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‘Teacher transfers don’t work’

Educator calls for mentoring and professional development rather than arbitrary transfers

By Jonathan Bell

Government’s teacher transfer policy has been sharply criticised by an educator familiar with the latest swap — which saw the Ministry of Education back down following a protest by Parent Teacher Associations.

The Royal Gazette understands the switch had been planned for a veteran teacher at West Pembroke Primary, and a more junior teacher at Francis Patton Primary.

The source alleged that a long serving P1 teacher at West Pembroke was informed of the involuntary transfer on May 30 — just hours before the May 31 deadline — in an attempt to railroad the unpopular decision.

The P1 teacher to be uprooted from West Pembroke has taught 19 years at the school — while her replacement has taught four years at Francis Patton.

However, the Ministry, acquiescing to PTA objections last week, agreed to reconsider.

The educator who contacted this newspaper identified the heart of the disagreement as a clash between “transferring teachers versus developing the culture of each individual school”.

“In the absence of a school board, they have to consult with the PTA. This is about building the capacity in the schools themselves.

“Teacher transfers don’t work — I know of cases where teachers have been made sick by the transfer,” the source said.

“There are already programmes in place at the schools for the professional development of teachers. If it’s allowed to work, it works.”

The source cited training schemes such as reading recovery — plus the literacy collaborative training offered throughout the primary schools.

“My issue is that with the transfers, they’re taking the easy way out. Instead of building the teachers within the schools, they want to move teachers here, there and everywhere.”

Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Ministry and the Bermuda Union of Teachers, “a teacher can be moved from a school after eight years,” the source said.

“But what happens to the weaker teachers in these transfers? There should be mentoring and professional development for them.

“I don’t have a problem with teachers voluntarily wanting to transfer, but to be arbitrarily moved does not occur in the private sector.”

When the transfer first drew outcry from parents at the start of June, a spokeswoman for the Ministry said last year’s ruling by Chief Justice Ian Kawaley, in which the Supreme Court quashed two principal transfers on the basis that PTAs weren’t consulted, did not apply to teacher transfers.

That ruling “references momentous decisions”,

The Royal Gazette was told.

But the educator linked to West Pembroke responded: “How do they decide what’s momentous?”

Of West Pembroke Primary, the source added: “If you talk to any private school principals, they will tell you the quality of students coming out of there is extremely high. It’s touted as one of the best primary schools on the Island. I wonder why?”

The source added: “The Ministry of Education has spent a fortune on professional development, sending teachers overseas to come back and train local teachers.

“If that’s the case, what about the training that was supposed to go on within the schools?

“The principals should be given autonomy — I don’t see how the Ministry can come in and say who is going to move and who is not to move.

“If they want to build the capacity in the schools, weaker teachers should be given mentoring and professional development. And if it does not work, maybe another vocation should be considered. ”

Minister of Education Senator Nalton Brangman

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Published July 08, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated July 08, 2013 at 9:04 am)

‘Teacher transfers don’t work’

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