’t know what took place to cause such a rash.” Mr Rabain said in the House that any educators cited in a referral were required to take administrative leave while inquiries were conducted. But the protocols had been deemed “not adequate”, with a need to cut down on “the amount of time that educators are out of the classroom”. Meanwhile, the BUT head cited the example of four staff at Dellwood Middle School, including the principal, who were put on leave this year for investigation and ultimately cleared. Mr Charles told The Royal Gazette: “There are teachers who go through stuff emotionally because of this.” He added: “It’s what individuals go through while waiting. I know of one teacher who didn’t even want to go to the grocery store in case he would see kids from the school. He just didn’t want to exacerbate the situation.” Mr Charles said cases appeared to have escalated where “students say to one another that I can get so-and-so fired. All a student has to say is a ‘you touched me, or you hit me’. Once the allegation is made, there is a process that has to take place.” Mr Rabain said a committee was updating the policy and new guidelines would be given to staff from all schools at the start of the next school year in September. Under the old policy, educators had to stay at home while on leave but revised procedures will allow teachers to report to their department and be assigned tasks to “support their students and their respective school”. Mr Rabain revealed the details in response to questions from Cole Simons, the shadow minister. The minister told MPs that $247,563 of public money was paid to educators on administrative leave in 2017-18. One teacher was fired after allegations of inappropriate discipline — but the remaining 12 returned to school at the end of their imposed leave. Of those, seven had faced accusations of physical abuse, four of emotional abuse, and one of verbal abuse. Mr Simons asked how teachers guilty of “no malfeasance whatsoever” could wait as long as eight or nine months to be cleared. Mr Charles said that the Department of Child and Family Services was required to conduct immediate and time-consuming investigations into any allegations against teachers. “They are dealing with the entire island,” Mr Charles said. “They have to find the students and talk to them, and get permission from parents — it must take some time, especially when they have other clients. We don’t want there to be abuse. But by the same token, if every frivolous complaint means that a teacher is out for five or six weeks, it doesn’t do any good to the students or the teachers who feel looked upon as being terminated. It could be a case of a tap on the shoulder and a student decides ‘you hit me’. On the other hand, and teachers have complained, if the complaint is frivolous, nothing happens.”
2018. June 20. Athene Life Re Ltd has donated nearly 100 laptops to 18 public schools through an initiative called “Computers for a Better Education”. The laptops are scheduled to be sent to eight primary schools and 10 preschools. Last year, Chip Gillis, CEO of Bermudian-based Athene Life Re, a subsidiary of Athene Holding Ltd, attended a meeting in which David Burt, the Premier, spoke about the need for wi-fi and computer equipment in Bermuda public schools. Athene said this meeting was the impetus for Mr Gillis to seek donations of used computer equipment from Athene as well as from Bermuda International Long-Term Insurers and Reinsurers company members in an effort to support public education. “This equipment can enhance and empower teachers, improve the learning experience for the students and better prepare the students for a world full of opportunity,” said Mr Gillis. Diallo Rabain, Minister of Education and Workforce Development, said: “This generous donation by Athene will enable public schools like Victor Scott to support their students in their computer education and provide general learning support. These laptops also provide an invaluable resource for students’ STEM education. We are grateful to companies such as Athene for their investment in Bermuda’s students and their future.”
2018. June 8. Steam education will be implemented at primary schools across the island, education minister Diallo Rabain said. Mr Rabain said children would benefit academically and behaviorally through the Steam method, which focuses on a collaborative approach to Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths. He said the Department of Education had identified the “Engineering Is Elementary” curriculum, which is aligned with the Cambridge International Science Curriculum, as the best fit for primary school students. Mr Rabain told the House of Assembly: “The Engineering Is Elementary curriculum was selected because the curriculum is universally designed to meet the needs of all learners. Students move step-by-step through a goal-directed problem-solving process.” The programme has already been piloted in West Pembroke, Paget, Northlands and Prospect Primary Schools. An additional two primary schools will be included this September. Other primary schools will be added with the aim that all will be included by 2020-21. The annual cost of implementing each phase is about $125,000. Mr Rabain added that a Stem 101 programme is already under way in middle and senior schools. In a separate ministerial statement, Mr Rabain also spoke about fintech opportunities for young people. He said: “Discussions have already begun with various companies who have signed MOUs, to establish their training needs and representatives from one of the organisations will be on island next week for further talks. Other companies will also be visiting the island to discuss their training needs over the next few weeks. The idea is to provide training opportunities that will cover a wide cross-section of our community from high school students to professionals looking for potential career changes.”
2018. April 23. Blame for the botched sacking of Commissioner of Education Freddie Evans lies at the door of the Minister of Education, Cole Simons said yesterday. Mr Simons, the One Bermuda Alliance spokesman for education said Diallo Rabain, the minister, should “come clean” on the affair and outline what he will do to make sure a similar problem does not arise in future. Mr Simons said: “By now, the Minister of Education and his Cabinet colleagues should have come clean, given that the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Education would not have made this decision on her own. Knowing the Permanent Secretary, she would have shared her concerns and consulted with the Minister of Education before any action was taken — the action being the firing and later the suspension of the Commissioner of Education.” Mr Simons was speaking after it was revealed last week that Mr Evans had been awarded an undisclosed settlement, thought to be a substantial six-figure sum, in settlement for his dismissal. Mr Simons said: “Let me be clear, stains are now on the Minister of Education’s hands. He cannot run from the medley of flawed decisions, especially as Dr Evans has been offered an out-of-court settlement, another senior role in Government and a few hundred thousand dollars in out-of-court settlements to cover damages and all of his legal costs.” Mr Simons added: “The challenges and errors recently experienced with the handling of the former Commissioner of Education speaks to the quality of leadership and the quality of governance at the senior management level in the Department of Education. Good people have been underutilized and other committed, well-qualified senior managers have left, which in turn is currently compromising the delivery of quality educational services in Bermuda.” Mr Simons added that there needed to be a “reassessment” of professional development and performance appraisal in the Ministry of Education. He said: “It is obvious, given the Government’s decision to agree to an out-of-court settlement, missteps have occurred in the ministry’s performance-appraisal process and governance protocols. These errors cost dearly. It cost the ministry, it cost Dr Freddie Evans, it cost the staff of the Ministry of Education and it costs Bermuda’s students. In light of these costs, the people of Bermuda need and deserve an explanation. The Minister of Education must come forward with a statement and admit that performance protocols were not followed and that he should summarize what remedial action that the ministry will take.” Mr Simons added that he also wanted to know when Dr Evans’s post would be filled. The job has been held by CedarBridge principal Kalmar Richards on an acting basis since late last year. Mr Simons said: “This is very important as we need real leadership in regards to the delivery of the 2022 educational strategic plan and the resolution of the grave education challenges presented in the recent Cambridge assessment report.” Dr Evans launched legal action against John Rankin, the Governor, and the Government after he was fired from his post Mr Rankin in October last year. Lawyers for Dr Evans said the sacking came too late to be valid. They added he could be fired by the Governor only during his probation period, which ended more than a week before Mr Rankin confirmed Dr Evans’s dismissal.
2018. March 17. Experts highlighted poor practice in Bermuda’s schools and unchallenging assignments for pupils, the education minister told MPs yesterday. Cambridge curriculum assessors conducted a review of public schools after Cambridge Checkpoint results showed island pupils were lagging behind their international peers. Diallo Rabain told MPs: “A primary observation pointed out to the department was the missed opportunities for our students to engage in deeper learning in many of the classrooms. Some of the practices that we have been implementing have not been the best practices. We recognize this, and now we endeavor to improve the practices to do better. Thus the Cambridge representatives have put forward a number of recommendations regarding teaching and learning at the primary and middle school levels.” The assessors recommended:
Mr Rabain said teachers had been advised to focus their lesson plans to improve fluency, reasoning and problem solving, particularly in maths. The maths checkpoint, completed last April, found the Bermuda P6 national average score was 2.4, compared with the international average of 3.8. The Bermuda M3 average was 2.1 compared with 4.2 internationally. Results in English and science were also a cause for concern. Cambridge International representatives Abigail Barnett and Alison Borthwick spent last week on the island observing teachers and providing intervention training for selected maths teachers at primary and middle schools. They visited ten schools, and observed 500 pupils from P1 to M3 in their classrooms. Mr Rabain said the Cambridge report was not all bad news. He added: “It was pleasing to know that the first impression given to our Cambridge representatives as they reported, was that Bermuda has world-class public school students who are eager, intelligent, willing, keen, and who want to learn. They shared that our teachers are hardworking and that there was clear evidence of the Cambridge curriculum being taught in classrooms. This professional development training for our teachers in mathematics was needed. We will endeavor to ensure that this type of training is ongoing as we move ahead. It is recognized that providing our teachers with constant professional development will help to enhance and build on the standard of teaching and learning in the classroom; and, ultimately improve the Cambridge score results for our students.” Mr Rabain said the Department of Education expected to get a written report from the Cambridge representatives within three weeks. He said a comprehensive delivery plan based on the report would be developed that included action steps, timelines and accountability measures for the improvement of mathematics tuition. The department will report maths progress on a monthly basis.
2018. March 20. Specialists with a track record of tackling failures in mathematics, English and science were taken off the job, according to the Bermuda Union of Teachers. Secretary General Mike Charles said teachers were “flabbergasted” that the education ministry removed content specialists when they were beginning to make progress in areas in which pupils in the public sector have struggled. Mr Charles was speaking after Cambridge curriculum assessors highlighted poor practices in Bermuda’s schools amid concern over examination results. Mr Charles told The Royal Gazette the specialists were put in place more than three years ago and that the concept was supported by former education commissioner Freddie Evans and former acting commissioner Lou Matthews. Mr Charles said they were removed at the start of this school year. He added: “These people were making significant progress in these areas. They had identified the challenges and they were making significant progress with teachers and students. However, those people no longer exist in the ministry. They disappeared at the end of the last school year. They were doing a fantastic job. There weren’t enough of them, but they were beginning to see progress. These people were underground, going from school to school every day. We have no one working with teachers, working with students. Teachers were flabbergasted that these positions were being cut out.” The Cambridge experts were brought to the island after poor results in checkpoint exams last April. In maths, the Bermuda P6 national average score was 2.4, compared with the international average of 3.8. The Bermuda M3 average was 2.1 compared with 4.2 internationally. English and science were also cause for concern. Mr Charles argued the results were not a fair comparison because they pitched Bermuda’s public schoolchildren against elite private schoolchildren in Britain. He said: “We are really comparing apples and oranges. He added assessments over many years, including the Hopkins Report in 2008, had shown failures in the system. Mr Charles said: “Most of the stuff they identified, we already knew.” Recommendations from the Cambridge assessors included an increased pace of learning, ensuring pupils complete more work, and encouraging teachers to do less and engage pupils more in talking, thinking and reflecting. The education ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
2018. March 9. An invitation to interview Cambridge curriculum assessors on a trip to the island was withdrawn at the eleventh hour yesterday by the Department of Education. Llewellyn Simmons, the Director of Academics at the education ministry, invited The Royal Gazette to interview the Cambridge representatives, who were invited to Bermuda after poor maths results were revealed last month. The invitation to interview the experts was withdrawn yesterday by an education department official. Dr Simmons said the visiting team were “conducting observations and training with our math teachers”. He was sent a number of questions last month on the poor Cambridge Checkpoint results for Primary 6 and Middle 3 students for the 2016-17 school year. He said Cambridge representatives would be at CedarBridge Academy yesterday from 8.30am to 4pm and today from 8.30am to 3.30pm. Dr Simmons said in his e-mail: “If you are interested in having your questions answered, you may interview them during this time.” A time was set to meet the Cambridge representatives in the school’s training room yesterday afternoon, but Dr Simmons sent another e-mail yesterday morning to ask The Royal Gazette to contact a spokeswoman with the Department of Education to “make your request to interview”. An e-mail was sent to the spokeswoman to request the interview, but the spokeswoman later sent an e-mail that the interview had been cancelled — no reason was given for the change of heart. Several questions were sent to the spokeswoman yesterday about the Cambridge Assessment representatives and their work on the island. The spokeswoman said: “The Department of Education and representatives from Cambridge International are this week conducting training with teachers of core subjects in Bermuda’s public school system. Prior to the arrival of the overseas facilitators, a full schedule was mapped out for the week with the training sessions as a priority.” The 2017 Bermuda public school system report released last month showed that P6 and M3 students failed to meet a Department of Education target set for maths of 3.0 — equivalent to a C grade. The results of the International General Certificate of Secondary Education examinations sat by senior-level students last year were also published. The results revealed that only 18 per cent of the 445 students that took the maths examination scored a C grade or better. Sergio Pitcher, founder of tutoring service Planet Math, said the results of last month’s report were expected. Mr Pitcher said: “This is not a new problem and will take dedication and hard work from everyone to make a real change.” He said that student struggles with maths were not specific to Bermuda. Mr Pitcher explained: “This has been a major issue for many countries, including the United States.” He said that a number of factors had led to problems in the subject, including the way maths is taught, which he described as “counterproductive”. Mr Pitcher explained: “We teach students several formulas they ‘need’ to memorize and introduce a litany of abstract symbols, then we strive to find application of what we have taught with meaningless word problems. What we should do is get real-world problems that interest the students. Give them an opportunity to try to develop their own strategies for solving the problem first.” Mr Pitcher said maths instruction would also benefit from “dynamic maths specialists” who only taught the subject. He added: “If from primary school, maths is made fun and useful, then the attitude that students have will be more positive all the way through.” Mr Pitcher said Bermuda’s public school system had a “wealth of experienced, successful maths teachers. What can be done to help is utilize these exemplary teachers to assist teachers that aren’t having as much success. By doing this, we build up the system and make it better. Responsibility for the current maths problem falls on everyone, including students, teachers and parents. Students must be serious and focused. They have to behave properly in class and try to learn as much as possible every day. Additionally, they need to get their homework done and practice. Teachers must provide top-notch lessons every day by being enthusiastic, clear and teaching the material in a way so that the students understand”. Diallo Rabain, the education minister, said last month that the Cambridge personnel would “conduct walk-through observations to gain first-hand data about teaching and learning experiences in our primary, middle and senior schools”. Mr Rabain said the information would be shared with principals and teachers “and advise on the mathematics teaching strategies to best address any observable deficits”.
