Dame Jennifer clarifies Ministrys stance on Educators Council
Education Minister Dame Jennifer Smith has clarified her Ministrys stance on the Bermuda Educators Council in a statement to the House of Assembly on Friday.
Responding to reports that BEC members had resigned en masse, Dame Jennifer said the BEC was a professional body like many others, set up to be run for and by the members themselves.
Members of Bermuda Educators Council resigned en bloc amid claims of union and political interference, according to documents leaked to The Royal Gazette.
But the Ministers three appointees later agreed to stay in place.
Minutes from a meeting of the group, which oversees the licensing of teachers, show members complained the council was ineffective and found itself in a tug of war between the Ministry of Education and Bermuda Union of Teachers. Members were also concerned the Council could not financially support itself independently.
A motion to collectively resign was tabled last November.
Dame Jennifer told her colleagues she had informed the BEC that the Ministry would no longer pay the licensing fee for educators.
This position was adopted after reviewing correspondence and the legislation and learning that Governments original intent had been to pay the fees for all public school educators for the first year of the Councils existence as a means of funding the start-up operations.
There was evidence to show that because the Council did not get off the ground as quickly as anticipated; the funding was extended to a second year. However, Government was still paying these fees seven years later in 2010.
Dame Jennifer said the Council had expressed concern about their financial viability and was advised to address the matters outlined in the Internal Audit Report — which their executive had requested — before we could make a decision on the type of financial commitment the Ministry could make.
She added: We did tell the Council that teachers would have to pay their own fees.
We have also asked the Council to move office and to review the job description for the job of administrator as set out in a report they themselves had commissioned.
Requiring bodies who receive government funds to abide by Financial Instructions should not be considered political interference.
Dame Jennifer explained that BEC members resign by writing to the Secretary to the Council and not to the Minister.
She outlined the process whereby vacancies are filled and reiterated Governments intention to amend the Bermuda Educators Council Act as announced in the Throne Speech.
The aim of the proposed amendments is to ensure that persons who instruct, support and guide students in Bermuda are fully qualified to do so at the level and in the area to which they are assigned, the Minister said.
In determining the way forward, the Ministry consulted with educators, including the Bermuda Educators Council, and other persons employed in schools, who may be affected by the proposed amendments.
The response was overwhelmingly supportive of the proposed amendments.
In fact, submissions received emphasised the need for continued consultation with affected parties through the development of the legislation, formation of the regulations and through the implementation of the amendments.
As I stated previously, we intend to do just that. Affected parties will also be used to assist in the development of regulations and with the implementation of the amendments.
Dame Jennifer also informed the House that educators had met to discuss the way forward for the Council.
I await their determination. However, we will proceed with the amendments so as to ensure that the integrity of the profession is maintained.
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