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Preschools may move to new locations to save education cash

Education Minister Dame Jennifer Smith hinted more preschools could switch locations as she aims to save cash without shedding jobs.

The Education Ministry received a budget of $134 million for 2012/13, up by five percent on the $128 million it was initially given for the previous year.

However, the 2011/12 budget was ultimately revised to $139 million, meaning Education is effectively expected to cut its costs for 2012/13.

Shadow Education Minister Grant Gibbons noted the Ministry had spent $11 million more than anticipated in 2011/12.

At the beginning of the last school year, Lyceum Preschool in Hamilton Parish moved from its Wilkinson Avenue base into the infant block of Francis Patton School to save $20,000 a year on rent.

Dame Jennifer said this was a good example of Government making the most of its resources, and suggested more public preschools could face similar moves.

She said the Ministry had also saved rent, as well as improving efficiency, by moving its offices into one location in Southside.

“Adversity really is the mother of invention,” the Minister told a post-Budget press conference.

“Seventy-five percent of our budget is salaries, so we looked at attrition and we looked at doing things in a better manner rather than looking at losing any jobs.

“When we looked for savings, we decided to save on rent and move into a single building and thereby have departments that were spread over three locations in one location.

“We didn’t know that an added benefit would be the cohesiveness that would come about from people working in the same place being able to talk to their colleagues on a daily basis.

“We also looked at the Lyceum Preschool again to save on rent. We didn’t understand the benefits for parents of having children in one location and the ease of access because it’s on a main road for the buses.

“There’s benefits besides the financial benefit when you get to look at innovative ways of saving.

“That move has caused us to look at other locations that are rented premises, as to when and where they can be located in Government-owned places. So we are looking at other preschools.”

Dr Gibbons told

The Royal Gazette of the Education budget figures: “It’s pretty clear that they were unable to live within the budget and make the savings that the Ministry was projecting last year. They spent $11 million more than they anticipated.

“That’s surprising, given the savings the Ministry was talking about in the budget last year, and particularly because there’s been a drop in the overall number of students in the public school system.”

Noting the budget for 2012/13 is roughly halfway between the $128 million original budget for 2011/12 and the $139 million revised estimate for 2011/12, Dr Gibbons said: “It seems that the budget this year is an attempt to haul back a bit.

“They’ve obviously recognised the spending cuts they were trying to make last year were unreasonable or could not be achieved. So now they have gone to a halfway house.”

Dame Jennifer told the press conference the Ministry has had to get more out of its teachers, despite having less money.

“We have been able to make savings and you know that our budget is not much more than what we had last year, but we have managed with a reduced budget to take on increased responsibilities.

“Teachers today are not just charged with educating, they’re also charged with recognising sometimes that a student may need help, with contacting the providers of that help, and ensuring that that student has what is needed to have a successful school career.

“We are doing more with less. We are doing it with the help of parents, within Government and without.”

During her Budget speech, Premier Paula Cox said the introduction of the Career Pathways programme would be the focus in the upcoming school year.

“There has long been a cry for the reintroduction of vocational education in schools and the introduction of the Career Pathways in September 2012 offers a Bermudian solution to the need for students to be prepared to take their place in Bermudian businesses and industries,” said Ms Cox.

“Career Pathways represents a dynamic partnership between Bermuda’s industry partners, the National Training Board, the Ministry of Education, the two Senior Schools and the Bermuda College.

“Career Pathways are designed to provide public school students with pathways that ensure greater preparation for career and college opportunities for a fulfilling life beyond the classroom.

“The Career Pathways will be a seamless part of the curriculum and make up a component of the senior school graduation criteria.”

Balancing the books: The Education Ministry is looking to make efficiency savings. Its budget of $134m is lower than the $139m revised budget figure for the current financial year.

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Published February 25, 2012 at 7:51 am (Updated February 25, 2012 at 7:51 am)

Preschools may move to new locations to save education cash

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