2018. February 26. Diallo Rabain has taken aim at the One Bermuda Alliance’s educational policies and said the former government “condemned” students. In an impassioned speech, the Minister of Education and Workforce Development said: “The future of our country down the drain for four years. Yes, I’m upset. I’m mad. I am absolutely furious that I have to stand here today and tell every single one of you over there that that’s what you did to our children.” Speaking in the House of Assembly on Friday, Mr Rabain said the slashing of the Department of Education budget had hampered the island’s public schools. Recently released figures showed that only a quarter of middle school students are attaining a target set for maths by the Department of Education. Mr Rabain said: “Last week I released the Cambridge Checkpoint exams that covered their time. The public have been outraged at what they have seen. Rightfully so. I demanded that those results be released to show everybody exactly what we are working with now. If you listen to the public, they are very disappointed. They are up in arms. Why are our children still performing at the levels they are performing?” Mr Rabain said the OBA had left the post of educational officers for maths and science vacant since 2012 because of the “financial brilliance of the OBA”. He added: “How do you freeze two of the most important posts in education and expect our grades to improve? How do you do that? They were funded, but just not allowed to fill them. Well guess what? They will be funded and they will be filled this year.” He said the education officers were tasked with driving education in the schools, ensuring that teachers were doing what they were supposed to be doing. He added: “When they froze these posts, they condemned our children. They condemned them, and they should be ashamed.” The Budget Reply by Jeanne Atherden, the Leader of the Opposition, said the Government would be “slashing funding for improved educational standards” by 35 per cent. However, Mr Rabain said the cut came from a reduction of consultants that had been doing the work of unfilled civil servant positions. “Those education officers whose posts remained funded and unfilled, there was a brilliant idea by some that they would hire consultants to sort-of fill those rolls. And guess what? Those consultants were paid 20 per cent more than the civil servant posts. They were in place for two years. That 35 per cent was the money we were paying consultants because your policies didn’t allow us to replace the people that should have been there in the first place.”
2018. February 19. Proposals to merge or close schools should be looked at again before the Government splashes out to repair crumbling buildings, the teachers’ union has said. Mike Charles, secretary-general of the Bermuda Union of Teachers, said it would be too expensive to renovate some schools and questioned if there would be enough pupils to fill them in any case. Mr Charles was speaking after David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, announced the Ministry of Education and Workforce Development would receive $140.6 million in 2018-19, a 4 per cent increase on last year. He added the Score report, prepared in 2016, had looked at school closures and consolidations. Mr Charles said: “Any increase to education is good, but it all depends on how it is used and how the people who get the money will use it. We need to improve our buildings but we have to make a decision on buildings, in particular whether we are going to keep what we have or whether we are going to make changes. The restoration of some buildings would be too costly. They have not talked about possible closures, but it is something we would be willing to talk about. They should go back to the Score report, see what needs to be done and make a decision. We need to take a good look at our entire education system and how we want to move forward with it. You have to have the political will, the individual will and the right people driving it. It needs to be looked at.” Mr Burt said the extra cash in the Budget would be used to support the Plan 2022 blueprint for education, which highlighted the need for modern information technology, better management of buildings and increased teacher training. About $3 million has been earmarked for school maintenance, including mould and infestation removal, electrics and plumbing. Mr Burt told MPs on Friday: “The first topic covered in the PLP’s 2017 platform was education. We laid out a comprehensive plan to transform our public education system and ensure that Bermudians of all ages can learn and upgrade their skills. Our commitment to education and training is demonstrated in the first Budget of this new PLP Administration. This year’s investment in education represents a renewed belief in our young people and the men and women responsible for teaching them. We are investing in the delivery of an education that will equip our citizens with character, critical thinking and a rounded sense of who they are and of their value to this society.” Mr Charles backed increased funds for teacher training. He said: “I am happy to hear that the ministry is mentioning training because for quite a while the ministry has not been doing any professional development. The BUT has been responsible over the last couple of years for most of the professional development — it has come out of our budget. Our maths problems are starting in primary schools and until our teachers are trained to do maths and science, we are going to have problems. There is a new strategic plan that is going to be put in place but it takes money to do that. I am sure teachers will also look forward to getting some supplies because they have been without for some time. Hopefully, it will be used for the improvement of education for our students. It is not a lot of money but hopefully it can be the start of something.” The mother of a middle school pupil who became ill as a result of mould exposure questioned whether $3 million would cover maintenance work. She said: “It’s about time but is $3 million going to be enough for all the schools? Mould removal is very expensive and you are talking about a lot of schools. It’s not just mould, what about other things like plumbing and other issues? My daughter was out of school. She is a lot better than she was, but she did suffer with it for a while. Mould might not have an immediate effect on you but the long-term effect is the problem — when she is older what is going to happen. That is in her lungs now.” Danielle Riviere, parent teachers’ association president at West Pembroke School, said: “I think teacher training is money well spent but there is the question of consistency in terms of what teachers are being asked to do and changing of programmes here and there. I am hoping there is consistency around what they are being taught and that it is a long-term investment. Our IT departments across the island in every school from elementary to high school need work. We are in the 21st century and we need to have children who are educated on computers and systems that mirror what is happening in the rest of the world.” Mr Burt also announced increased funding of $1.9 million to support both senior schools and $300,000 will go towards Bermuda College to help students unable to afford tuition costs.
2018. February 14. Teachers are buying basic school necessities out of their own pockets, according to the Bermuda Union of Teachers. President Shannon James called for more help in the Progressive Labour Party’s first Budget since it returned to power, which will be delivered by David Burt, the Premier and finance minister, this Friday. Mr James said: “There are many teachers using their own money to buy things like reading books, science supplies, and many other basics, from the preschool level right through to high school. This, by any standard, cannot be deemed acceptable and has gone on for too long. Many teachers will come out of pocket to add extras, and that is their choice, but they should not be cornered to feel that the basic supplies needed to deliver the curriculum should come out of pocket.” Mr James said the BUT was also gravely concerned about the lack of investment in providing the manpower needed to deliver, maintain and support proper instruction as dictated by the needs of the system. “There are too many empty positions, key positions which are needed to support the various initiatives set out by the Ministry and the Department. We do not have the required compliment of education officers, content specialists, attendance officers, mentors and Para educators needed to support optimal learning at all levels. We are still concerned about the state of our buildings. Three schools had to close last year for urgent maintenance and that causes major disruption for the students. That cannot be allowed to happen again, and adequate resources must be directed to the timely maintenance of our schools.” In addition, the BUT believes that Government must position students to compete globally and that access to modern technology and systems of thinking are imperative to the success of a 21st century learner. Mr James said: “The Premier and finance minister, David Burt, is a self-confessed ‘techie’ who has been pushing the use of technologies like blockchain and the establishment of a tech hub in Bermuda, but what use are these if our students don’t have access to the necessary technology tools that will enable them to take advantages of future opportunities? Money must be made available to ensure: an adequate ratio of students to working technology devices; a termly assessment and repair of all interactive devices; a sufficient number of trained technology leaders in each school, and an adequate number of technicians to service the upkeep of equipment and software. We have been promised Wi-Fi access in every public school which is a start, but it is pointless if we do not have the proper hardware to access this Wi-Fi. More needs to be done to make sure that our students are not disadvantaged when they enter the workforce and find themselves behind their peers in terms of their exposure to technology. Technology has the potential to completely disrupt industries. This will have a massive impact on the types and numbers of jobs available and we must have the resources available to make sure our students are properly equipped with the necessary tools that allow them to succeed. The BUT is fully aware that everyone wants a larger share of the pie and people are competing for money for different projects they all believe will benefit Bermuda in some way, but there is no greater benefit to Bermuda than well-educated children. Education is the building block for any successful country.”
2018. January 6. Jason Wade has replaced Leonard Santucci as chairman of the CedarBridge Academy board of governors. Dr Santucci confirmed he resigned from the board on Tuesday, despite an invitation to remain from education minister Diallo Rabain. Mr Wade, a former Whitney Institute teacher, will be backed up by new deputy chairman, the Reverend Emilygail Dill. Dr Santucci told The Royal Gazette: “I have respectfully resigned so as to ensure that the new chairman is not impeded in any way in his leadership. I have every confidence in his ability. I am grateful to the previous government and the current government for the opportunity to serve the CedarBridge family and community. I was prepared after the General Election to do a handover. The minister was gracious and permitted me to continue to serve, and I am grateful for that privilege. I am also thankful for his benevolent gesture to invite me to remain on the board, but I believe that an incoming chairman should have both the freedom and flexibility to operate as he sees fit.” Dr Santucci added: “I salute all of the members of the board for their sacrifice and the leadership of Kalmar Richards as principal, now acting commissioner of education, and Stuart Crockwell as the chief operations officer. I take my hat off to all the faculty and staff of CedarBridge because I have witnessed how they have gone above and beyond the call of duty.” Dr Santucci pledged his support to Mr Wade and said he had told the new chairman he was willing to provide any assistance he could. Dr Santucci, a former Bermuda College professor and United Bermuda Party senator, was appointed chairman at CedarBridge in 2015. He joined the school board the year before under Nalton Brangman, Minister for Education in the former One Bermuda Alliance government. Dr Santucci also held positions as a career guidance counselor, admissions director and associate registrar at Bermuda College. He will continue as a pastor at Vernon Temple AME Church and said he was looking forward to “embracing new opportunities to serve”.
2018. January 3. Dedicated school buses will not be available to pupils over the “near future”, Government announced this evening. A Ministry of Transport spokesman said buses for Berkeley Institute and CedarBridge Academy could not be provided due to a diminished fleet. The news came as public schools prepare to return tomorrow and a temporary arrangement to supplement the bus service with minibuses comes to an end. Pupils were asked instead to use regular scheduled buses. The spokesman said: “Parents and students are encouraged to bookmark the bus scheduling pages on the government portal, or subscribe to receive bus cancellation notifications by e-mail. In the event of cancellations, priority will be given to routes that service primary and middle schoolchildren.” As of today 63 buses of the island’s 105-strong fleet are in service. The spokesman maintained that the bus situation is expected to improve as buses in the fleet are overhauled and new buses arrive, starting with one this month. He added: “An RFP for fleet replacement is drafted and is being reviewed prior to issuance. This is a longer term project that will be undertaken as budget allows.”
2017. December 22. The Bermuda Union of Teachers today welcomed the appointment of Kalmar Richards as the new acting Commissioner of Education. Union leaders said it was vital that there was some stability within the Education Department, which has seen a succession of ministers and commissioners. BUT president Shannon James said that Mrs Richards, who was principal at CedarBridge Academy for nearly two decades, was an excellent principal who was well qualified to take on the Commissioner’s role. He added: “We have had much instability within the top levels of education and we are ready to move on and work closely with Mrs Richards to help further improve the quality of education.” Edmond Heatley left in April 2014 after only seven months in the job and was replaced by an acting Commissioner, Lou Matthews, who was acting for three months. Freddie Evans, who was appointed as Commissioner of Education in March last year, was sacked from his post. The case is now going to court as Mr Evans’s lawyer, Mark Diel argues that Mr Evans could only be sacked from the post within his probation period. Mr Diel says that did not happen and is claiming damages on behalf of his client.
2017. December 21. The legal dispute over the sacking of education commissioner Freddie Evans is to go before the courts early next year. Dr Evans is seeking a judicial review of the decision to fire him from that post in October. The parties were told at a hearing yesterday that the case may not be heard until March. Both sides in the dispute were instructed to prepare their skeleton arguments by mid-January in case an earlier court date become available. Dr Evans was removed from his position after a public dispute between the education commissioner and the Department of Education. The dispute started when Dr Evans was told by the Ministry of Education that he had been removed from the job. Dr Evans, however, said that only the Governor had the power to dismiss him from his post. The Public Service Commission later sent a letter to Dr Evan’s lawyer Mark Diel and Ministry of Education permanent secretary Valerie Robinson-James to say “an administrative error” in correspondence to Dr Evans meant he had not been fired. However, the letter added “nor has he been confirmed in his post”. The Governor removed Dr Evans from his position on October 13. Mr Diel claimed his sacking came too late to be valid. Mr Diel said that Dr Evans could be fired by the Governor only during his probation period, which ended more than a week before Mr Rankin confirmed Dr Evans’s dismissal.
