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MPs debate Education budget


This is a continuation of the report on the Education Ministry budget debate in the House of Assembly on Wednesday evening. The first part of the debate was reported in yesterday’s Royal Gazette.

One Bermuda Alliance MP

Shawn Crockwell asked how the new allocation of $733,000 for out-of-school suspensions would be administered and whether it is having an impact.

And he lamented the use of profanity by students in public.

“We as parents, we must do a better job. We must do a better job in preparing students to attend school with their minds ready to learn,” he said.

The Literacy Initiative, which has a $183,000 increase, was next on his list for scrutiny. Mr Crockwell asked Education Minister Dame Jennifer Smith for an explanation.

On performance indicators, he said that a 96 percent graduation rate was “outstanding” but questioned “the quality of that success”.

“We have to ensure that we are not just graduating our young people but we are graduating with the necessary tools to be competitive and to be able to go on and fulfill their ambitions.”

But he commended the professionals in the school system and said that they should be “amongst the highest paid among us”.

“My challenge with public education is I never really have a clear understanding of what’s going on.”

Mr Crockwell endorsed what he said was a call by ruling party backbencher Terry Lister for regular reports on education.

Dame Jennifer noted the Opposition’s “dependence” on dated reports, and invited MPs to visit the schools.

Dame Jennifer assured the House that the Education Department’s move to Southside from Hamilton was efficient and effective, and that $95,000 a year was being saved.

She said that a “broader” approach, beyond primary school, was being taken on literacy which had called for an increase in the budget.

Special education, she continued, included a broad spectrum, including gifted children.

“There cannot be 21st century classrooms without 21st century special education,” she declared.

The Ministry regarded special education as a “continuum of programmes, services and interventions and instructional approaches provided students with specific learning needs in order to maximise the potential of every child”, Dame Jennifer added.

She said the Ministry intends to create a register of licensed tutorial sites, and she reminded the public that all children of school age must be in school unless the Minister gives permission for them to be educated at home or withdrawn from the system.

Ninety-six percent of students graduated from Bermuda’s public high schools, Dame Jennifer said. In order to do so, they had to achieve a minimum of 104 credits, 62 in required subjects. For the current year, the requirement is to achieve a minimum GPA of 2.0 or 70 percent in order to graduate in June.

And she noted statistics which showed that Bermuda’s P6 students had achieved the worldwide average for English in the Cambridge International Examinations, but were ten percentage points below the worldwide average in mathematics and two percentage points below in science.

Responding to a query about school counsellors, the Minister said that there were 38 counsellors and two social workers and other professionals who served students such as educational therapists and school psychologists.

She noted that 49 percent of two-year-olds did not receive screening at the Child Development Programme, which is free.

On professional development, Dame Jennifer said more resources were being deployed by moving students’ services and content specialists to school sites.

And she corrected the budget for paraprofessionals saying the projected allotment is $5,815,300 not $2,878,000 as stated in the revised budget.


said that the Ministry had decreased the budget by $5 million since 2009/10 when it was $10.8 million.

Dame Jennifer noted that the National Educators Institute is being developed at the Bermuda College to provide development and resources to public and private school educators.

She noted that spending on transportation had increased because of fuel costs but that some $6 million was being saved on salaries.

There had been a reduction in the total number of employed persons but not in the number of posts, she added.

The Minister also reported costs per student in preschools, $13,009, primary schools, $12,407, middle schools $16, 181 and for senior schools, $20,928.

To the question why are not ineffective principals removed, she said that the preference is to work with principals first. And as to why school performance results are not published, she said many schools were very small with some having only one classroom which would immediately identify the teacher.

In response to a question from Shadow Education Minister Grant Gibbons, Dame Jennifer said that consultation was taking place with respect to the Ombudsman’s report on special education.

And she said that vacant posts were budgeted for if the Ministry intended to fill them.

Education Minister Dame Jennifer Smith (Photo by Akil Simmons)

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Published March 09, 2012 at 8:39 am (Updated March 09, 2012 at 8:38 am)

MPs debate Education budget

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