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Teaching union concerned by school mergers

The secretary general of the Bermuda Union of Teachers anticipates concerns about school mergers because of the sheer number of children who would be attending.

Mike Charles spoke out after it was announced that St John's Preschool will be amalgamated with Victor Scott Primary.

Education Minister Wayne Scott revealed yesterday that the schools will merge, as will St David's Preschool and St David's Primary School.

The moves are part of Government's school consolidation plan.

Mr Charles told The Royal Gazette: “The one that might cause some concern is St John's into Victor Scott because of the numbers.

“There are 60 to 70 at St John's, so it's a very large number of four-year-olds going into an established school.

“Before making any more comments we would like to see a plan on how Government intends to do it.

“We are talking about two established schools merging together — two administrators.

“Is it going to be Victor Scott Primary or St John's at Victor Scott? Definitely the transition will have to be smooth.

“If you are looking at one school at Victor Scott then we have the situation of the curriculum and things that will need to be looked at and it will take some time to do that.

“We will be in contact with all of our members at the schools and keep a close eye on that to make sure that the transition is seamless.”

The heads of Victor Scott Primary and St John's Preschool declined to comment. We were unable to reach the heads of the St David's schools by press time last night.

Mr Scott said that those four schools were the only ones being considered for consolidation or closure during the upcoming school year.

He said that Government planned to put together a working group made up of stakeholders, including parents and educators.

The body will recommend schools for consolidation or closure during the 2016-2017 academic year, with a long-term view of reducing the number of schools by one per zone — east, west and central.

The group would also be responsible for recommending plans for improving the quality and consistency of programming across primary schools, as well as opportunities for efficiencies.

The Ministry of Education was directed in January to reduce its budget by $1 million. The ministry itself is subject to $5.9 million in savings.

Education stakeholders have voiced concerns about the lack of consultation time they were given after a handful of meetings between Government and parent-teacher associations, as well as a public meeting at CedarBridge Academy.

The head of the Bermuda Parent Teacher Student Association Harry Matthie said at the time that Government should have started the consultation process at least a year before. He said stakeholders had only a few days to mull over complex data. They will now need another year to properly consult.

Mr Scott said: “The Ministry is committed to get this right and not rush towards a plan that could create more disruption than success.

“I have listened and deeply considered the thoughtful comments, feedback, submissions and discussions on this important issue. I have learned several things from this process, and one is that the difficult challenge of reorganisation will be more successful if the education system is looked at from a system perspective.

“To do so, more time is needed and stakeholders should have the opportunity to help support the difficult decision-making process.”

Mr Scott said the decision had been aided by the anticipated cost savings through the early retirement of several staff, along with other means.

Shadow Education Minister Lovitta Foggo said last night: “The Progressive Labour Party is pleased to hear that the OBA Government have realised that the consultation period, during which meetings were held with staff and parents on proposed consolidation and closures of schools, did not meet with public acceptance. Consequently, no school closures have been announced.

“The past two months have caused unnecessary angst for parents, teachers and students, over where they may be placed in September. After all the uncertainty caused by the OBA, we now learn that there will be no changes at the primary levels.”

• For the full statement from the Minister and a statement from Shadow Minister Lovitta Foggo, click on the PDF files under “Related Media”.

Education Minister Wayne Scott (File photo by Akil Simmons)

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Published April 23, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated April 23, 2015 at 9:18 am)

Teaching union concerned by school mergers

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