2017. December 8. The Minister of Education, Diallo Rabain announced CedarBridge Academy principal Kalmar Richards as Acting Commissioner of Education yesterday. Mr Rabain said Mrs Richards had provided “exemplary leadership” in education over the past 20 years. Mr Rabain said: “Mrs Richards is no stranger to us or to our community. For the past 20 years she has provided exemplary leadership and stewardship as principal at CedarBridge Academy. Mrs Richards is respected by her peers, parents and students and known as caring and firm. She is a leader that believes in change and making a positive impact in our community. We are very appreciative that she has agreed to this assignment.” The move follows the removal of Freddie Evans from the post in October. No mention was made of Dr Evans, who is taking legal action over his removal. Mr Rabain said that Mrs Richards will serve in the position until a new Commissioner of Education is hired. Mr Rabain added: “The next step will be for the Board of Education to begin the search for a suitable candidate. The Board of Education is responsible for advertising, interviewing and selecting a candidate for referral to the Public Service Commission for final approval.” Mr Rabain also highlighted Plan 2022, which detailed reform of the education system last week. He said: “Implementation will begin in January 2018. As I stated in Parliament last week, this plan will not sit on the shelf. It will be implemented because we are accountable to our students and to all those who supported the design and drafting of Plan 2022.” Mr Rabain added: “We received such positive and honest input from community groups, churches, former educators, current teachers, union stakeholders, parents and students. He said: “The Department of Education is ready to begin the implementation and I am pleased to learn that steps are being taken and recruitment has begun to have all the necessary staff in place to carry out the objectives set forth in Plan 202
2017. December 2. A new plan for public schools was unveiled in the House of Assembly yesterday. Targets include 75 per cent of all public school pupils up to recognized standards in reading and mathematics inside five years. School principals will be given powers to hire staff, while national health and safety standards will be applied to all schools. In addition, pupils will be given better preparation for college or vocational training. The Government also pledged a 30 per cent increase in funding for public education and a 50 per cent boost in funds for professional development of teachers. The promises came in Plan 2022, tabled in the House of Assembly by Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education. Mr Rabain said the plan was designed to improve public education but avoid the “waves of change” that had damaged the schools system in the past. He added: “Plan 2022 will be the driving force to ensure that the Board of Education, the Ministry and the Department of Education, inclusive of the Child Development Programme and all schools focus on the entire public education system, from birth to graduation so that all students are educated to lead personally and professionally, compete locally and contribute globally.” The plan includes five priority areas — higher academic standards and pupil engagement, good preparation for further education or work, improving the standard of teaching and the leadership of school principals, better infrastructure and teaching resources, and ensuring the overall success of the school system. The plan made no direct mention of the potential for schools closures to make the system more efficient — a move explored in the schools reorganization Score Report drawn up by the former OBA government. The plan also failed to mention signature schools which were discussed by American-based education expert Jeremiah Newell, who helped develop the strategic plan. Dr Newell was hired under the One Bermuda Alliance on the introduction of the national strategic plan for public education earlier this year. The plan aims for between 70 and 75 per cent of pupils to get a score at college entrance levels in recognized school-leaving exams and to be proficient or advanced in Cambridge curriculum checkpoints. The plan also wants 90 per cent of pupils who need learning support to be identified and helped. The number of pupils with major truancy problems will be cut by 25 per cent, while referrals for discipline will be cut by same amount. The plan will also introduce “modern and high-quality technical/vocational programmes” starting at M1 level and at M2, with a work placement in M3. More subjects will be taught and the dual enrolment programme run with Bermuda College will be expanded. A total of 90 per cent of teachers will be certified in their field by 2022, with 60 per cent reaching “highly qualified” status. In addition, 90 per cent are expected to attain certification in leadership. The report said: “High-quality instruction and school leadership have the single greatest school-based impact on student success.” Deputy principals will also work as instructional coaches. Parent power is also set to increased with Parent Councils having a say in school budgets. The plan promised that 75 per cent of schools will get adequate IT equipment. The Progressive Labour Party platform’s midterm education objectives promised that “all schools have functioning computer labs so our students have access to the latest technology”. Teachers will also get regular training in IT under a technology policy. The report also highlighted the need for “appropriate and equitable” wi-fi resources designed to help meet academic goals. It added the Government will “improve access, distribution and speed of internet in all schools”.
2017. November 21. A long-term plan for the island’s public schools is completed, education minister Diallo Rabain said. Mr Rabain added that the plan had been presented to the Board of Education and ratified by board members. The minister said that as the parent of a child in a public school it was rewarding to have helped in the plan’s creation. He said: “I attended several community meetings and joined in with other parents and community advocates of public school education to provide the necessary input and feedback on what we desired to see for transforming our public school system. I look forward to sharing the final product with my colleagues shortly.” Mr Rabain said he planned to make the plan available to interested groups and the public by next month. The minister added another report was being drawn up on health and safety inspections in all public schools. “I anticipate receiving the report so we can look to put together a comprehensive plan to address the findings. The plan to conduct building surveys on schools is still forthcoming and on track to commence in the near future”. Mr Rabain declined to comment as to who would succeed Freddie Evans as commissioner of education. He said: “At this time, I cannot comment in detail about the post of commissioner of education. However, I do want to assure key stakeholders and the general public that despite the current transition in leadership, the Department of Education continues to deliver on the educational programmes and services needed to ensure our students are receiving a quality education.” Dr Evans was declared out of the job last month in an e-mail to principals and teachers from Education permanent secretary Valerie Robinson-James — even though he could only be fired by the Governor. Education bureaucrats, however, were forced into an about-turn just days later and wrote that “an administrative error” in correspondence to Dr Evans meant he had not been fired at all. Mr Evans was later removed from his post by Governor John Rankin, but Mr Evans’s lawyer Mark Diel said his client could only be sacked inside his probation period, which finished at the end of September. Mr Diel said at the time that the battle would now end up in the courts for a judge to decide. Mr Rabain thanked educational staff for their hard work in the wake of Dr Evans’s departure. He added: “The continued support, underscored by strong principal leadership at each school during the past month is very encouraging. The work that goes on in our schools every day is critically important and our principals, teachers and support staff in schools are committed to ensure that their respective schools are actively engaged in sustaining an environment needed for effective teaching and continuous learning in the classroom.”
2017. November 17. Education minister Diallo Rabain yesterday hit back at the idea that Bermuda’s America’s Cup group had “gifted” nearly $150,000 of wi-fi equipment to the island’s public schools. A legacy report from ACBDA last week said that it and the America’s Cup Event Authority were in the process of donating all their indoor and outdoor wi-fi equipment, worth about $145,000 — enough for every public school in Bermuda. At yesterday’s press conference Mr Rabain said the installation of wi-fi in schools to cover computer labs, libraries and gyms was under way and would be finished by the start of the 2018 school year. Mr Rabain was asked why the donation of the wi-fi equipment by ACBDA to the Ministry of Education had not been mentioned in previous discussions about wi-fi installation in schools. He said: “I take exception to the term gifted. Because how can a government department, or Government that owns equipment, gift it to another department? The fact that the last administration chose to reduce our IT budget from $1 million in 2012 to $400,000, which would have included installation of wi-fi, really doesn’t sit very well with me. So to take that money and not use it when it was supposed to have been used, give it to the America’s Cup, and then come back and say here’s some equipment for you to install in your schools is very disingenuous to me.” But Mr Rabain confirmed that the equipment had been received. He said: “It’s always been known that that equipment would be installed and utilized within our wi-fi system.” This week ACBDA provided The Royal Gazette with more information about the donation of Cisco indoor and outdoor wireless equipment to the Ministry of Education. An ACBDA spokeswoman said: “The ministry has determined that all middle schools, Clearwater, Dellwood, TN Tatem, Whitney and Sandys Secondary will be equipped with outdoor internet connectivity at the schools’ fields and that most primary schools’ fields will have wi-fi installed. All primary schools will also be outfitted with wireless coverage in their assembly halls, labs and libraries. The equipment was first used in the America’s Cup Village at Cross Island and in the high-tech operations centre from which the event was run in May and June this year. It was procured at very reasonable pricing negotiated at a significant discount, thanks to the relationship between ACBDA and the manufacturer, and the significance of the America’s Cup brand reputation.” ACBDA telecommunications committee chairwoman Fiona Beck, said: “The ACBDA is proud to be able to make this happen. In practical terms this means that school fields will now be online with this new outdoor wi-fi equipment that is designed to withstand the rigors of Bermuda’s weather. This is leading-edge, state- of-the-art technology, the likes of which Bermuda has not seen before and it is now in our public schools.” ACBDA CEO Mike Winfield said: “Rather than selling the equipment on the open market, the ACBDA saw value in offering the assets to the Government to use in schools. This legacy benefit is just one small example of how the America’s Cup is giving back to the community even after the event.” Mr Rabain said yesterday that an internet usage policy was being developed and he maintained that “there will be no unfettered use by students or teachers. Additionally, a proposal for computers to outfit all primary school computer labs with new desktops was issued in August and submissions are being evaluated. Extra cash would be needed to complete installation work. The plan has these desktops installations to begin in January 2018. We are currently commencing with the wiring that is required to install the various bits of equipment.”
2017. October 3. Education commissioner Freddie Evans last night described himself as “dumbfounded” after being dismissed from the post. The shock move came less than seven months after Dr Evans was appointed to the top job. Dr Evans said he was stunned that “any talk of dismissal, termination or reassignment is happening when I have not heard anything from his Excellency the Governor, or Government House. I only want what is best for the students of Bermuda public schools,” Dr Evans said. “My legal representatives will be responding on my behalf from this point forward.” Principals and teachers were notified of the termination in an e-mail from the Department of Education. Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, issued a statement pointing out that he held no responsibility for “operations, human resources or hiring at the Ministry or Department of Education. This Government is serious about progressing public education in Bermuda and, as such, supports the Board of Education and the Public Service Commission in their efforts to employ the most suitable people to lead our public schools. All public servants should be commended for their dedication to supporting our students and we thank Dr Evans for his work.” Mr Rabain congratulated staff and encouraged the community to support them. Dr Evans, who took over as Commissioner of Education in March, had previously served as Acting Commissioner for three years. He told The Royal Gazette when appointed that he was “absolutely dedicated”, and looked forward to a decade or more in the job. According to the e-mail to public education staff, the post of commissioner is now “under consideration”. A 33-year veteran of the public education system, Dr Evans was described by a source in the department as popular with many teachers and parents. But the source added that Dr Evans had only reluctantly been given the role, with leadership believed to be more in favor of a foreign candidate. The source said Dr Evans’s work had been hampered from the start by conditions imposed from above. The previous commissioner, Edmond Heatley, was recruited from the United States in 2013 but resigned eight months later. His time in the role was plagued by complaints about the post going to an overseas expert and Dr Evans took over the role on an interim basis after Mr Heatley’s departure. Teachers were told that “critical issues” should be forwarded to the administrative assistant at the commissioner’s office, who would pass them on to the Permanent Secretary. Last night a spokeswoman said the ministry “would like to assure the public that an interim plan is being put in place until the Board of Education commences a recruitment process”.
2017. September 29. Lou Matthews, the director of Educational Standards and Accountability, announced his resignation yesterday and said Bermuda’s expectations for scholastic excellence are not being adequately supported. Dr Matthews, who had served in the role since 2010, posted his resignation on social media. After the announcement, Dr Matthews told The Royal Gazette: “We have such high expectations as a nation that are not matched by what we are willing to do to support children and families.” The biggest wake-up call after his return to the island, he said, was “the magnitude of families and children who were struggling and at risk”. Dr Matthews said teachers and leaders are today faced with more complex social issues than in previous years. He added: “Moving the country forward in education in this environment will take much more of a deliberate focus on being restorative and responsive to the community.” Dr Matthews said children, whom he called Bermuda’s infrastructure, required healthy school facilities, adequate resources for teachers and leaders, and an environment where leaders had more autonomy to be responsive. “We are small enough that we can be more responsive — yet we are not.” Dr Matthews said that he informed the ministry in early July that he would be leaving the position. He added: “Most of my close friends will have been privy to my decision for months.” In his Facebook post he described having “mixed feelings” over his departure. Asked to elaborate, Dr Matthews said: “There is so much to do. I have worked with some of the most caring people and you hate to leave them with work unfinished. And the work of change is complex and messy — on a good day.” Change, he said, meant “growing from the strength we have. The reality is that there are many pockets in schools, offices, and classrooms where Bermudian educators sacrifice and work on behalf of children. There is no Superman to save us — only us. Let’s honor and build on that.” Dr Matthews said that he had recently signed a contract to serve as senior mathematics consultant for the United States Agency for International Development, covering countries including Cambodia, Ethiopia and Nepal. He will also be a visiting scholar and administrator at Ohio State University, and will be bringing a Caribbean mathematics leadership summit to Bermuda in October 2018.
