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Parents hit out over preschool confusion

Parents concerned about the possible closure of schools due to declining enrolment reacted with surprise at the inclusion of three-year-old students in the public school system mandate.

“My bank account would be about $15,000 richer,” had she known her child of three was legally entitled to a public education, one parent told Education Minister Wayne Scott at a public meeting about possible school consolidations on Wednesday night.

Mr Scott attended alongside other education officials.

Most parents believed the system commenced at age four, another parent told acting commissioner Llewellyn Simmons.

He explained that even though the law required Government to give education for younger children, issues had arisen with those who were not toilet trained.

Many teachers at preschool level were not equipped to deal with such children, Dr Simmons said, acknowledging that it had been an “issue of contention”.

Given the falling numbers of preschool and primary students, parents questioned why the system was not topping up its numbers by welcoming younger children, with one woman pointing to the One Bermuda Alliance's election platform commitment to early child education.

Mr Scott said the limitations, characterised as admittance on a case-by-case basis, were imposed because the system was not equipped to deal with them. Those measures were imposed in September 2011 under the Progressive Labour Party government.

At the time, announcing the restriction, then Education Minister Jennifer Smith said that toilet training was “not a function of education”.

“Teacher training does not cover this aspect as children aged four years and up are expected to start school ready to learn,” Dame Jennifer said.

“We are aware that the community expects a lot from our teachers and our schools and we accept that responsibility. At the same time, parents must ensure that students enter school ready to learn.”

Parent Sarah DeSilva told Mr Scott at the meeting that her daughter had been “potty-trained from the age of two”.

“We went through the process of applying to get our child in preschool at the age of three and we were told ‘no',” she said.

Apologising that he had only come into the ministry in January, Mr Scott said he would have to undertake further research into the selection criteria.

Ms DeSilva contacted The Royal Gazette to say that she could not understand why the Government did not push for every three-year-old child to get into school sooner.

“Our youngest, most at-risk babies would get two full years of preschool and the creative curriculum that is being used supports children ages two to five,” she said.

“My daughter is in public preschool this year and I was a parent who appealed the year before last, went through the whole process, only to be rejected by the then permanent secretary Warren Jones, and was told there would be no three-year-olds in preschool for the 2013-14 school year,” she said.

The exclusion had cost her $15,600, she said. If accepted, her daughter would be in year two at St Paul's preschool.

“You can imagine my shock, as a teacher who works for the system, when the PS told the crowd at the school reorganisation meeting last night that they let three-year-olds in on a case-by-case basis.”

Dr Freddie Evans, Minister of Education Wayne Scott and Valerie Robinson James at Wednesday's public meeting on education (Photo by Akil Simmons)

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Published March 20, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated March 20, 2015 at 10:19 am)

Parents hit out over preschool confusion

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