Plans to move autistic pupils scrapped

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  • Commissioner of Education Freddie Evans. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

    Commissioner of Education Freddie Evans. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Education chiefs have done a U-turn on a controversial 11th-hour plan to move children with autism to different schools.

Commissioner of Education Freddie Evans has sent a “sincere” apology to parents and teachers.

Dr Evans wrote to them and said: “Please accept my sincere apology for the angst surrounding the recent decision made regarding the autism programme in Bermuda public schools.

“Although there were a number of reasons for these decisions, the responsibility ultimately rests with me.

“Despite the best of intentions, I have reversed the decision to combine two ASD primary school classes.”

“Therefore, effective immediately, the decision to move any ASD staff or primary school students has been rescinded.”

The Royal Gazette learnt that the autism programme at West Pembroke Primary School was to be combined with the programme at Prospect Primary School, while the programme at Dellwood Middle School was slated to go to Berkeley Institute.

But Dr Evans said: “All primary school students and teachers will remain at their original schools.

“The teachers from Dellwood Middle School will remain at Dellwood Middle School. For those students who have completed their middle school year and are matriculating to secondary school at the Berkeley Institute, new arrangements are being developed and will be in place for the opening of school.”

Dr Evans wrote: “I will also work to improve the timely engagement and communication with ASD programme stakeholders in the future on issues surrounding the programme.

“In closing, I again apologise and pledge to support the ASD Programme in the best interest of our children.”

Parents of the students were furious after being told less than a week before the start of term that their children might have to be moved without proper consultation.

Leading authorities on autism including Bermuda’s own charity BASE said that routine and consistency were extremely important for those on the autism spectrum who often have to deal with high levels of anxiety.

And after a backlash from parents — who were only informed of the plan on Tuesday with school due to start next Monday — the Government reversed the decision.

Moving children with autism at short notice has the potential to cause distress and disruption as, many have difficulties with changes to surroundings or routines.

According to “Schedules are very important when dealing with children who have special needs such as autism.”

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Published Sep 8, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Sep 8, 2017 at 6:49 am)

Plans to move autistic pupils scrapped

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