2017. August 25. A new preschool is due to open in Warwick and parents are encouraged to go along to see what the venture has to offer. Former teacher Charnita Smith invited parents to visit Abraham’s Little Seeds Preschool as she prepares to open her doors in September or October. The preschool can take 30 children aged between 3 and 5 and Ms Smith said she aimed to give the youngsters an early introduction to technology while “fostering the love of Jesus Christ”. Ms Smith said she had struggled to attract people to the newly renovated preschool and wanted to make clear that the premises are under new management. Ms Smith said: “This is an innovative facility equipped for the future of today’s children. The place has been renovated and designed especially as a preschool. “I have Samsung tablets and an access board similar to a smart board. That is one of the basic things that is missing from a lot of the other preschools and this is our children’s future – technology. I truly believe that Abraham’s Little Seeds Preschool is a good choice because we foster the love of Jesus Christ and focus on technology. The inside of the building has been designed especially for a preschool setting and for the children to come and explore and to learn in a hands-on environment.” But Ms Smith added: “It has been a real struggle to get people to come and see it — I’ve had open houses, I have been on the radio to let people know it is under new management.” Ms Smith completed an associate degree in early childhood education at Hasser College, Boston. She worked in the private sector for three years at Happy Talk Preschool after she returned from the US and taught three-year-olds. After six months at the school, she was made supervisor. Ms Smith moved to government four years later and worked as a Para educator at West Pembroke School where she worked with children with special needs for seven years. Ms Smith also set up the Back to Basics school camp and worked at the Genesis after school programme as a supervisor. Her sister Debra Smith, formerly of Homestead Nurseries, will also work at the preschool. Abraham’s Little Seeds Preschool is now accepting new registrations at its premises at 93 Spice Hill Road. Ms Smith said: “After seeing our young children today, many of them are out there fighting and killing each other. What’s missing is God’s love — they have a lot of hatred and anger. We have to go back to the basics of just instilling in our young children God’s love and goodness. I was instilled with great values about respecting everybody – I believe we need to get back to the basics with our young ones and reinforce positive behaviour without focusing on the negative. A lot of children are told they are a bad child, but we reinforce good behaviour and show them how they can do things in a different way and that can all be done through learning and play.”
2017. August 21. Education minister Diallo Rabain has confirmed that the Ministry of Education authorised a public volunteer effort to ensure Bermuda’s public schools are ready for the new term in September. The first of the “work rallies” took place at Warwick Preschool on Saturday when volunteers helped to clean bookshelves, cots, chairs and other equipment. Some landscaping work was also needed. The effort follows an e-mail from group leader Angela Young, which was sent out to parents and volunteers who had voiced their willingness to offer a helping hand. The group met with Mr Rabain and the Minister of Public Works Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, who both welcomed their help. According to the e-mail, Warwick Preschool is the first of “30-plus that require assistance” and schedules are being prepared. Mr Rabain said: “Recently, the Minister of Works and I met with a group of parents and volunteers who expressed their commitment to assist with getting schools ready for new school year. The group leader, Angela Young, has enthusiastically begun to organise volunteers to assist with work rallies. Our ministry teams have welcomed their support and willingness to join us in preparing schools. The volunteers will work with our ministry facilities team and school principals to arrange the work rallies.” Ms Young’s e-mail claimed that help with landscaping work was needed as the Parks Department was “overwhelmed”. The Parks Department was contacted for comment on the work rally but no response was received by press time.
2017. July 12. The future of middle schools — introduced two decades ago under the United Bermuda Party — is a topic that continues to divide opinion. The Progressive Labour Party has pledged to phase them out, saying it would introduce signature schools at the secondary level focusing on “individual learning styles and interests”. Meanwhile, the One Bermuda Alliance’s election platform avoids the issue of middle schools altogether. The Hopkins Report, produced in 2007 under the PLP, found that there was “no doubt” that the move to middle schools was “a mistake” for numerous reasons including lack of continuity. However, the review team concluded that a structural response could also “cause more confusion and instability” and therefore stopped short of making a formal recommendation. It said such a move would not address what it called “the real issue — the low quality of teaching and learning”. Shadow education minister Diallo Rabain has argued the PLP met that goal in its last term in power. One Hopkins recommendation that has been met was the aligning of the curriculum, through the implementation of the Cambridge Curriculum in 2010. In 2016, St George’s Prep and St David’s Primary School recorded the island’s best average Cambridge grade over the previous four years. St George’s Preparatory School principal Mary Lodge said that a fundamental reason for her students’ success was an emphasis on reading while she also cited the benefits, as an aided school, of having the autonomy to hire its own teaching staff. This was a potential benefit identified in the Hopkins Report, which said: “Schools have neither substantially delegated budgets nor much real autonomy. The governors of aided schools have greater freedoms than in other schools, for example — to identify the teachers they wish to appoint.” While Bermuda has struggled to keep up with international standards with Cambridge, there is good reason, according to Ms Lodge who spoke to The Royal Gazette on the issue last year. The relatively low Cambridge Primary Checkpoint results in English, Maths and Science in the public schools did not take into consideration the socio-economic factors that can affect performance, she said. “Bermuda is the only country or school district where everybody sits the checkpoint exam,” she told us at the time. “The reason this is important is that the other schools that are sitting this exam are international schools, charter schools, schools of diplomats’ children — therefore all standardized tests show a bias towards socio-economic standards.” When approached this week for comment, Ms Lodge was keen that the positive elements in the public education system be highlighted. She said: “Our primary school averages for English and Science meet international standards. The middle school reform is taking hold and students are taking O Levels early, in some cases. The dual enrolment with senior schools is the most exciting advance in a generation. Build on what is working. Stop the public dialogue that makes it sound like everything in public education is a failure. We have much to applaud.”
2017. July 12. School infrastructures have crumbled, ministers have repeatedly been chopped and changed, and students’ ever-evolving technological needs, according to many, have been neglected. The past decade has not been particularly kind to Bermuda’s public education system, no matter whether the Progressive Labour Party or the One Bermuda Alliance has been in power. A growing feeling has emerged that education must become a top priority for whoever wins next week’s General Election — or even taken out of the hands of politicians altogether. The OBA has pledged to explore the concept of an education authority to “remove the politics and provide consistent professional and accountable leadership to our public education system”, while the PLP pledges to “minimise political interference, by empowering educational professionals”. Such an idea finds favour with Danielle Riviere, a former member of the School Re-organization Committee, and the PTA president at West Pembroke School, who believes that fat needs to be cut on a ministry level. “With every report that comes out, it has been said that we have a top-heavy ministry that is relatively ineffective,” Ms Riviere told The Royal Gazette. She suggested an education authority could produce results like many say the Bermuda Tourism Authority has done. Ms Riviere said: “I am all for an authority because if that comes into place what needs to happen at a ministry level will hopefully take place. If leadership can change, then hopefully the dissemination and the ability to listen to those who are delivering the services will change. But it is also important that the right people are doing the right job. Look at the BTA — when they transferred from the ministry they fired everyone and everyone had to reapply and be placed in a position that was adequate for what their capabilities are.” Last year, the spotlight was turned on the crumbling infrastructure across Bermuda’s 18 primary schools with the publication of the damning School Re-organization Report commissioned by Wayne Scott, the minister at the time. Both parties now say a priority is to deal with infrastructure. The lack of modern technology in public schools was also highlighted in the report, including the basics such as wi-fi. Both the OBA and PLP have pledged to ensure wi-fi is available across all public schools while Steam learning has been listed as priority areas. Ms Riviere said she agrees with the implementation of Steam-based learning but hopes that resources are properly considered. “There is a huge benefit of having Steam within our schools but that means having it properly resourced because you can’t introduce another programme and hand it to the teachers who are already stretched,” she said. The frequent changing of ministers has been a constant theme under both parties. The PLP saw three in its last term: Randy Horton (2006), Elvin James (2008), and Dame Jennifer Smith (2010), while the OBA racked up four during its term — Nalton Brangman (2012); Grant Gibbons (2013); Wayne Scott (2015) and Cole Simons (2017). The role of the education commissioner has also been fraught with difficulties. The PLP hired Wendy McDonnell in 2011 to “lead the transformation of the Bermuda public school system” and she retired in 2013. Education expert Paul Wagstaff turned down the position last February after a lengthy open vacancy. On the appointment of Mr Scott in January 2015, Michael Dunkley said an education commissioner would be hired “imminently”. However, the commissioner’s seat remained empty with Bermudian Freddie Evans sitting as acting commissioner up until last March when he was finally handed the reins. The previous commissioner, Edmond Heatley, had a short tenure lasting just seven months after his resignation in April 2014. Dissent from teachers has been clearly evident, with a row over contract negotiations culminating in a march on Cabinet from 600 Bermuda Union of Teachers members in May. Last month, the BUT released its “2017 Education Remit” in absence, it said, of a solid platform by either party. It reads: “We believe that the delivery and the management of education is of utmost importance and needs to be managed with meticulous attention to detail.” Going forward, those in the community — education stakeholders — have been enlisted to help find a way forward under the guidance of education czar Jeremiah Newell who has turned around failing schools in the United States. The PLP has said it was on board with reviewing and implementing the recommendations of the initiative.
2017. June 30. Minister of Education Cole Simons defended the OBA Government’s record on funding education, citing multiple investments included in the 2017-18 Budget. The Minister accused the Progressive Labour Party of “providing misinformation” by claiming that the OBA is not committed to the development and education of young Bermudians. Simons said: “The truth is that the Bermuda Government has made, and continues to make, great investments for the benefit of our teachers and students. Do we have it right 100 per cent of the time? No, but the investments we have made represent the optimal commitment given the fiscal pressures we face, particularly with the massive debt burden we carry, now costing more than $180 million a year in debt interest payments.” Mr Simons referred to the 2017-18 Budget estimates, which included increases in salaries and wages for substitute teachers and paraprofessionals, school maintenance and investments in several school properties, and listed the following achievements:
Mr Simons said: “As Minister of Education, I can confirm that the education of our children is fundamental to producing educated, productive and positive citizens. Education is fundamental to the future of the Island, setting the direction we want to go. The education system, therefore, must be one that ensures students are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in a rapidly changing society. Their progress in learning is strengthened when parents, teachers, principals, support staff and the broader community have a clear understanding of what must be done and what is being done to achieve Bermuda’s chosen future. Our investments this year support the Ministry of Education’s mission to provide strategic leadership, supervision and policy direction that supports effective teaching in an inclusive and progressive learning environment that improves learning and achievement for every child.”
2017. May 4. Better technology in public schools — equipping students for success in the 21st century — has emerged as a key demand at community conversations set up by the Department of Education. The need for more consistent leadership and greater equity across public schools were other issues raised in the meetings, designed to help formulate a strategic plan for public education. This is according to education commissioner Freddie Evans and teaching expert Jeremiah Newell, who was speaking with The Royal Gazette for the first time since he arrived on the island to facilitate the plan with the help of community engagement. High on the agenda for the parents, teachers and students who have participated throughout the past few weeks is the provision of classroom infrastructure and technological facilities. Dr Evans said: “Looking at our facilities is a consistent effort. We want to have the technology in the schools, the access to the science labs. That keeps on coming up — it is an echo of what the Score [School Reorganization] report did in looking at the primary schools. There is a lot of demand for some kind of technical product — whether it is a technical institute or more tech in schools. Once we decide what all this information tells us, we can begin to operationalise and address it.” Dr Newell added: “We have heard a lot about modernization and infrastructure with the use of technology and materials and structural tools that can be used to meet the 21st-century preparation. We have to modernize that.” Many have likened the education ministry to a revolving door, with Cole Simons becoming the twelfth minister in 19 years two months ago. Dr Newell, a graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, told The Royal Gazette: “I have seen a desire that there is consistent leadership to move this forward and we need to know that we are going to see this through. The community is saying whatever is getting in the way, and we need to address it, regardless of who is in charge at that moment. What they are saying consistently across the island is that they are expecting the government of the day to enable those things to happen. It is important that communities are demanding improvement, and have ideas about how it happens.” Dr Evans, who has been actively involved with the conversations along with Dr Newell, said the option of removing politics by introducing an independent public school system, an idea suggested by Mr Scott, was not off the table. He added: “Maybe education should be independent like the Bermuda Tourism Authority and be able to run autonomously outside of the scope of the politicians and government of the day.” Equity across the public schools is also a cause for concern, with many stakeholders questioning why the standards are not consistent. Dr Newell said: “If there is one public education system, why are there variations between our schools? People are saying ‘we want the same opportunities offered in private schools, we want the opportunity that once we leave school we are ready to be employed’.” One more area of discussion has been the need to further ensure that Bermuda’s public schools are able to cater for the diverse needs of its students. Schools are not one size fits all — they are places where the unique strengths of young people can be explored: technical, in the arts, vocational. We are embracing new kinds of learning — coding and technology reflecting the workforce as it is changing globally and helping our students to become global citizens. We must provide music and art programmes allowing artists to develop and demonstrate their gifts. I was speaking to one student who told me he wanted to be able to compete locally and internationally.” Frank and open discussion is being encouraged by all stakeholders. Some 40 community conversations have taken place so far and more than 1,200 surveys regarding public education have been filled out. The next step will be the creation of multiple drafts and prototypes which will receive feedback before being revisited. Anyone wishing to host community conversations can call Lisa Smith at the ministry at 278-3300. She will provide a facilitator and scribe. The Board of Education invites the public to visit www.moed.bm to complete a strategic planning survey on public education in Bermuda.
