Curtis-Tweed queries signature school approach
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 funnelled into a performing arts high school if you are going from elementary school from high school?”
She added: “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 she said: “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 specialised 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”.