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Head teachers at risk of burnout, says Simons

Major concerns: Cole Simons

School head teachers are overworked and under pressure, the shadow minister for education claimed yesterday.

Cole Simons said that public schools faced “huge problems” and that their principals risked “burnout” as some worked up to 18 hours a day.

He added: “I was told that even if principals do three hours of overtime every day, they will still not be on top of their game.”

Mr Simons laid part of the blame on the Department of Education’s insistence to have more statistics on pupil performance — especially on those who had fallen behind in their work.

He said the move was a good thing but that it was “very time consuming and encroaches on the administration of schools, which also includes teacher peer reviews and assessments”.

Mr Simons added: “Each school has also been asked to craft their version of standards-based grading protocols as the programme was not effectively introduced or rolled out.”

He said schools had also been asked to forward their proposed standard to the education department.

Mr Simons added: “I would have thought that the Government would have defined the standards-based grading protocols and standards for Bermuda’s education and this, in turn, would be harmonised across our school system.”

The shadow minister said that the advancement of pupils through the school system, even if they were not up to standard, had also become a problem.

He explained: “An increasing number of primary students are not prepared or qualified to enter middle school, where teachers are teaching at primary school level.”

Mr Simons said that “a number” of teachers had told him that “manipulative skills and hands-on training activities” were not being used after P3.

He added: “This is unacceptable as these skills should be used to the end of P6.”

Mr Simons said that middle school principals were saddled with the “added challenge of providing remedial support” to pupils who had been promoted before they were ready.

He was speaking in the wake of a work-to-rule by principals started last month in a dispute about their workload.

The Ministry of Education said at the time that Ed Ball, general secretary of the Bermuda Public Service Union, had given informal notice of the action.

Mr Ball said yesterday that talks with the Ministry of Education were ongoing.

He added: “There will be a statement when the talks have concluded.”

Mr Simons said there needed to be better co-operation among the Department of Education, the Public Service Commission and school principals.

He added: “We are almost there. Only dialogue, listening and consensus building will get these initiatives across the finish line, with the winners being our students.”

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.