2017. April 8. “You can’t have a one-size-fits-all school system” is one of the lessons Jeremiah Newell learnt when turning around failing schools in the US. The American-based educator hired by the Department of Education to develop a strategic plan for public education in Bermuda was speaking at an information session on Thursday evening at CedarBridge Academy, attended by education stakeholders. A graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the CEO of Jeremiah Newell and Associates, Dr Newell specializes in transforming public education systems into high-performing, learning-focused organisations. He has opened charter schools in the US — independent schools that are funded by governments but are given greater flexibility on the condition they are accountable for academic results promised in their charters. Education commissioner Dr Freddie Evans introduced the evening as a means to establish “the vision for the strategic plan”. He said that Dr Newell would be “laying the framework for us so we can follow the process with integrity”. Dr Newell first provided some background on the work he has been involved with in the States, which included improving a failing school system in Mobile, Alabama, and then described what work will be done to move Bermuda forward. He opened his speech telling the audience how he received a “high-quality education purely by chance that is not accessible to many. It felt wrong to me that the opportunity I had was not open to everyone.” Dr Newell went on to become a teacher, a principal and then chief of staff for Rhode Island Department of Education. He shared his experiences working to improve the public education system in Mobile, Alabama where students were not getting access to “high-flying, well-paid jobs” that were available in the district because they were not qualified. People were brought in from elsewhere to do the work. Speaking on the process he said: “You can’t have a one-size-fits-all school system and we had to bring our entire community together to make it possible.” He said he wanted to ensure that public schools were not the second option and went on to outline a robust, four-month process to develop and implement a solid plan. The three stages leading up to the plan, as reported in this newspaper previously, will involve authentic community engagement through small-group, community-held conversations; a survey to gather island-wide community input on public education; and the establishment of an Ambassador Design Team: a diverse group of strategic planning writers. The timeline is as follows: April — Develop a vision, mission and values; May — Draft priorities and key outcomes; June — Refine priorities, outcomes and begin strategies; July — Refine priorities, outcomes and strategies; August — Final adoption of the plan. Dr Newell asked the question “what is public engagement?” which he described as “a committed and interrelated citizenry rather than a persuaded populace”. He said “kitchen-table” type conversations were needed, made up of small groups discussing what type of community we want to live in. He said all dialogue must be “transparent, engaging, empowering and respectful”. With the development of the ambassador design team, the teams will meet every two weeks for about two hours between now and August. In total there will be about 40 hours’ commitment. The next step will entail the creation of multiple drafts and prototypes which will receive feedback before being revisited. This will allow “real data and real results” which will lead to a “multiyear strategy that is developed by Bermudians, for Bermudians”. There will also be research into best practices globally. After that the prototypes would be released and feedback would be gathered on each draft until they get better over time. There will be a community conversation next Tuesday at TN Tatem Middle School at 5.45pm and an advertisement will be published in the media the following Monday, calling for applications for those wanting to join the ambassador design teams. Community conversations will be advertised in the media, via various partners including the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, and via social media. The Board of Education invites the public to visit www.moed.bm to complete a strategic planning survey on public education in Bermuda.
2017. March 17. Community volunteers are being sought to help plan the future of Bermuda’s education system. People will be given training so they can act as hosts for “community conversations” designed to gather input from all walks of life, education minister Cole Simons said today. American-based education expert Jeremiah Newell has been hired to help develop a strategic plan for education, Mr Simons told the House of Assembly as he updated MPs on progress in his ministry. “I call upon the entire community in Bermuda to join with the Board of Education and be a part of this strategic planning process, Mr Simons said. “The goal of the Board is to have a transformative public education strategy that is developed by Bermudians for Bermudians, as the success of public school education affects everyone.” The minister said the core elements of the strategic planning approach include:
“I solicit the support and input of the entire community — parents, students, teachers, principals, guardians, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, small and large business owners, business professionals, retirees, churches, sporting clubs, everyone who cares about the future of Bermuda — to participate in the upcoming community conversations that you will be hearing more about,” he said. “Additionally, for those who may not be able to attend a community conversation, an online survey is currently available on the Ministry of Education website at www.moed.bm to provide your input. We have over 200 responses to this survey already. This will be a strategic plan based on the input from the community.” Dr Newell, the CEO of Jeremiah Newell and Associates, has “significant experience in designing and leading strategic planning processes for public school systems”, Mr Simons said. “He specializes in transforming public education agencies into high performing, learning-focused organisations. For more than a decade, Dr Newell has worked in diverse, large and complex education systems to drive strategic change and improvement. Dr Newell and the Commissioner of Education, Freddie Evans, will work closely together to lead out on this strategic planning project during the upcoming months.” Two final stakeholder information sessions are scheduled for the first week in April that will include representatives from private schools and the business sector, and then the public community at large.
2017. March 9. Incoming education commissioner Freddie Evans has vowed to remain dedicated to the position, saying he looks forward to serving for at least the next ten years. Speaking to The Royal Gazette following his appointment on Monday, Dr Evans said that while he could not talk on specific plans at this stage, he pledged to support any students in the system who had experienced trauma and to champion sports and the arts. The position of education commissioner has remained vacant since the resignation of Edmond Heatley in 2014 just eight months into the job. Dr Evans, who is Bermudian, has been acting commissioner. With 33 years experience in the Bermuda education system under his belt, he says he is ready to take on the challenge. He said: “I am absolutely dedicated. I would answer this way — I have got 33 years here and I look forward to the next ten or 13 years. I am honored and humbled by the opportunity. My heart, soul and desire has always been to work for the betterment of the children of Bermuda’s public schools. We have wonderful students and teachers, and we need to make sure that we maximize opportunities for success. We also have students who have experienced trauma in their lives and for them I pledge to work every day to support them, to encourage them and to get the kind of counseling support that they need. My other head is in the sports world and I think that our students benefit so much from sporting opportunities, musical opportunities and those kind of things — you will see we need to promote and grow this.” The position of education commissioner had been offered to Dubai-based Paul Wagstaff but he turned the position down for personal reasons. Many, including former Minister of Education Wayne Scott, had wanted a Bermudian in the position and Dr Evans said his experience on the island will give him an advantage. “I have worked in every rank of the Bermuda public schools from teacher, team leader, deputy principal, principal, assistant director and now I have the awesome responsibility of sitting in the chair and having the opportunity to help direct and guide this. I do believe it is an opportunity to understand the dynamics of Bermuda public schools to have been in the school system, to know the hardship and successes and strengths of Bermuda public schools. I am humbled by that audacious responsibility but I do believe that I am ready for the challenge.” Asked to comment on the Score [School Reorganization] Report that highlighted the crumbling infrastructure across the public school system, Dr Evans reiterated that he would not speak on specific plans at such an early stage into his appointment but did emphasise the need for improvement. He said: “We do have some environmental issues in schools that we are going to work through. I promise we will do this extensively. The former minister [Wayne] Scott gave me the opportunity to try to work through the issues with schools so I am dedicated to fixing that. I want our schools to have first-class environments for learning and I want our students to have what they deserve and for teachers to have environments where they will be more successful.” A graduate of Jackson State University, Dr Evans received his doctorate in Education Administration and Development from Seton Hall University in New Jersey. Roles he has filled include assistant principal at Clark High School for the Plano Independent School District in Plano, Texas; principal of the Whitney Institute Middle School; assistant director of educational standards and accountability in the Department of Education; acting director of educational standards and accountability, as well as acting commissioner.
2016. October 31. External exam results for the Bermuda Public School System have highlighted “continuing challenges” in student achievement in mathematics. The Ministry of Education today released the results for the 2015/16 school year in the Cambridge International Examinations at the primary 6, middle 3, and senior school years in mathematics, science, and language arts. The Cambridge Examining Board considers that achieving a level of 2.0 reflects a “basic acceptable understanding” of the Cambridge curriculum. At the P6 level, the Bermuda national average score was 2.2 in maths compared with the Cambridge International Examinations average score of 3.9. At the M3 level, the Bermuda national average score was 2.2 in maths while the CIE average score was 4.4. The Department of Education set a national threshold standard of 3.0 for its students. Education minister Wayne Scott said: “This year all students were challenged to write the Cambridge extended math level exams. The mathematics results clearly revealed deficits in key conceptual areas. Nonetheless the results of the extended math level has helped to identify P6 and M3 students who should continue to sit the extended math exam, or sit the core math exam or follow a different success path altogether in mathematics. The Department of Education will always work towards doing better to prepare our students for these external international examinations. The knowledge gaps in mathematics are recognized and technical officers are now seeking alternative pathways of success in this core subject which continues be a struggle for our students as reflected historically in the Checkpoint exam results.” Some 89 per cent of students were reported to have achieved a grade of A* to G. At the Primary 6 (P6) level, 83 per cent of students scored 2.0 and above in language arts; 54 per cent scored at level 2.0 and above in mathematics, and 86 per cent scored 2.0 and above in science. At the Middle School (M3) level — 66 per cent of students scored at level 2.0 and above in language arts; 49 per cent scored at level 2.0 and above in mathematics, and 83 per cent scored at the 2.0 and above in science. Overall, the exams covered, English, mathematics, science, social studies, foreign languages, business & technology, arts and physical education. One third of students — 33 per cent — scored grades of A* to C. Senior students performed well in selected academic (non-core) subjects. All 37 students who sat examinations in art and design, dance, drama and music successfully achieved their IGCSE; 97 per cent of the 65 students who took the IGCSE exams in accounts, business studies and information and communication technology passed; and all students passed their exams in geography, history and citizenship studies. Mr Scott said that the Checkpoint results were “both encouraging and enlightening. I commend our P6 and M3 teachers and students who worked hard during the year to achieve these results. However, it is important to keep in mind that Bermuda is the only public school system that participates in the undertaking of the global Cambridge International Examinations (CIE). Thus, when compared with the average CIE scores, our public school students at both the P6 and M3 levels continued to score competitively on average, in both language arts and science. However, there are still some challenges in student performance as it relates to mathematics”. The ministry mentioned the possibility of introducing a new success pathway in that students can acquire an international mathematics certification through a multi-level City & Guilds offering which serves as an intervention tool for students while pursuing an IGCSE in mathematics.
2016. August 24. Wayne Scott, the Minister of Education, has hinted that Gilbert Institute would be spared closure as his ministry invests in a new playground at the school. Gilbert, the island’s only primary level school for the deaf and hard of hearing, was one of four schools earmarked for possible closure under the Bermuda Government’s school reorganization (Score) plan. However, the old playground has been torn down and work has begun on the installation of a new one, raising hopes of a long-term future for the school. Answering questions from this newspaper about whether the move indicated Gilbert was in the clear, Mr Scott said: “I am very aware that Gilbert has the only deaf and hard-of-hearing primary programme and that is something that needs to continue. “The fact that we are investing in a playground at Gilbert should give some indication — people can draw their own conclusions into that. However, I am a technical person and you can never say never. There are a lot more things that need to be considered if we were ever to go down the road of school consolidation.” PTA secretary at the Gilbert Institute Suzanne DeCouto said she was heartened by the fact that the Government appeared to be reconsidering the viability of closing the school. “When I first saw that they were tearing down the playground I thought, oh no. I remember vaguely when they gave us a sheet to tell us what maintenance they were doing in the schools over the summer, one of the lines was a new playground but it was saying ‘pending’. Now they have announced a new playground. It has been something that we have needed for so long because it has been falling apart. so it is very exciting that we are getting it. It is a lot of money for that playground so I wouldn’t think they would want to put in a brand new one and then close the school down. It seems like a big investment. It is a positive outlook for us that is for sure. Gilbert is an important school in the community and as the only primary school for the deaf and hard of hearing. It is important to the neighborhood, and goes back for so many years — there are so many people who have been there and know what good it has done for them.” Asked whether he could provide any update with regards to the closure of the other schools — Heron Bay Primary School, Prospect Primary School and St David’s Primary School — or consolidation of numerous others, Mr Scott said: “Right now our focus is on getting the maintenance sorted out. We are looking at strategic planning and alignment so that we are in a position to provide a better service to our children. I believe we can do a better job for our children.” Maintenance work is also being carried out at Harrington Sound Primary and Victor Scott Primary, two of the lowest-rated schools in terms of health and safety, according to the Score report, which was published last February. The document, commissioned by the Ministry of Education, highlighted a health and safety crisis across primary schools, with problems including rat and termite infestations, faulty bathroom facilities and unstable play structures.
2016. August 4. Major maintenance works are under way to deal with neglected preschool and primary school infrastructure in preparation for the start of the academic year next month. Wayne Scott, the Minister of Education, and Craig Cannonier, the Minister of Public Works, yesterday invited The Royal Gazette to observe work being carried out at Harrington Sound Primary and Victor Scott Primary, two of the lowest-rated schools in terms of health and safety according to the damning School Re-organization (Score) Report published last February. The document, commissioned by the Ministry of Education, highlighted a health and safety crisis across Bermuda’s primary schools, with problems including rat and termite infestations, faulty bathroom facilities and unstable play structures. Work is being carried out at most primary schools, including large-scale internal and external paint jobs. Shovels were in the ground yesterday at Harrington Sound Primary, where a new playground was being created. At Victor Scott Primary, the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms were being gutted and given new fittings. Comments about Harrington Sound in the Score report included: “Play structures in terrible condition. Swings are broken. Triangle is an accident waiting to happen. Some windows are very low; lots of rodents get into the building.” Mr Scott told The Royal Gazette: “It is important that the public know that we have identified the issues and are addressing them. These are not things that happen in a six-month period. This playground is falling to pieces, it is a very old structure and these things need to be done. Myself and Minister Cannonier have been working to ensure we have a collaborative effort between our teams so that we can actually see things done that support our children and our communities. The Score report was a very positive thing — there is always a lot of talk and innuendo about what is going on in the schools so it was important to have a good starting point and to put something out there that the public can see. We enhanced that with a full maintenance list which is online on the ministry website — it sets out what we are working on, what we are going to do, and if something new arises it can be added to the list.” At Victor Scott Primary, The Royal Gazette was shown a clean, bright yellow, external paint job. Inside, work on the boy’s toilets included the replacement of all urinals. Mr Cannonier said: “Our schools are old, there’s no question about it, and they require quite a bit of maintenance, so this is all part of us ensuring the schools are ready, that our students can come into schools that are functional and the facilities are working. When it comes to painting we are following a rotation but as far as the bathrooms are concerned, that is being done on a most needed basis. We recognized those schools that were very much in need of their bathrooms being revamped, including Elliott, Victor Scott and Northlands. Work has been going on for some time now. You will see a whole lot of work going on.” Schools listed by Score as being in need of “immediate attention” were Victor Scott Primary, Harrington Sound Primary, Northlands Primary, Paget Primary, Prospect Primary, West Pembroke Primary, Elliot Primary, and St David’s Primary. Most of the completed jobs include work on CCTV cameras, repairs to windows and doors and the servicing of water fountains. Work that has been prioritized going forward includes an electrical upgrade and leaky roofs at East End Primary, the new playground and fire alarm system problems at Harrington Sound, rodents and mould issues and the need for a new playground at West Pembroke Primary, and termite and rodent issues at Paget Primary School. Elliot Primary was one of the schools with the most priority listings, including fumigation of the school, paint work, leaky windows, restroom upgrades, replacement of upper school rafters and repairs to the “questionable” gym floor. Victor Scott needed termite eradication, restroom renovations, paint work, assembly hall leaks and ceiling tile replacement. The full schedule of work that has been completed, work under way and priority jobs have been listed on the Ministry of Education’s website, www.moed.bm.
