Minister Rabain Education Press Conference Remarks
Good Afternoon and thank you for joining us today.
One of the Government’s 2020 Platform initiatives for Education Reform states: “complete the transformation of the Bermuda Public School System...provide a more equitable education system that produces graduates who can choose either vocation or academic careers…and implement a two-tier school system with the phasing-out of middle schools and the introduction of signature schools at the secondary school level.”
Today, I am pleased to share an update of the work done to date to reform public school education by the Ministry of Education’s Governance Team and the assistance they are getting from the team of Education Change Agents from Innovation Unit (IU) Australia New Zealand Limited.
To reinforce what the Premier mentioned last night, there have been a few people who have asked why we have contracted with an external body that has experience in this area to design Bermuda’s school system. I repeat what I have said numerous times already, that is not the case.
Bermudians are designing our future school system. But what is necessary in an environment where you are dealing with change and complex change is that you need people who are experienced in change management which is an actual discipline. And that is the reason why Innovation Unit has been brought on board.
As it is critical to ensure we have a school system that is specifically for Bermuda, the concept, design, and execution of our reform will be carried out by Bermudians. Leading this charge, is the Ministry’s Governance team that is led by Ms. Lisa Smith, Interim Director of Educational Standards & Accountability and Department of Education technical officers. Mrs. Wanda Stuhlpfarrer, Ms. Laurel Burns and Ms. Tracey Hayward. They are joined by Mr. Philip Butterfield of Bermuda First and Mr. Jevon Roberts, Deputy Chair of the CBA Board.
The Government’s Education Reform consists of School Structural Redesign which encompasses the phasing out of Middle Schools and the introduction of a two-tier system that includes signature schools at the senior level. Education Reform consists of implementing the Learning First phase that will address the required changes to education to create a more equitable system.
Let me start by providing an update on Learning First:
Learning First – Collaboratively Designing an Improved School System for Bermuda”
Learning First is our ambitious System Reform programme to collaboratively design an improved school system with a focus on classroom learning.
Similar to the public support and input we used to develop Plan 2022 our strategic plan for education, we will engage a wide range of stakeholders and community partners. This engagement will extend from October 2020 to April 2021 and be used to develop and realize an authentically Bermudian, best in class, school system.
During this past week, Innovation Unit have already worked with the Bermudian System Redesign Team and started this phase of work.
Since March 2020, weekly virtual workshops have been held with the Ministry’s Governance Team who is responsible for managing both the redesign project, and Innovation Unit. The weekly virtual workshops later extended to senior managers in the Department of Education and bi-monthly virtual meetings with the Minister and the Permanent Secretary.
Earlier this month, the Governance Team released advertisements through the print media, email and social media platforms inviting Bermudians from the wider community to visit the website and complete an expression of interest application to be a part of a school redesign team. The application process was an intentional method to secure persons who had an interest in public school education and were willing to contribute to redesigning learning in the classroom.
The response to the advertisement was overwhelming with 175 expressions of interests received resulting in 82 applications submitted. All applications were vetted and processed using a holistic scoring matrix criteria, with 54 persons initially selected to work on the new vision for learning.
A Learning First website, www.learningfirstbda.com was first initiated during August 2020 to gauge interest from educators in becoming a part of the Learning First programme.
The Bermudian Redesign Team of 54 persons comprises:
16 teachers and educations support staff (i.e. paraeducators and allied professionals);
12 community/cultural members (not for profit, community leaders and school board members);
9 school leaders (principals, deputy principals, teacher mentors);
9 members with education system experience (curriculum, education and policy officers);
6 parents and/or family members; and,
2 industry/business partners (private sector).
The Governance team have already followed up with the remaining applicants to inform them of other opportunities where they can participate in the Learning First Programme during the upcoming weeks and months. They will also be provided with regular updates.
The work of the Bermudian Redesign Team officially commenced the week of October 19th and was steered by the Ministry’s Governance Team and a team of four Education Partners from Innovation Unit who are currently on Island.
In addition to the training sessions, members of the Bermudian Redesign Teams will be undertaking a 360-degree assessment of the public-school system from the perspective of relevant stakeholders and community members. Questionnaires have been specifically designed for students, teachers, and principals or school leaders.
During November, members of the Redesign Teams will start the research aspect by interviewing these population groups to obtain key data about their experiences in public school education. They will be collecting data around what is working well, challenges encountered, improvements needed for the System, parental engagement, and community and business engagement.
To continue strengthening the Ministry’s partnership with the Bermuda Union of Teachers (BUT), the Innovation Unit Team were introduced to the BUT Executive Officers. Further, the Governance Team organized professional development sessions at the 37th Annual Conference of the BUT – a Virtual Experience. I understand the sessions were oversubscribed as the limit for Zoom calls is 300. I can assure you that the level of interest from our educators comes as no surprise and bodes well for the future of education in Bermuda.
This is the first of many opportunities for the Bermudian public to participate in the Learning First journey. In the coming months, we will be posting notices and keeping the general public abreast of new developments. Further, we plan to invite public feedback through forum.gov.bm. The public is invited to follow the programme on Learning First’s social media, or the (hashtag) #learningfirstbda and bookmark the LearningFirstBDA.com website where you’ll soon be able to subscribe to the Learning First regular newsletter and the regular social media posts and videos.
As we move forward to bring Bermuda the transformation in education, we will continue to inform, engage and collaborate. We will also consult. Therefore, next month, I will launch a consultation process on the structural changes to include the removal of middle school. I invite everyone who touches and is touched by the public education system to consider and share their views on the proposals for a transformed public education system when launched next month.
Lastly, the Board of Education and Bermuda First have already begun to discuss the development of the Education Authority. This group will collaborate and present options to create and implement the Education Authority.
As stated previously, it is critical for us to have a system that is authentically designed for Bermuda. The Ministry of Education is committed to sharing opportunities to participate and we have planned several activities to involve internal stakeholders – students, principals, teachers and education professionals, education advocates and the general community. We intend to keep the guiding principles of transparency, inclusivity, and engagement to the redesign of the public-school system to produce a system the Bermudian public deserves.