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Principals, teachers discuss class mergers

Primary school principals have met their teachers to discuss the threat of class mergers.

A primary school staff member said that teachers at the island's primary schools were this week asked by principals to supply information on the potential to merge their classes.

It is understood that principals met on Thursday and were to report their findings to the Department of Education.

The teacher said: “Many of the primary schools have been low on numbers.

“Principals told classroom teachers that they have to determine whether or not they want to be moved and they had to let the principals know by Wednesday.

“It is not just Primary 1 classes they are looking at — it includes all primary levels and it depends on how many children are in the classes.”

Danielle Riviere, a former member of the Score committee on schools reorganisation, which examined the state of the island's 18 primary schools and looked at the potential for primary school mergers and closures, said there had been “a far lower” registration of primary school pupils for September.

Ms Riviere, a former president of West Pembroke Primary School PTA and a parent of a primary school pupil, added: “When I was part of the Score Report committee we decided that schools had to be looked at individually rather than across-the-board statements being made.

“We have to look at class sizes and school sizes. If the Government look back on that Score Report, they might find some information that helps them to look at this.” St David's Primary School, Heron Bay Primary School, Prospect Primary School and Gilbert Institute were all listed as candidates for closure in the report, published under the former One Bermuda Alliance government.

The meeting of schools staff came after it was announced that the Primary 1 class at Elliot Primary School in Devonshire could be axed because of low enrolment numbers, although a decision has still to be made.

Ms Riviere said that the requirements of pupils with learning problems had to be considered if classes were merged.

She added: “There are always concerns because they need to have enough teachers' assistants and paraeducators to be able to support children who need additional help. There is a shortage of paraeducators — they need more.”

The teacher backed Ms Riviere's views.

The teacher said: “If they are mixed in with regular learning students, there will need to be paraeducators or else they will fall behind — they will be more likely to fall between the cracks. You might not be able to reach those children with challenges the way you need to.”

It is still unclear if mergers would result in job losses among teaching staff.

The Ministry of Education sent a letter to Kimberley Creighton, the principal at Elliot, on May 17 about an earlier meeting that had taken place with her and her staff and Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, about Primary 1 enrolment for the next school year.

The letter, also copied to Valerie Robinson-James, the education permanent secretary, Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, and Lisa Smith, the interim Director for Educational Standards and Accountability, said the meeting had been productive.

But it added that it “did not provide an opportunity for engagement with you and your staff on possible options for moving forward”.

The letter said: “We kindly request that you develop options for the educational provision of how the P1 students would transition through to P6.”

The letter asked for options and evidence in support of them to be submitted by Monday.

It is understood that next Friday is the deadline for teachers to be told if they will be transferred to other schools.

The Ministry of Education did not respond to a request for comment.

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education

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Published May 25, 2019 at 9:00 am (Updated May 25, 2019 at 8:16 am)

Principals, teachers discuss class mergers

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