2016. April 12. Bermuda’s public primary schools fell below international averages in the results of the most recent Cambridge Primary Checkpoint results. The figures, which date back to May of 2015, show Bermuda lagging behind in English, math and science compared to other schools with the Cambridge curriculum. Bermudian schools scored an average of 3.3 out of 6 for both English and science, along with 2.4 in mathematics. Cambridge averages for the respective subjects were 3.7, 4.2 and 3.8 Scores between 2 and 3 are deemed “OK”, while scores between 3 and 4 are classified as “good”. The scores mark a year-on-year decrease in all three subjects, however the international average Cambridge score fell slightly this year in both English and science. Results for 18 individual primary schools were placed on the Ministry’s website yesterday. Just one school — St David’s Primary — managed to exceed the international Cambridge averages in all three subjects. While the school topped the others listed in both English and science, Dalton E Tucker claimed the highest score for mathematics. On the other side of the spectrum Victor Scott Primary scored the lowest in both science and math, while West End Primary received the lowest scores in English. Math scores were the most problematic, with a third of the listed schools scoring below 2 out of 6 in the subject — performance labeled as “poor”. A statement from the Department of Education said: “The Cambridge Primary Checkpoint results are diagnostic in that they give schools an international benchmark of student performance which identifies specific learning needs in the core subjects.” The Cambridge Primary Checkpoint results are designed for education systems to use in the final year of primary school education. Freddie Evans, the acting commissioner of education, said the checkpoint results were shared with primary school leaders to help facilitate discussions and evaluate performance. “Students and their parents receive a comprehensive feedback form per subject on how well students performed individually and in comparison to the rest of their class peers, and all students in the system at the primary school level,” Dr Evans said. "It is important to understand that the results of Cambridge Primary Checkpoint tests are purely diagnostic in nature and not appropriate to use in silo as a ranking tool for assessing school success or school achievement. In this regard, all primary public schools should be looked at in their entirety by taking other associated factors into consideration as many P6 classes vary in both size and composition as it relates to student complexities at the different primary schools.” He added that the results were intended to help highlight areas of success and where improvements need to be made so that schools can review their strategies for the next class of students.
2016. School Reorganization (Score) report in effect. The Ministry of Education announced on January 13 2016 that the School Reorganization Advisory Committee had delivered its final report to Wayne Scott, the Minister of Education, who will decide which schools to close or consolidate following further consultation.
2016. February 19. The size of classrooms and a lack of funding for public primary schools are among the Bermuda Government’s most serious concerns, according to the school reorganization (Score) report. The report, commissioned by Wayne Scott, the Minister for Education, has set in motion a strategic financial review that will attempt to remedy some of the failings in the island’s primary schools. Also on the top of the priority list was the condition of school buildings and range of programmes. The financial viability of a school for reorganization, considered a priority, was not evaluated due to “lack of data”. All of the island’s 18 primary schools were scored in 14 study-factor criteria — school utilization (optimum school populations); classroom capacity (adequate space per child per classroom); financial resources (that are provided by the Ministry of Education); financial viability (the option for reorganization is viable); building condition; safety and accessibility; recreational space; range of programmes; student/teacher ratio; IT infrastructure (access to high-quality technology); special services (for children with special needs); transportation (reasonable access to transport to and from school); school as a community partner; and flexibility (flexible in how space can be used to accommodate changing needs). Each criteria was scored on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the best score. Any school scoring under 4 was described as “in need of review”. Some of the criteria were more heavily weighted as a priority. The role of a school as a community partner, the one category where all schools scored highly, was placed in the lowest priority group along with transportation. All 18 primary schools scored less than 4 for classroom capacity, safety and accessibility, range of programmes and IT infrastructure while 17 of the schools scored less than 4 for adequate financial resources. These are some of the findings: School Use. Highlights: St David’s Primary School, one of the schools earmarked for potential closure or consolidation, boasted optimum school utilization (5) along with Dalton E Tucker. Eight schools scored the minimum 1 point. Victor Scott Primary School was the most over-utilised at 130 per cent with Harrington Sound Primary School second at 124 per cent. On the other end of the scale Prospect Primary School — one of the schools slated for closure or consolidation — is at 46 per cent capacity and East End Primary School at 57 per cent. Considerations: “School with low utilization percentages were factored into the scenarios for school closure and school reorganization,” the report said. Classroom Capacity. Highlights: All 18 scored 1 for classroom capacity meaning every school has less than 60 per cent of classrooms that can accommodate the MOED capacity of 40 square foot per child. Some classroom sizes are too small to accommodate the children (18 students at P1-3 and 25 students at P4-6). Considerations: Adopt the 40 foot square guidelines to determine the number of students that can be accommodated in classrooms. Review 2015 enrolment numbers to ensure numbers do not exceed capacity. Financial Resources. Highlights: All but one school scored less than 4 meaning a full review is necessary. Some 12 of the schools scored 1 and a further 3 scored 2. St George’s Preparatory School scored the best at 4 while Heron Bay Primary School and Somerset Primary School scored 3. Qualitative data for all 18 schools indicate the need for resources to support instruction, programmes or building condition improvements. Gilbert Institute was singled out as a school most in need of financial resources. Considerations: Spread out resources evenly, establish protocols for addressing resource needs and ensure adequate resources are provided to eliminate the need for supplementation with personal finances. Financial Viability. Information unavailable due to “lack of data.” Building Condition. Highlights: Some 15 of the 18 schools scored less than 4. “The qualitative data indicate that serious building conditions have to be addressed at many schools. Harmful building conditions include: leaking; mould; rodent infestations; termites; sewage infiltration; faulty plumbing systems; storm damage. Plumbing and electrical systems were not fully documented but were often referred to as “areas of challenge”. Considerations: Develop a plan for assessing conditions and improving them along with a monitoring system and a review of the relationship between the Ministry of Education, Works and Engineering and other ministries. Range of Programmes. Highlights: All 18 schools scored less than 4 because schools do not have an IT coordinator. Two schools did not have a reading teacher — East End and Paget Primary School. The lowest scorers in this category were Paget, Northlands and East End with scores of 2.6 and under while the top scorers were Prospect and Victor Scott (3.5). Considerations: As a matter of priority reading teachers would be provided for all schools. Establish an IT co-ordinator position for all schools and a job description based on 21st century standards. Develop a plan for implementing, monitoring and sustaining IT programmes. Establish 21st centaury standards for all programmes (art, learning support, sports, guidance/counseling, music, educational therapy and reading).
February 16. Exposed live electrical wires, rodents climbing into classrooms, discarded condoms, and play structures that are “an accident waiting to happen”. These are some of the damning health and safety failings across Bermuda’s public primary schools exposed through the recently released school re-organization (Score) report. The Bermuda Government-commissioned report released to the public earlier this month, was designed to set out plans for “improving the quality and consistency of programming across primary schools” with the additional goal of “achieving cost savings and efficiency”. Guided by 14 “study factor criteria” the report identified four primary schools for possible closure — Heron Bay Primary School, Prospect Primary School, Gilbert Institute and St David’s Primary School. These criteria included safety and accessibility, building condition, school utilization, classroom capacity and financial resources. The criteria for each school was scored on a scale of 1 to 5 with five being the best score. Any school scoring under 4 was identified as being “in need of review”. Each of the island’s 18 primary schools scored less than 4 when with regards to safety and accessibility with 8 scoring below 2. The lowest scoring schools (a score of 1) in terms of safety, listed as being in need of “immediate attention”, are: Northlands Primary School, Paget Primary School, Prospect, Victor Scott Primary School, West Pembroke, Elliot, Harrington Sound and St David’s Primary Schools. Testimonials from staff paint a bleak picture at the schools which the Ministry of Education says it aims to address. Harrington Sound reported: “Play structures in terrible condition. Swings are broken. Triangle is an accident waiting to happen. Some windows are very low; lots of rodents get into the building.” There were security concerns raised at Paget as “people without permission enter easily”. This is coupled with the fact that school keys have been copied and are “out in the public”. Victor Scott students must endure “termites and mould all over the school” while Elliot has problems with mould, termites and no water in the upper school bathrooms. Open electrical pipes and exposed live wires were found at Northlands whose building was described as “not conducive to primary age children”. Somerset Primary School achieved a slightly higher score of 2 despite reports of condoms and pornographic material found on the school grounds as well as concerns about children suffering asthma due to poor air quality. Among the considerations drawn up in the report were the need to improve school safety, improve and upgrade facilities and review and address, where identified, school accessibility and delineate how buildings will be maintained to meet 21st-century standards. With regards to the state of the school buildings, 15 of the 18 schools scored below 4. The report said in its considerations of building conditions: “A plan is to be developed for assessing building conditions and bringing school buildings up to 21st-century standards. Monitoring processes are to be implemented.” The report also promised to “review the relationship between the Department of Education, the Department of Works and Engineering and other Ministries to ensure accountability and effective protocols for timely building repairs and responsive management.” Seven schools scored the minimum one point in the safety and accessibility study factor criteria. Here are some of the highlights taken from staff testimonials within the Score report. Dalton E Tucker: A “major concern and challenge” cited was that cars and children come in through the same entry making it unsafe. Water drainage is an issue at the school. Elliot Primary School: “I’ve been working by myself for three months because the other custodian is out sick. Mould — when opening the school in the morning there is a strong smell of mould in the room across from the custodian office, end room, deputy office and current tech room. Art room has termites in the door and cabinets. No water in the upper school bathrooms — repairs needed to water pump. Walkway in the lower block needs to be closed off due to drainage problems when it rains. There are some issues with mould … my eyes were stinging. “ Harrington Sound: “Play structures in terrible condition. Swings are broken. Triangle is an accident waiting to happen. We don’t have a hard surface area. Some windows are very low; lots of rodents get into the building.” Northlands Primary: “There are some safety and health concerns with open electrical pipes and exposed live wires. The building is not ‘developmentally appropriate’ for primary aged students who moved to the school from Dellwood. This facility is not safe for little children. The hard surfaces are dangerous. The crossing lights need to be repaired, been out of service for over a year.” Paget Primary: “A major area of concern is the security of the school. People without permission enter easily. Classrooms have some structural issues and are leaking and mouldy. There is an issue of having keys copied in the past and are out in the public.” St David’s Primary: “Bathrooms definitely need upgrading. Leaking rooms. Victor Scott: “Termites and mould all over the school. Custodian has a rodent/vermin problem.”
2009. Bermuda began the full implementation of the Cambridge International Curriculum in all Bermuda's public schools. The Cambridge International Curriculum was chosen for a host of reasons, including the ease with which Bermudians can pursue higher education in the UK, where the curriculum's IGCSE qualifications are recognized. The Bermuda School Certificate from the old curriculum was not recognized at British universities. The new curriculum gives Bermudians better opportunities to be accepted for study in the UK, with the rights they have to live and work in Britain and to take advantage of the reduced fees for all Britons, including Bermudians, at UK universities.
See full list of names and locations at http://schools.moed.bm/Pages/Preschool.aspx.
The following are some of the government and private preschools: Adventureland Nursery and Preschool, Teeter Tots Nursery, Blossoming Tots Daycare, Aneesah’s Nursery and Preschool, Onionpatch Academy, Heavenly Blessings Nursery, First Church of God Daycare and Preschool, Aeries Adventure Nursery and Preschool, Little Learners Preschool, First Friends Nursery and Preschool, and Heritage Nursery and Preschool.
Children must be 4 years old between January 1 and December 31. They must be resident in the same zone as the Government preschool to which application is made. Prospect Pre-School will accept applications from persons living in either Devonshire Parish or Pembroke Parish. Southampton Preschool will accept applications from persons living in Sandys Parish providing the home address falls within the MA 06 postal zone. These are the only Sandys residents who will be considered at Southampton Preschool. Priority in enrolment is given to younger four year olds, namely, those children born on the latter part of the year. Parents of children not initially accepted should contact the teacher-in-charge of the preschool and request that their child's name be placed on the waiting list. As vacancies occur, teachers-in-charge will admit pupils according to the criteria cited above.
See full list of names and locations at http://schools.moed.bm/Pages/Primary.aspx.
Children must be 5 years old between January 1 and December 31. They must be resident in the same zone as the primary school to which application is made. Priority in enrolment is given to in-zone siblings of pupils in Primary 1 to 5 already attending the school to which application is made.
St David's Primary School
See full list of names and locations at http://schools.moed.bm/Pages/Middle.aspx.
