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Brangman: Public need reliable figures on how schools perform

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Exam results and other performance figures for Bermuda’s public schools should be reported independently, Education Minister Nalton Brangman believes.

The Progressive Labour Party Government was criticised by the One Bermuda Alliance for “selective and limited” issuing of examination grades, including the latest GCSE results.

Then Shadow Education Minister Grant Gibbons said that Education needed the equivalent of an Auditor General. While Opposition, the OBA pledged an independent body would be tasked with releasing scores.

Said Senator Brangman, who was made Education Minister a month ago: “There are two components that come out of this. There’s a need for the public to see the position of education based on the scholastic progress of the students, but equally important within government is that Ministers should always be prepared to look at performance standards for themselves.

“Is the Minister meeting requirements for delivery? Dr Gibbons was right. In order to make the communication of that information independent, I believe it needs to be set up outside the Ministry.”

He speculated that the Department of Statistics might prove appropriately neutral for the job.

Sen Brangman also vowed his Ministry won’t see its funding cut in the 2013 Budget next month. The Ministry was allocated $134 million last year.

“I may have to eat those words if something else happens but my position as of this hour is that it will not,” he added.

However a wage rise for “master teachers” promised by the One Bermuda Alliance would have to wait, Sen Brangman admitted.

“There’s no money in the kitty right now, so that particular conversation will be on the back burner in the short-term,” he said.

“But it’s still the direction of the OBA to keep that as one of our focal points. We need to be able to reward the instructional excellence of our teachers.”

Higher salaries for “superb” educators was promised as recently as World Teachers’ Day in October.

“At present, we have prepared our final Budget submissions. We knew, starting this, that there was going to be no holiday. The Budget will allow us to continue operating at our present levels. Do we need more cash? Yes. But we may need to look elsewhere.”

Sen Brangman gave a guarded hint that “collaboration with industry” might yield some promising results, but did not elaborate.

In the meanwhile, Bermuda’s public libraries are to fall under the purview of Education, along with the Bermuda Archives.

Asked why he’d taken up the Education portfolio, Sen Brangman conceded that the post has historically been “a graveyard for politicians”.

“I met with Cabinet on Tuesday and told them the graveyard is looking good under my watch,” he joked.

He said his experience on the National Training Board and at the Bermuda College made him “very passionate about a forward plan for education — particularly technical workforce-based education”.

“During my years on the NTB and the College between 2000 and 2008, I was involved in the development of the National Certification,” he said, referring to the NTB programme of qualifications for technical skills. “Based on my ideas, particularly on the structure for a technical education, the Premier wanted to see a change of direction. One issue that I brought to his attention was the fact that we have 83 classes of occupation in Bermuda, but our school system was not delivering our students at maximum employability.”

The OBA’s platform promises included the implementation of a technical curriculum down to the middle school level.

Sen Brangman said a meticulous review of the education system’s core competency requirements would have to come before any timeline for curriculum changes.

“Based on the limited time I’ve been here, with the Commissioner and the Permanent Secretary, it looks like we’ll be able to launch it within two to four years,” the Minister said.

A strong advocate of the Career Pathways programme launched under the previous Government, Sen Brangman said the new administration would “dramatically push” for industries to join in making work experience part of the curriculum.

As far as maintaining his own career outside of Government, the new Minister said: “I am learning how to juggle.”

The 53-year-old runs a small electrical business, and is involved in a captive insurance programme for the African Methodist Episcopal Church in the US, as well as his family’s real estate holding business.

Sen Brangman frequently evoked business in his vision for education in Bermuda.

“The Ministry of Education is the second largest of the government, and it has been defined as the most difficult. I thus far don’t find it difficult, but I’ve only been here four weeks. I have much to listen to, learn and digest. One of my priorities is to have industry participate as much as possible. Many companies have come to the table offering staff expertise and facilities to help push education forward. The greater the participation of industry, the better.”

The new Minister said he intended to make Bermuda’s history “top priority” in the schools.

“When people learn their own history as Bermudians, it will deal with a lot of our other social problems,” he said. “As the Minister of Education, I think we should take a journey into Bermuda’s history. We know Europe, the US and we know Rome and everybody else but we can’t talk about ourselves. We need to address that.”

l Useful website: www.moed.bm.

Education Minister Nalton Brangman
Education Minister Nalton Brangman
Education Minister Nalton Brangman
Education Minister Nalton Brangman
Restructuring within the system

Nalton Brangman has joined a Ministry in flux: a public school system in the midst of systemic restructuring launched by former Minister Dame Jennifer Smith and Education Commissioner Wendy McDonell.The Royal Gazette that “over a hundred people” have been moved around in the Island’s public schools.

The shuffling of high-performing principals from their own schools to schools in need of help seized headlines when parents and teachers at Victor Scott Primary School and TN Tatem Middle School successfully challenged Government in the Supreme Court.

Asked if he endorsed the restructuring, Senator Brangman reminded

“The picture is very clear that we are having significant growth and success within the educational system,” he said. “I think change now would destabilise things, and make the lives of our teachers, and particularly our principals, acutely more difficult.”

He said that Ms McDonell had given him “all the answers on the strengths and weaknesses of our system” shortly after the OBA took office.

“She spoke very effectively to the matter of instructional balance between schools of excellence and schools that were not as high,” he said. “We have sought to move teachers so we could get a balance across all schools. This has not gone across as badly as some have described.”

Communication was key, he said.

“Not everyone is going to be happy. But if you can explain the reason for your decision, the average person is going to come alongside. This is for the benefit of all the children, and it’s across the Island.

“Our system is a collective one. We cater to every child that comes through the doors.”

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Published January 23, 2013 at 8:14 am (Updated January 23, 2013 at 8:14 am)

Brangman: Public need reliable figures on how schools perform

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