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Union’s actions ‘beyond ridiculous’ – parent

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Discussion time: Bermuda Union of Teachers members leave a general membership meeting at the Heritage Worship Centre in Hamilton (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Children were dropped at school yesterday by parents unaware that there were no teachers to look after them because of an industrial dispute.

Many principals across the schools system were forced to look after 100 or more pupils before the Ministry of Education advised parents to collect their children at noon.

One woman with a son at a primary school said: “As a parent who is heavily involved in my children’s lives and by extension their school, I empathise with the teachers.

“However, today was an example of how not to keep that bridge open.

“I understand the need to take action to make sure their voices are heard but never at the expense of my child’s wellbeing.

“My children had a grandparent to go to, but many people didn’t and, with the buses working to rule, some parents were still trying to find out where their kids were at lunchtime.”

The Bermuda Union of Teachers gave notice of a meeting over grievances just before 6pm on Thursday.

A Ministry of Education spokeswoman said at 7pm that teachers were expected to report to school for a regular day.

The grandmother of a six-year-old boy said she found out by chance that there was a potential problem after she logged on to her computer to check her e-mails.

She said: “His father dropped him off thinking everything was normal. He would not have had a reason to question why anything might be different.

“I called the school and asked where in the world is he now? The receptionist said he’s in the classroom, maybe with the principal or the deputy.

“This is the third or fourth time he’s been dropped off and the teachers haven’t been there. This is beyond ridiculous.

The woman asked: “What kind of message is this sending to the children when it comes to education, discipline and order?”

One woman, who has children in primary and high schools, said she supported the teachers, but the last-minute notice of the meeting was “a recipe for chaos”.

She said: “My child in high school is preparing for end of year exams so he’s missing critical work reviews. It’s not a major issue as it’s only one day out of class.

“Thankfully we have a strong support system and were able to keep our children home and not miss work.”

But the woman added: “It’s annoying that the BUT could not organise better communication to parents so that we could plan appropriately.

“I’m in full support of the teachers in having their issues addressed. But as a parent I would prefer full transparency and disclosure so we can help where we can.”

One senior education official in the public-schools system said: “Most of the deputy principals will be in the schools supporting the principals.

“Sometimes some of the PTA members will stand in as well at times like this.”

Show of strength: Bermuda Union of Teachers president Shannon James leads hundreds of educators on Court Street as they made their way from a general membership meeting to the Sessions House grounds to present demands to the government. The action caused disruption to the public-school system as many parents had not been informed of the meeting (Photograph by Akil Simmons)