Education ministry seeks media consultant
A spin doctor for the crisis-hit public schools system is to be appointed, it has been revealed.
The post-holder will be expected to use social media and podcasts to tell people about the work of the Government’s education department.
The education ministry said it wanted to hire a communication consultant to help promote achievements by teachers, pupils and other staff and highlight the achievements of Government’s Plan 2022 for schools.
Education authorities have battled problems over the past few months, including staff sick-outs over a lack of teaching assistants, a work-to-rule by principals working over fears that the behaviour of some pupils was a safety risk, mouldy classrooms and a catalogue of delays in the introduction of standards-based grading.
A request for quotations was posted to the Government’s online procurement page last week with a deadline of April 22 and a start date in July.
The contract will run for a year with a possible six-month extension. The RFQ said: “The Department of Education is seeking a suitable organisation or individual who is able to provide reliable strategic communication services that are aligned with international best practices and who will ensure that all stakeholders and our community at large are informed and kept abreast of the progress with Plan 2022 and the work that is being carried out at the Department of Education and in our schools.”
The RFQ explained that the work would include the design and delivery of a communications plan and data collection. Plan 2022 was announced in December 2017.
Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, told MPs in the House of Assembly last month that the plan included an increase in pupil engagement, making sure pupils were ready for college or careers and improvements to school buildings.
The successful bidder will be expected to “use various social media to communicate key messages and information to key stakeholder groups” and “create public awareness videos and podcasts”.
The individual or organisation will work with the Government’s Department of Communications and “liaise with their representatives to collaboratively prepare media content”.
In addition, the consultant will “develop relationships with the local media and prepare positive stories about schools for the print, television and electronic media.”
The RFQ added that the charm offensive was expected to include “enlisting persons to tell stories about public-school education and unearth new and interesting stories”.
And it said teachers and staff could also be taught how to play a part in the promotion of the schools system.
A list of requirements in the RFQ included: “In collaboration with the Department of Communications provide advice to schools, department managers, officers and staff regarding effective internal and external communication strategies.”
It added that the contractor would be expected to “set up a protocol and procedure for sharing communication strategies with senior leaders that they can use with those they supervise.”
The consultant will also have to develop marketing materials, create an electronic database that will include pictures and newsletters and set up a data collection system to monitor the “information interests and needs of the community”.
A separate request for information was issued last month by the Cabinet Office and asked members of the media how they could help the Government highlight its work.
The notice explained: “The Department of Communications is looking to work with local media outlets to create new avenues to share news and information with the public.
“The department wants to hear creative and diverse suggestions on how your organisation can help us to reach your audiences. The objective of this request for information is to get the right information to the right people at the right time.”
The Government has a fee-for-service contract with Inter-Island Communications, which is owned by Glenn Blakeney, who was a Progressive Labour Party MP for more than a decade.
A spokeswoman said last month about $24,000 had been spent with the broadcaster on radio adverts and interviews with “personalities”.
She added that other media organisations, including The Royal Gazette, were also paid to promote campaigns since the agreement with Inter-Island Communications started in December last year.
The Department of Communications, which has seven full-time employees and a $3.15 million budget for 2019-20, is under Walton Brown, the Cabinet Office minister.
But Cabinet colleague Jamahl Simmons was given responsibility for keeping the public informed in a ministerial shake-up last November.
David Burt, the Premier, said then: “To reflect the importance of communication, consultation and public engagement in governance in this modern era, I have invited minister Jamahl Simmons to focus on these matters as Minister without Portfolio.”
The Government also has social-media sites and a television station, CITV, which features programmes about its work.
In a statement today, Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, said that during public consultation before Plan 2022 was released it was decided the department would “increase high-quality communication to parents and all education stakeholders”, which was spelled out in section 5.3.1 of the strategy.
She explained: “The RFQ released by the Department of Education for a local communications consultant is a direct response to this consultation-driven recommendation.
“Having a dedicated expert to carry out Strategy 5.3.1 will enable the department to meet the overall goals of Plan 2022. It also reinforces the Ministry of Education’s aim to create job opportunities for Bermuda residents.
“The successful candidate will learn about the intricacies of the Department of Education and communicate information within the context of the work that we do, achievements as well as challenges, and with improved timelines.
“We are excited to have someone come on board to execute this particular Plan 2022 strategy.
“It is an indication of commitment to Plan 2022 and additional evidence of the progress that we are making on behalf of Bermuda, and for Bermuda.”
UPDATE: This story has been updated to include comments from Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education.