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Charity partnership boost for schools

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Developing self-esteem: students from former BEN partners Prospect Primary School and Northlands Primary School during an expedition to Gates Fort in St George’s

The Bermuda Education Network has partnered with Port Royal and Purvis primary schools to help them boost funding and learning opportunities.

The charity, which assists public schools with training and free supplementary learning, met 23 representatives of the schools on Saturday to establish priority areas for improvement.

It was determined that both schools could benefit from additional social programming, as they reported high levels of social need among their students.

BEN, an independent association of organisations, is now working with the school principals, teachers and parent council representatives to implement two art programmes that aim to develop students both emotionally and academically.

The group is also providing parent councils with training and consultation to improve parent involvement in the initiatives.

Becky Ausenda, executive director of BEN, said: “It was a very dynamic group and there was a strong desire to work with BEN in a way that combined parents and community members all working as a team to try to address some of the social needs students are experiencing. This is not our area of expertise but BEN understands a lot of them face obstacles to their learning which need to be resolved. We have our Horizons art programme which will be available for 20 students at both at Purvis and Port Royal.

“It combines character-building activities, monthly expeditions and bursaries for camps. The idea is that it does provide some social support and helps children to develop self esteem and persistence.

“We are also looking at an art-enthused curriculum using Harvard’s Artful Thinking programme. We have worked in a number of different spaces, often in collaboration with local arts organisations, and both schools have chosen this to be their area of focus.

“During this discussion about the social needs — and how some are really lacking support at home and some need more parental guidance — it transpired that if we can create a rich educational experience at school then that can be emotionally beneficial as well as just expanding intellectual capabilities.

“There was a lot of support for the kinds of projects Kaleidoscope Arts Foundation is running and they will provide lessons for the students.”

Funded entirely through private donations and sponsorship, BEN shares its expertise in four categories: wellness and safety, core academics, creative and critical thinking, and social support and charter education.

It has already established a strategy with Northlands Primary School and assists in providing sailing lessons and camps to other schools on the island.

Among the programmes being offered are sailing, art, science and maths, critical thinking, current affairs and sport.

Ms Ausenda added: “We are privately funding additional art lessons and the training that will give teachers new strategies they can use in a variety of subjects all based on creativity and art work. We are hoping that these methods will be emotionally nourishing to some of the children as well as expand their intellectual capabilities.

“You will see them become very creative at school and teachers will be receiving opportunities to enhance their teaching methods using a variety of inquiry-based instructional strategies and in particular the Artful Thinking methods.”

Working together: from left, Becky Ausenda, Fiona Rodriguez-Roberts, Barbara Jones, Joanna Dill, Judith Alexander, Amanda Blakeney and Danielle Riviere