See full list of names and locations at http://schools.moed.bm/Pages/High.aspx.
A private institution which receives a government grant through the Bermuda College. It provides a means by which those who have not gained secondary school certification may do so through the General Education Development (GED) program developed in the United States. The Government operates an extensive financial aid scheme to assist students seeking higher education in institutions outside Bermuda. A satisfactory academic performance and demonstration of financial need are two of the principal criteria for the receipt of such aid. In addition, there are Bermuda Government Scholarships based on academic merit and commitment to the teaching profession.
2017. September 7. Bermuda’s first non-segregated school is celebrating 120 years of education . The Berkeley Institute, the idea of 11 “founding fathers”, opened its doors on September 6, 1897 — and it has stuck to its original plan to provide a first-class education to any pupil prepared to try their best. New principal Keisha Douglas, the school’s eighth head teacher and herself a former pupil, said: “The founding fathers would be excited to know that we truly remain a senior school for all and it is our vision to be first choice for everybody. We continue along that path with our programming and with our staffing — enticing persons over and realizing that we continue, after 120 years, to produce role-model citizens who go to the highest heights in Bermuda and worldwide.” Top businessmen and a string of Bermuda premiers, including Paula Cox, Ewart Brown, Alex Scott, Dame Jennifer Smith and Dame Pamela Gordon-Banks, have all worn Berkeley’s distinctive green and gold. Ms Douglas said: “Not everyone will be a premier, a doctor or a lawyer, but we are still ensuring success for all by finding their strengths. It is amazing how we evolved to give everyone access. From a principal’s perspective, our goal is to keep that legacy and pride at the fore. Our history and legacy will never change. That is the only thing that can ever stay constant and current. We will be around for a long time — we are going nowhere. Our goal is that everyone will have a pathway to success and live out the dream of our founding fathers. We are providing a first-class education for all.” The school first opened at Samaritan’s Lodge on Court Street, Hamilton, then land on St John’s Road, Pembroke, in 1899 was bought for a new and larger school, which opened in 1902. The latest incarnation, in nearby Berkeley Road, opened in 2006. The school was named after Bishop George Berkeley — an Anglican priest from Dysart, Ireland, who wanted to establish a school in the colonies. But his original project collapsed after funding failed to materialize. Around 100 years later, the Reverend William Dowding revived Berkeley’s dream of establishing an interracial school but financial support for Rev Dowding’s short-lived interracial St Paul’s College also evaporated. The Berkeley Educational Society was formed and met on October 6, 1879 at the home of businessman and landowner Samuel David Robinson. Members campaigned to raise funds for the school and they became known as Berkeley Institute’s founding fathers. And they achieved their dream of a new school for all, despite 18 years of struggle — not least with a reluctant white establishment in still-segregated Bermuda. The school’s motto Respice Finem — Keep the end in view — still stands as a tribute to their determination. Chairman of the board of governors Craig Bridgewater, who is a managing director at professional services firm KPMG, said new pupils were made aware of the struggle to found the school. He said: “For the students coming in, we have the Berkeley Project where they have to write about what it is like to be Berkeleyite. The students have to research the history of Berkeley — the founding fathers, who they were and so on and whoever writes the best essay gets to present that at a prize giving. From day one — the whole Berkeley spirit, the green and the gold school colours and the history of Berkeley — is instilled. Even wearing your uniform properly is important. We incorporate that from day one — from orientation — and keep that going.” And Ms Douglas added that former pupils also acted as an unofficial school police to ensure present pupils lived up to the school’s high standards. She said: “It’s true — Berkeleyites will call up the principal and tell us about someone’s tie not being on properly — they take it very seriously. It is part of that pride. That is what we are about — building up a nation. We don’t apologise for our greatness — we never have. When I attended Berkeley from 1985 to 1990, we were told every day that we were the best. We believed it and we carried ourselves accordingly. No one could tell us anything different.” Ms Douglas, ex-principal of Clearwater Middle School, said former Berkeley Institute principal, maths teacher and anti-segregation campaigner Dr Clifford Maxwell set her on her career path. She added: “My dream was to be a nursery teacher. But Dr Maxwell said I had to teach mathematics because I was able to galvanize all my friends and help them to understand the subject. I attribute everything I have become to him.” And quality of teaching remains a major part of the school’s ethos. Ms Douglas said: “It makes a big difference — we have to have top teachers in order to continue with top programmes. We have to ensure pathway for success for all students of all abilities now that we are comprehensive. We have teachers who know all about the guidelines to get students top scholarships.” Another key ingredient is a programming schedule that helps to connect Bermuda to the rest of the world. Mr Bridgewater said: “We have to meet guidelines around the curriculum but we reserve the right to go over and above that. There was always a focus on internationally recognizable qualifications — we did our RSAs and GCEs and now there are the IGCSEs — because we are trying to create global citizenship. Over the last few years under former principal Dr Phyllis Curtis-Tweed we focused on bedding down our international qualifications so there was a big focus on advanced placement for college and dual enrolment with the Bermuda College.” Ms Douglas added: “I can go to any continent and mention Berkeley Institute and they know what it means. I believe that we are, and will continue to be, first choice. It takes strong leadership and programming married with our staff and our ability to have a board that governors and that can make changes.”
Head Teacher Douglas mentioned earlier describes herself as a “lifelong Berkeleyite” having studied at the school, taught there for 20 years and who now takes the helm as its principal. She began her career at the school as a mathematics teacher and rose through the ranks taking positions as head of a year group, head of math, deputy principal and acting principal. She “left the building” for two years to become principal at Clearwater Middle School before applying for the top job at Berkeley. Ms Douglas holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in Mathematical Sciences, and a Master of Arts degree in Instruction and Curriculum. Asked what her reaction was when she learned she had been chosen to become principal at Berkeley, Ms Douglas told us: “It was a journey of all journeys to bring me back to this ultimate goal and dream.”
See basic details at http://schools.moed.bm/Pages/College.aspx.
Off South Road, Paget. There is also a Bermuda College Faculty Association. Despite the name, it is NOT a university as it does not award any academic degrees. A non-residential junior college by USA standards and non-residential community college by UK standards. Incorporated by the Bermuda College Act 1974, offers opportunities for higher education in liberal arts, business studies, hotel administration and technology. For over 18's, a technical institute, community college, hospitality training center and further education center mostly for adults who have not attended university. The College, the equivalent of a junior college in the USA, is a publicly funded day-time (non-residential) community college institution for the over -18s, providing a two-year university transfer programme which enables qualified students to enter the appropriate first year of a four-year institution in North America. It's two-year diploma has been accepted as the equivalent of "A" levels in the United Kingdom and enables students to enter the first year of selected universities there. The College operates a Faculty of Adult and Continuing Education which enables persons already in the workforce to upgrade their skills. It owns - but no longer operates (it leases) the Coco Reef Hotel (formerly Stonington Beach Hotel). It has a library, open to the public, on a membership fee basis. Bermuda Government owned and operated as a quango. Its Center for Adult and Continuing Education facility offers many courses for adult students, Bermudians and non Bermudians. They include Professional; Hospitality; Computer related, for Macintosh and PC users; Technology; Personal Development; Do It Yourself; Cooking; Recreational Art; and Horticulture. Accredited by the USA's New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). In 2013 the Bermuda College (BC) arranged via Georgia State University (GSU) to provide on-island baccalaureate degrees to Bermuda residents in the areas of Finance and/or Risk Management and Insurance. The program allows BC students who have earned at least 60 credit hours and who have been accepted into the Robinson College of Business at GSU to take online evening classes at GSU via simulcast to earn the Bachelor of Business Administration degree with specialization in either Finance or Risk Management and Insurance.
2018. November 24. Courses in fintech, compliance and gaming are on the cards for the Bermuda College as part of a new five-year plan. Duranda Greene, president of the college, unveiled details of its Vision 2023: Delivering Success plan at the Hamilton Rotary Club on Tuesday. Dr Greene said: “Preparation for the plan began in earnest last October and was approved by the board in September. The strategic lens through which the college views its ongoing relevance to our community and, in particular, to our students, is the result of extensive and comprehensive consultation with industry partners.” Other highlights of the plan include work on succession planning and a bid to find replacements for the more than 20 per cent of college employees eligible to retire over the next five years. Dr Greene added that the college also aimed to become a resource hub for intellectual activity and development for the community as well as an eco-friendly campus. She said that it was also planned to re-brand the college, which will include a review of its logo, tagline and colors. The re-brand could include the introduction of a college mascot. Full details of Vision 2023 will be available on the Bermuda College website next week. Dr Greene said that a 2017 government grant of $300,000 to help students get through was “a game-changer”. She added that the Throne Speech announcement that the grant would be increased by $200,000 meant even more students would benefit from a college education. Dr Greene said that a separate grants scheme, the College Promise, designed to reward students from the public education system who have a grade-point average of at least 3.0, would be introduced next year. She added: “Recent studies indicate that by 2020, with new technology and emergent industries, at least 65 per cent of all jobs will require some level of postsecondary education. It is imperative, we believe, and our mandate as a community college, to continue to prepare and equip our citizens to take advantage of these job opportunities.” The college will celebrate its 45th anniversary next year and will be making a special effort to reconnect with college graduates through a series of events.
See Bermuda Government Boards.
2016. April 20. Two primary schools in the East End have recorded the island’s best average grades throughout the past four years, according to results from the Cambridge International Examinations.
Checkpoint is an innovative diagnostic test used as a valuable tool by schools as it provides feedback on student’s strengths and weaknesses in key subject areas.. More importantly, parents have a transferable academic record of their child’s progress as they transition through the system from primary to senior school level.” Checkpoints do not include passes or fails. Instead, each subject is assigned a score range of zero to six and the higher the score, the greater the level of readiness as the student transitions to the senior level to sit their IGCSE exam.
The Government's Special-Needs School. See details at http://schools.moed.bm/Pages/Special.aspx. 10 Old Military Road, Devonshire DV 03, Bermuda. Phone: 292-7978, Fax: 296-1106, email: email@example.com. It caters to those with physical and cognitive challenges. There is a Friends of Hope Academy group and the school’s parent-teacher association.
A Community Education and Development Program, with three terms a year, is sponsored by the Bermuda Government's Ministry of Community and Cultural Affairs and the Ministry of Education. The sites are the Government run Computer Center, Northlands School, Warwick Secondary School, Sandys Secondary School and St. George's Secondary School. Classes meet for two hours and run for 10 weeks. Courses are grouped under the following main headings: Academic Support; Arts and Crafts; Basic Education; Boating; Certificate Courses; Commercial Courses; Computer Education; Consumer Education; Do It Yourself; Family and Personal Development; Food and Home; Health and Beauty; Languages; Music, Dance and Theater; Recreation and Fitness; and Technical Trades.
Bermuda Independent Schools Association (BISA): Since September 2014. Private school heads have banded together to form BISA to enable better collaboration and representation. Heads of the six different private schools agreed to form it BISA as a forum for the heads to share issues of professional interest and to consider developments in education in Bermuda. The association seeks to become a recognizable entity through which the views of the independent schools in Bermuda can be represented to the community, the Government and to other agencies.
Not state or government - for children of all ages and two private schools which offer early primary education. These institutions receive no government funding. The Government has the authority to determine the examinations to be taken in such schools, as a means of ensuring appropriate academic standards there.
Some are both preparatory (primary) and secondary. Business newcomers being located to Bermuda on work permits from the UK or Europe, or the USA and Canada, and who bring a child or children with them, should note that Bermuda is not an European Union country and does not follow any of the EU's laws or requirements, or those from the United Kingdom or USA or Canada. For example, there are no Dutch or French or English or American or Canadian schools. Local private or independent schools have a fundamentally different educational philosophy and a much higher standard overall than local public schools. They train their students to sit for and pass American, British, Canadian and European university qualifying programs which are internationally recognized. Several also offer an additional year, a Grade 13 equivalent, for academically gifted students to enter university with the equivalent of a sophomore year achieved. These schools charge tuition costing thousands of dollars a year per student. Nevertheless, all are running at full capacity and several have substantial waiting lists.
Applications for teaching positions in Bermuda Private Schools should be directed by airmail solely to the specific school concerned in Bermuda.
Primary, since 1990, ages 5-12. Phone (441) 292-8326 or fax 296-1522.
A private school, founded in the 1890s. 19 Richmond Road, Pembroke Parish HM 08, Bermuda. Telephone: (441) 295-6153. Fax: (441) 295-2754. Voice Mail: (441) 291-0049. Educates girls to high international standards. Modeled on the United Kingdom's Cheltenham Ladies College. Included in its syllabus is the International Baccalaureate (IB) as preparation for university. It is the IB Centre for Bermuda. Also, it is British oriented in curriculum and examinations taken by graduates, but with flexibility added to ensure their smooth transition to North American universities. Annual fees - on application. Number of students. 690+. Class size average. 20. Examinations taken by graduates. GCSE's and SATs. Alumni Association of the Bermuda High School for Girls. Bermuda High School for Girls Charitable Trust, registered charity 358. Bermuda High School for Girls Parent Teachers Association, registered charity 056.
