Govt hires Canadian teaching expert
Bermuda has appointed a leading Canadian educator to develop plans to improve teaching.
Avis Glaze, an advisor to the Premier of Ontario, is to help put together a strategy highlighting “instructional leadership”, Education Minister Dame Jennifer Smith told a press conference yesterday.
Giving an update on the Ministry's undertaking of recommendations from the 2007 Hopkins Report, Dame Jennifer also revealed appraisals on principals are being brought up-to-date to advance the quality of leadership.
Principal appraisals have been in arrears but will be completed by October, she said.
The Minister said a national school emergency and crisis response plan, as well as an updated code of conduct for students, would help address Dr Hopkins' concerns over the lack of transparency and accountability.
And she said a new structure of Individual Education Plans, replacing The Education Centre, would help ensure all students reach their full potential by assisting them instead of sidelining them.
Dame Jennifer gave details on Government's efforts to meet all ten of David Hopkins' suggestions and told the media: “Bermudians should feel confident that the Bermuda public school system is in good standing to provide the education needed by our students into the 21st Century.”
Dramatically improving the quality of teaching was Dr Hopkins' number one recommendation, recalled Dame Jennifer.
“To this end, I am pleased to announce that Dr Avis Glaze, noted Canadian educator and advisor to the Premier of Ontario, will be coming to Bermuda to assist school leaders with an improvement strategy which highlights instructional leadership,” she said.
“Dr Glaze will help to develop school improvement teams which will focus on developing individualised improvement plans for principals and teachers.
“Having Dr Glaze in Bermuda represents a major coup as she is in demand around the world. Best of all, Dr Glaze comes to Bermuda at no charge to the Ministry of Education.
“In addition, the Government of Ontario have also agreed that Dr Glaze's team can accompany her here, also at no charge to the Government of Bermuda.
“This kind of international educational cooperation is of great benefit to a Country of our small size and greatly appreciated as a contribution to our students' educational welfare.”
On his second recommendation, to more quickly improve the quality of leadership by principals, Dame Jennifer said: “I am pleased to report that principal appraisals, which had been in arrears, will be completed by October, in keeping with the collective bargaining agreement with the Association of School Principals.
She added that Commissioner of Education Wendy McDonell and Dr Glaze would also focus on this area.
More key work will be done on Dr Hopkins' recommendation to address concerns about inclusion and behaviour, with qualified private sector partners helping introduce the Individual Education Plans.
Director of Educational Standards and Accountability Llewellyn Matthews and Acting Assistant Director of Student Services Judith Bartley will lead a new focus designed to return children to the school population, said Dame Jennifer.
She said a new suspension regime has been introduced so that the Ministry can oversee out of school suspensions for offences in the Education Act.
“This will eliminate the practice of students being suspended to their homes with no educational supervision,” she said.
“Students under suspension, where necessary, will be assessed and if deemed necessary will receive interventions specific to their concerns to ensure that when they are returned to the school body. They have the best opportunity for successful reintroduction.”
She said the role and function of attendance officers will also be reviewed to ensure it is consistent with the Education Act.
The development of a comprehensive policy for special education in Bermuda is also underway, she said, and a consultation paper will be produced following recommendations from the Ombudsman and consultation with parents.
A new autism service delivery model is being piloted this term at primary level, said Dame Jennifer.
“Currently, such students require the assistance of a paraprofessional and, in some cases, additional support,” she said.
“The proposed service delivery model will make use of a special classroom and pool trained teachers and educational therapy staff. Depending on the success of this pilot programme, other programmes may be introduced.”
She added that a business review of the Child Development Programme would help provide a better foundation for children before they enter the public school system.
Dame Jennifer also gave an overview on progress on the remaining seven recommendations from Dr Hopkins:
n Radically reform the Ministry of Education: the Permanent Secretary and Commissioner of Education have reviewed the role of the Department of Education so that it can better support schools in their work.
Moves include switching to Southside to house the Ministry and Department in one building and putting the control of expenditure under the authority of the Commissioner and Permanent Secretary.
n Strengthen the strategic management of the education system: the Board of Education, set up in January 2009, remains involved and committed to the public education system.
n introduce delegation and transparent accountability at all levels: 90 percent of Student Services staff have now located to school sites to play a greater role in the culture and support of schools; the rest will be placed before the end of September.
In addition, curriculum officers are now required to spend 80 percent of their time in schools to support teaching and learning in classrooms and to assist teachers and principals.
A national School Emergency and Crisis Response Plan outlines a uniform approach for schools to protect staff and students during emergency situations.
A code of conduct for students will address new and emerging forms of bullying.
n federate secondary and tertiary education: The Commissioner will work with both senior schools and Bermuda College to see how vocational resources and staff expertise can be shared, and develop flexible streams for students with a vocational bent.
n create self-governing federations around clusters of primary schools and each middle school: the Board of Education will consult and work with school PTAs as Bermuda's population is too small for elected Boards as envisioned.
n align the curriculum both vertically and horizontally: the Cambridge Curriculum was introduced in 2010. Results will be shared with the public after they have been received by schools.
n harness the power of parents, business and community in the reform effort: adoption of schools has been encouraged and cooperative projects have been set up including the Vernon Temple/Heron Bay Homework Project and the Victor Scott/Hope4Life Homework project.
In addition to the recommendations from the Hopkins Report, the Board of Education released a Blueprint for Reform in Education, a five-year plan aimed at improving public education.
Education Minister Dame Jennifer Smith gave an update on the seven recommendations from the Blueprint yesterday:
* Implement an internationally recognised curriculum that is externally assessed: done
* Improve the quality of teaching and learning in the classroom: in progress
* Strengthen and distribute leadership: done
* Facilitate the improvement of standards via accountability and transparency: in progress
* Maximise the contribution of parents and community: in progress
* Improve the efficiency of delivery: done
* Improve the culture and climate of the Department of Education and Schools: in progress