Press Conference - Ministry of Education December 14 2020 by The Hon. Diallo Rabain, Minister of Education
Good Afternoon Members of Media and the Bermudian Public.
On Friday I provided my colleagues in Parliament with an update on the Education Reform of Bermuda’s Public Education System.
Our education system is at a crossroads and a shift is needed. We must do things differently for our children and the future of this Island. Change is inevitable and change is forthcoming for our public-school system.
The public has asked for and this Government is moving ahead with the restructuring of our current system to phase out the Middle School system for a two-tier system consisting of Primary Schools and Signature Schools at the Senior Level. The work needed to help bring this kind of change to reality for the benefit of our students and our educators will be both impactful and wide-reaching.
There are four initiatives currently taking place to facilitate the Education Reform of Bermuda’s Public Education System:
The development of an Education Authority;
The implementation of the Learning First Program;
The phasing out of middle schools and introduction of signature schools; and,
A consultation process on the introduction of parish primary schools.
THE EDUCATION AUTHORITY
It is not enough to say that we want our students to be challenged to be innovative, dynamic, critical thinkers, entrepreneurs, and intellectuals. Nor is it enough to say that our educators must be equipped with the professional development and ample teaching tools, to help them deliver an education curriculum with creativity, with passion, and create a positive learning environment. In order to ensure that students and teachers are able to perform at these levels we must ensure that, the system as a whole function at the highest levels possible. That will be the work of the Education Authority.
The Education Authority is a committee consisting of the Chairman and Deputy Chair of the Board of Education, Members from the Bermuda First Education Committee and our Education Consultant, Innovation Unit. They have been tasked with developing a plan which will strengthen the performance management of all schools and persons at the administrative, classroom and student support levels within the Department of Education.
We are pleased to have the support of critical stakeholders in the creation of the Education Authority. We all want a public education system where all aspects and stakeholders work together for the betterment of students and teachers with the aim of having a top notch learning and working environment.
THE LEARNING FIRST PROGRAM
The Learning First Program, involves a wide range of stakeholders collaboratively working together to design an improved learning environment for public schools. As mentioned in previous statements, the 54-person Design Team consists of Bermudians who are educators, school leaders, parents, business persons, unions, cultural and community partners.
In the last two months the Design Team has been busy engaging in meetings that include:
an introduction to digital reporting processes;
identifying national and core educational priorities;
understanding and building on the public school case for change;
understanding what is design thinking;
changing mindsets to design new solutions for redesigning the public school system;
how to deliver better outcomes for learners, and
using research to inform the school redesign process.
The objective of their work is to prepare support for effective delivery of new learning experiences for our students.
During the month of November, the Design Team assessed the public-school system from the perspective of relevant stakeholders and community members. The team members conducted surveys of students, teachers, principals, school leaders and businesses. This research was critical to gather key data about their experiences with public school education for things such as:
what is working well,
improvements needed for the System,
community and business engagement,
most significant learning experiences, and more.
This data will drive the required mindset for informed decision-making during the design of system learning.
The first monthly newsletter from Learning First was sent out on Friday and by all accounts, has been received well. I encourage the public to stay updated on their work by visiting their web site at www.learningfirstbda.com and hitting the subscribe button.
THE PHASING OUT OF MIDDLE SCHOOLS AND INTRODUCTION OF SIGNATURE SCHOOLS
As stated in the 2020 Speech from the Throne, the Government will bring forth a Bill to amend the Education Act to support the decision to phase out middle schools, introduce signature schools and move from a 3-tier to a 2-tier public education system.
The legislation will pave the way to gradually phase out middle schools. When that process begins we will see:
the current M1 and M2 years will be moved to the Primary Level;
senior level signature schools introduced and move the current M3 year to Senior Schools; and,
establish exceptionalities and alternative education for students.
As a result, the reformed system will see Primary School education consist of P1 to P8 and Senior School education will be from S1 to S5.
The signature schools will focus on the learning styles and interests of our children, including academic and technical subjects, trades, business, sports, arts and special needs education.
Originally, it was anticipated the first two signature schools would be implemented in September 2021. However, we recognize that more time is needed to collect the data to determine the right signatures. Upon completion of gathering the data there will be a need to do consultation on the signature foci. Our original timelines to consult and engage has been further delayed due to COVID
-19 as officers were needed to deal with the COVID
-19 matters that arose in schools.
Once we have the firm foundation required with feedback from the widest possible consultation that includes engagement with teachers, parents, young people and the wider public, we will open the first 2 Signature Schools in September 2022. Only then will the gradual phasing out of Middle Schools begin followed by any other structural realignments that have been consulted and agreed on.
I cannot tell you how happy I am to keep this promise on behalf of the Bermuda people.
CONSULTATION ON THE INTRODUCTION OF PARISH PRIMARY SCHOOLS
Education Reform will and has to involve the Structural Realignment of our school system. This realignment process will begin with a consultation process on the proposals for parish primary schools.
The vision is that each primary school will become the hub of its parish because research shows that when families, community groups, businesses and schools band together to support learning, students achieve more in school and they enjoy their educational experience. The parish school model will facilitate a stronger and more resilient connection amongst students, families and communities.
Repurposed, refurbished and redesigned public primary schools will expand courses and programme offerings to provide students with the range of educational experiences and services that meet international standards
During the consultation process, the Government will propose 10 Primary Schools, one per parish with two schools in Pembroke Parish. The maximum enrollment for each primary school will be 300 students, with the intended class size of 15 students per class.
We intend to continue to co-locate preschools into primary school sites and will consider eventually merging preschools into primary schools. The class size for preschool will remain the same at 10 students per class.
With fewer primary schools the Government can deliver 21st Century Real World and Authentic Learning Facilities that are modern and support transformative teaching and learning practices. Capital funds can be better utilized and reinvested for modernising and refurbishing specific buildings that can support the delivery of 21st Century education.
The consultation document will be launched this week and the dates of the public consultation meetings will be shared in the New Year with this consultation ending in March of 2021.
As evidenced by a misleading headline published after my update in the House of Assembly, this topic of the possible realignment of our primary schools is an emotive one, that some will try to play on. We will launch a robust consultation process that will govern the moving forward of this or any proposal. As outlined earlier, and to ensure a smooth transition, the first signature schools will be introduced in September 2022. After that, the gradual phasing out of Middle Schools will commence with more Signature schools introduced. Any further necessary realignments will then follow.
I urge the public to read the consultation document and determine for yourself if the vision presented by the government is reflective of what you want our education system to look like. If it is, then let us know and tell us why. If it isn’t what you envisioned, also let us know and tell us why. We want your feedback to build our system.
I am excited by where we are in the process of school reformation. I know, to many it may seem that we have been talking about this process for a long time without any visible change. With this update the public is able to see and appreciate the foundation we have laid to get to the point where we are now. As the Ministry and Governance Teams turn to the public for their input into their education system, I again encourage the public to let their voice be heard and participate in the journey with us. The success of our education system equals the success of Bermuda.