2018. April 18. A new $11 million-plus high-tech technology centre is to open at Bermuda High School within the next two years, it was revealed last night. The school said its new Innovation Centre would prepare its pupils for careers in science, technology, art and design, and maths, known together as Steam. Jennifer Burland Adams, the school’s director of advancement, said the school had exceeded its $10 million fundraising goal in less than three years. She added: “It’s absolutely vital we look at Steam in two different ways. One is the world needs more people going into science, engineering and technology and they need girls in particular. We also look at a Steam education and the skills you get from that — project-based and inquiry-based education. These are vital and the skills that all companies are looking for in their employees. It’s the skills of collaboration and critical and creative thinking.” Linda Parker, head of school, said: “Women are underrepresented in boardrooms, in corporate leadership and certainly in the fields of technology, engineering and science. At BHS, we play an important role in ensuring that more of our girls consider careers in Steam by sparking a sense of wonder and curiosity as early as possible and then nurturing and challenging students’ interests through our curriculum and inspirational teaching in a state-of-the-art facility.” The 14,000 square foot centre, to be built on part of a car park behind the school on land donated by the Bank of Butterfield will be linked to the existing Butterfield Building, and include five new science labs, a MakerSpace — a high-tech science and engineering workshop — two computer science and robotics labs and learning commons and library, as well as a leadership centre for girls. Renovations will include a Blackbox Theatre and an arts wing, connected to the Innovation Centre, and which will house improved music and visual arts departments with an outdoor “idea hub” linking visual arts with the MakerSpace. Ms Burland Adams said: “Investing in science and technology and the arts, particularly at a girls’ school, really resonated with all of the people with whom we spoke. We know that we are preparing our students for exciting careers that haven’t yet been defined and that the combination of technical competencies, together with excellent problem-solving, collaboration and communication skills, will be key to their success. That is why a strong Seam education is so important and why BHS is leading the way in this endeavor in Bermuda.” The fundraising effort is the largest in the school’s near-125 year history and Ms Burland Adams said it “may be the most successful philanthropic effort in island history”. Ms Burland Adams added she expected to see an increased amount of pupil interest in technology-based careers as a result of the purpose-built centre and “our students taking advantage of international opportunities like camps and competitions because they will be in an environment that will be sparking curiosity and wonder from a very young age.” But she said that the new centre would benefit technology education across the island, not just the school’s own pupils. Ms Burland Adams added: “In Bermuda, I would hope to see the Innovation Centre become the hub for innovation and creativity in Bermuda through camps, workshops, competitions and people renting the space and using it.” The fundraising campaign was spearheaded by chairman Pamela Ferreira and school board chairman Mariette Savoie, along with Ms Parker and Ms Burland Adams. Donations ranged from $20 up to $1.5 million and came from families, graduates, staff, trustees, companies and friends of the school. Corporate supporters who gave leadership gifts included Renaissance Re, Arch, the XL Foundation, Aon, Deloitte, CatCo, Markel, Argus and BF&M.
2014. November 8. The Bermuda High School for Girls (BHS) is now the Island's only school to be accredited by the Council of International Schools. It comes after an evaluation of the school's ethos, faculty and governance by the Council, a global non-profit with more than 400 schools included around the world.
St. John's Road,
Pembroke Parish. Telephone: (441) 292-6177. Fax: (441) 295-4977.
P. O. Box HM 2224, Hamilton HM JX. A Private, independent day school (with it's
own primary school, Cavendish Hall Preparatory in a separate building in
Devonshire) secular and
co-educational, both British and North American oriented in curriculum and examinations
taken by graduates. A
member of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) in North
America and CESI (Canadian Educational Standards
Institute). Founded in 1888 as a boys' grammar school, it became fully co-educational in
Founded in 1888 as a boys' grammar school, it became fully co-educational in 1991.75% of the students are Bermudian; 25% are from the international community (with international finance, insurance, trust management and tourism forming the principal part of the Bermudian economy.
2017. September 11. Saltus Grammar School is planning for its years ahead under the guidance of Deryn Lavell, the new head of school. Ms Lavell, who comes with 38 years’ education experience in Canada and the United Arab Emirates, has immersed herself in the community after her recent arrival on the island. Calling herself “a learner at heart”, Ms Lavell said she was eager to explore and discover, adding: “So far, I can’t get over how warm and welcoming everyone has been.” Ms Lavell is said to have an ambitious agenda for her first term, including the implementation of a strategic planning process to guide the school’s priorities for the coming years — as requested by the Saltus board of governors. In assessing the school’s needs, she said she planned to do “more listening than talking. I want to know what’s important to the Saltus community and get a sense of what they believe should be our priorities,” she added. “That includes students as well as faculty, staff and parents. I want to hear from all perspectives.” Ms Lavell cited the school’s examination results and university acceptances as evidence of Saltus’ “position of strength”. Priorities will include increased demand in the area of science, technology, engineering and maths, as well as problem-solving capabilities.
Formerly Montessori International Academy. 107 Middle Road, Devonshire DV 06. Telephone: (441) 236-9797 or 236-9789. Fax: (441) 236-9789. A private school, founded 1991, by the Montessori Education Trust. Currently with more than 330 students from 3 years old. Early childhood; lower elementary; upper elementary; middle school (the International Baccalaureate Organization). Secular. The philosophy is based on the teaching methods of Dr. Maria Montessori. With a 5-year Middle School Program, based on the International Baccalaureate Organization Middle Years Program. In June 2006 it become the first outside Canada to receive official accreditation by the Canadian Educational Standards Institute (CESI). The accreditation is the result of a three-year evaluation process that involved extensive site visits and assessments by CESI council members. The waiting list is strong.
Montessori Preparatory School:
38 Lightbourne Lane, Smith's Parish, FL 02. (441) 236-9797 or 236-0332. Fax: (441) 232-3119.
2018. June 21. This private school is to start a $6 million expansion programme this summer to widen its curriculum. Somersfield Academy aims to provide the full International Baccalaureate at the school, which was founded as a Montessori school in 1991. Carlos Symonds, principal of the Devonshire school, said that the IB diploma marked a “natural progression” after 14 years of provision at the middle school level. Mr Symonds added: “We are simply maturing as a school and coming of age. “Most importantly, however, we are looking to give our students the choice to complete their final two years here in Bermuda at the school they have come to love.” Mr Symonds said the introduction of the two extra years of the IB programme had been asked for by students as well as parents. He added: “We are looking to provide them with the opportunity to complete their pre-university studies without having to endure a disruptive change of schools.” The construction plan, however, has still to be given planning department approval. The school, which has about 500 pupils, said it expected a gradual increase in enrolment with the two-year IB diploma programme. Mr Symonds said Somersfield would “start with a very small cohort, around 15 students in the first year, which will enable the team to give them the very best attention”. He added: “We’ll work our way up from there. With the two additional years, there will be some growth. However, we are committed to preserving the special culture of our small school as these characteristics are what make our school special.” Somersfield adopted the IB middle school programme in 2005, and Mr Symonds said students were familiar with the diploma. He added the IB was “arguably the most respected international programme”. Mr Symonds said: “While we are always pleased to see our kids excel and demonstrate that they can compete and meet the highest academic standards at the schools to which they transfer locally and globally, given that we do not offer the final two years, we cannot lay full claim to their successes, even though they may have started with us in our Montessori Children’s House at age 3.” He added: “This will change ... and provide us with a true and loyal alumni base.” The new building, to be called the Centre for International Education is expected to open by September next year. Mr Symonds said: “After about 28 years, we will come of age as a school, which is pretty significant along our journey.”
Somersfield addition planned
A Private School. 117 Middle Road, Warwick Parish, PG 01. Telephone: (441) 236-1251 or 236-1251 or 239-1917 (Office). Fax (441) 236-9995. Annual fees on application. There is a large waiting list at every level. It is a secular and co-educational day school. It was the first offshore school in the British Commonwealth, established in 1662 and operated continuously ever since. It was a private primary and secondary school until 1960 when it became a Bermuda Government aided secondary school. It reverted to private school status in 1990.
Warwick Academy. Our first 350 years. Book. 2013. Co-written by long time educator Andrew Dobson and school parent Catherine Kennedy. Commemorative history book. Intended to paint a picture of where the school has been and where it’s headed in the future. Researching Warwick Academy’s past was difficult. Pre-1930s school records had been lost at sea in 1929, after the data had been sent on a boat to be bound in New York, but sank upon its return to Bermuda. Appeals were made to former students and teachers to get their contributions and many responded.
|Warwick Academy Association||registered charity 157|
2016. March 8. Special needs education has been prioritized for the coming fiscal year, according to Wayne Scott. The Minister of Education said the department had experienced an increase in requests and demands for Para educators to meet the diverse needs of children in Bermuda’s education system, particularly those on the autism spectrum, students who are deaf or hard of hearing and those in need of specialized vision programmes. Mr Scott said the department aimed to create supportive classroom environments to meet student needs. The department has also highlighted the importance of evaluation and early intervention for children with autism, allocating more than $4 million for learning support. The department funds three education officers for special education and learning support in addition to 40 learning support teachers for preschool, primary and middle school. “The increase in funding is a direct result of assessment materials needed to ensure appropriate diagnosis of students with special needs and the purchase of unique learning system, a special education curriculum, used for autism functional skills and special school programme,” said Mr Scott. An additional $3 million has been allocated for para educators. “Last year the department of education committed to increase the monitoring and supervision of para professionals with more scrutiny applied to the development and review of criteria and paraprofessional placements.” In October, professionals participated in training that “focuses creating environments that support student success by acknowledging that students have unmet needs and latent skills, which can be addressed by staff response and action”. Currently 29 students are supported in the ASD programme at five public primary and middle schools. Opposition member Lovita Foggo said she hoped that somewhere embedded in that figure was an allocation for a permanent commissioner within the department. In light of the hiring freeze it has been filled in the interim and she emphasized that the acting party should remain. She said it sent a message to the public when we fill posts with Bermudians — “We do have the intellect and the skilled Bermudians on-island who are capable of sitting in that position,” she said. Ms Foggo partially commended the new initiative before, while noting the number of Bermudian students who suffer from some degree of autism. “Again we have a five per cent deduction in the budget allocation where there’s actually a need to ensure more is put in place to help these students have success in education. Aspects of the budget were unrealistic to achieve the government’s goals in education, saying areas such as school improvement and scholarships should have been boosted. We need to do everything we need to do to ensure that public education is seen and accepted in the public domain as being the first choice, always.” PLP MP Diallo Rabain, meanwhile, referred to the recent Score report’s findings on the condition of the island’s public schools, saying that the issue was not a new one. He noted that in the 2013 Throne Speech, the OBA identified the issue and stated that a facilities plan would come. In 2013, we knew we had to put money in our schools and upgrade our facilities,” he said. “In 2014, the minister spoke about an RFP. Now, in 2016, we have the Score report talking about the same thing.” Mr Rabain said there was a public perception that private schools were better than public schools, and that more needed to be done to address the issue. He suggested that a certain percentage of the Bermuda scholarships be earmarked for public school students.
Bermuda has NO colleges equivalent to universities. (The Bermuda College, day-school only, no boarders, is the equivalent of a day-school US junior college). A significant number of local preparatory (primary) pupils, or graduates of secondary, high and private schools, and non Bermudian dependents of Bermuda based international industry personnel, attend schools or universities abroad. Most go to the USA and Canada. American universities require Bermudians to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). Those who go to the United Kingdom do so primarily - but not exclusively - for law studies.
Attending university in the US, which can cost students $40,000 a year, remains the most expensive option for Bermudians. But they get the highest-rated universities (see below).
Since 2011, many Bermudian and Bermuda-based students or their parents have found Canadian universities to be overall best-value-for-money. Until 2011, the UK offered it this but no more. Since then, university fees have risen significantly in the UK, now exceed £9,000 sterling annually for tuition alone . Bermudian and Bermuda-based youngsters pay the same rate at UK universities as UK nationals but most UK universities have hiked their annual fees to at least the same cost as if not higher than Nova Scotia’s Acadia University, or Dalhousie University.
Universities abroad attended by students from Bermuda are numerous.
Highest-rated universities in the world are:
The most popular Canadian university destinations include Ryerson University, University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, Queen’s University, Western University and Dalhousie University.
Under the Bermuda Government's National Education Guarantee Scheme, since 1994, no Bermudian student with university potential is denied the opportunity for further education due to lack of funds. Only students who are Bermudian by birth (namely, born in Bermuda with at least one parent being Bermudian, or born overseas with at least one parent Bermudian at the time) or by grant of Bermuda Status can apply for funding under this scheme.
Bermudians and/or Bermuda-based students studying at colleges and universities in England (not Scotland) may be advantaged in university fees. Students from British Overseas Territories including Bermuda who study in England are now charged home rate fees for further education and undergraduate or graduate degree courses. Some Bermudians, who further qualify because of grandparents or other close relatives living in the UK and who claim them as a member of their family, and/or who went to state or other funded boarding grammar or other British schools may pay low fees. Compared to the cost of being university-educated in Canada and the USA, it may be much less expensive in the UK, even when university fees were hiked there in 2011 to about £9,000 a year tops for the average UK student in England. However, parents of Bermudian or Bermuda-based children contemplation going to an English university (they generally do not any longer qualify to go for free to a Scottish or Welsh or Northern Irish one) should also bear in mind - for those who have to pay them - the cost of airline fares to and from Bermuda, which are significantly higher than airline fares from the USA or Canada. Also bear in mind that if overall quality of higher education, not cost, is most important, the top five American universities are the world's best and most prestigious. Bermudian university aspirants who can claim UK citizenship have a further realistic option, the opportunity of going to a good European university, say in France of Germany or Holland, for virtually no cost for student tuition (except they still have to pay for room and board and airfares home).
Leading Bermudian banks and law firms and many Bermuda based international companies offer very good scholarships.
Last Updated: July
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