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Signature schools targeted for 2021

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Proper implementation: David Burt, the Premier, told Parliament he has “every expectation” that signature schools “will be delivered before we go back to the polls”

Signature schools in Bermuda could welcome their first pupils in just over one year’s time, the Premier has pledged.

David Burt told MPs last month that it was hoped that the “school year 2020-21 will be the first with signature schools”.

The news came after Derrick Burgess, the Deputy Speaker, asked Mr Burt for a status update on the Government’s plan to axe middle schools and introduce senior-level signature schools.

Mr Burgess said that “many of his constituency voted for the Progressive Labour Party based on this pledge”.

He asked: “When I go knocking on doors, what can I tell my constituency is the timeline to deliver this election promise?”

Mr Burt said that the next school year will “ideally” be the last “under the current system”.

But he said that the Government “will not rush this just to make this particular timeline”.

Mr Burt added: “These are our children and, especially as my daughter will be starting in the public-school system in the fall, I want to ensure that we probably do not measure two times but three times before we cut once.

“But it is my every expectation that this will be delivered before we go back to the polls.”

The next General Election is scheduled to be held in 2022.

Mr Burt said that Cabinet had “recently” had a presentation “on the possible construction of new schools and a system redesign”.

He added that information had been requested of Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, on “accountability for teachers and administrators”.

Mr Burt said that Mr Rabain had indicated “that he is aiming to have that information to the Cabinet as was requested in July”.

He added: “At that point in time, I am certain that the Minister of Education will engage in public consultation on this particular matter.”

The comment came during Premier’s Question Time in the House of Assembly on May 10.

Mr Rabain was asked yesterday about the timeline outlined by Mr Burt. He did not respond by press time yesterday.

Mr Rabain discussed signature schools at a town hall meeting on Tuesday at the Bermuda Industrial Union headquarters.

He defined a signature school as a high school that provides the foundation to graduate with a high school diploma and “also have enhanced topics for those people who are interested in doing other things”.

Mr Rabain’s presentation included a slide show.

One slide said that a signature school “is a high school that you graduate from with your high school degree and additional enhanced classes in specialised areas”.

Mr Rabain told event attendees that details on the number of signature schools and their focus “are the types of things that will have to be hammered out as we move forward”.

A member of the audience asked what research was used to justify the decision to eliminate middle schools.

Mr Rabain said: “The data is showing us that the middle-school system — as it is set up now — our parents are fleeing from it in droves.

“The middle-school system is not producing the things that we need it to produce.”

He added that the information being examined by the Government “will be shared”.

Mr Rabain said last July said that a three-pronged process, expected to last 18 months, would be used to develop proposals for signature schools.

He said that the first would involve consultation and the second phase develop proposals.

The final phase would involve a review of the proposals.

Mr Rabain said at the time that he expected each phase would last about six months.

The promise to phase out middle schools and introduce signature schools was made in the PLP’s 2017 election platform.

Further consultation: Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education (Photograph by Akil Simmons)