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Sick-outs a last resort, teacher declares

Sick-outs by school staff were a last resort to draw attention to the state of the education system, according to a teacher and a deputy principal, who spoke to The Royal Gazette yesterday on condition of anonymity.

The veteran teacher, said schools had hit rock-bottom and forced Bermuda Union of Teachers members to shut down schools on Monday.

The teacher added: “I don't think many teachers disagree with the union; this problem has been going on for quite some time and now it has come to a head. We have voiced our opinion all this time and not been heard; we have looked at all different avenues.

“They need to think about our students first and to look at the long-term picture. I think we have to do this.”

The teacher was speaking after BUT members staged the sick-out, sparked by at least 23 problems, including a lack of resources and learning support teachers, as well as concerns over a new standards-based grading system for pupils.

The deputy principal added: “Most teachers supported the action.

“I think you will always find a handful who don't, but I don't think there were many.

“Most people want to be in schools, but these issues have surpassed each political party that has been in,” the teacher said. “The One Bermuda Alliance did absolutely nothing for our schools.

“They had us doing furlough days saying that there wasn't any money and then went and spent $72 million-plus on the America's Cup.”

The teacher said: “The Progressive Labour Party were in power from 1998 [to 2012] and nothing happened.

“Education is a big beast. There are a lot of structural changes that need to be made and there are a lot of resources lacking. I don't care which government decides that they are going to invest in public education, but until they do, this sporadic behaviour will continue.”

The deputy principal insisted that if money was made from the America's Cup, then it did not filter down to the public schools.

The senior staffer said: “There was no trickle-down effect after the America's Cup.

“We are still under-resourced, many of our buildings are structurally old and we don't even have computers in our classrooms.

“When things were better here, each classroom was kitted with computers. Now we have computers that don't work that they need to get rid of.

“Public-school teachers are making do out of nothing.”

Both sources claimed that the One Bermuda Alliance and the Progressive Labour Party had failed to tackle problems in public education and that the schools system had become too cumbersome for one minister to handle.

The teacher added: “The principals are not listening to their staff. They are making decisions without conferring with the teachers.

“The teachers are the frontline workers, so therefore consult them.”

The teacher explained: “It's like collecting data; once you have the correct data, you are able to go and do something with it.

“There are ineffective teachers and principals, and when they don't have anywhere to put them, they place them in the ministry.

“Now those ineffective teachers and principals are the ones who are calling the shots as well.

“It is like a bedsore — after a while if you don't dress the sore properly or turn the patient, the sore festers.”

A meeting between Kalmar Richards, the education commissioner, and the BUT was held last night.

The Ministry of Education declined to comment on how it progressed.

Anthony Wolffe, the BUT vice-president, did not respond to a request for comment last night.

Suspended learning: the grounds of Victor Scott Primary were deserted as all public school teachers staged a sick-out last week (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published December 12, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated December 12, 2018 at 9:22 am)

Sick-outs a last resort, teacher declares

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