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Protests warning over school closure plans

Harry Matthie (File photograph)

Government’s plan to close eight primaries could lead to protests at the House of Assembly, the president of a Parent Teacher Association at an under-threat school warned yesterday.

Harry Matthie, head of the PTA at high-performing St George’s Preparatory School, said there had to be more consultation before any large-scale changes to public schools were made.

Mr Matthie added that there was a high possibility that if the government did not listen to parents and teachers they would “take it up the hill”.

He said: “Needless to say we are totally aghast at this proposal to close a high performing school.”

Mr Matthie was speaking after the school’s PTA executive met to talk about the Government proposals.

He said: “We discussed alternatives to closing St George’s Prep and we want to get input from the parents and teachers.

“The sentiment is that we come up with an alternative and approach the government with it.

“We need a wider conversation with the parent/teacher body and then to put a presentation forward.”

Mr Matthie said a meeting of the full PTA at the school would be held next week.

The Government’s consultation document proposed that eight primary schools should be closed as Bermuda moved to a system of ten parish primary schools, one in each parish, except Pembroke, which would have two.

It is also proposed to abolish middle schools and replace them and secondary schools with signature schools.

A middle school would also be shut as a result of the changes.

Mr Matthie who was chairman of the now dormant Bermuda Parent Teacher Student Association, said he was not convinced by the Government’s “cookie cutter” approach to school closures.

He added high performing schools such as St George’s Prep could be used as models for how other schools should be structured.

Mr Matthie said the consultation process on public education changes had been flawed.

He added: “There are certain things that you must do in order for the process to be considered fair and adequate.

“The PTAs should have had the information they used to make the decisions.

“If they are saying PTAs have a voice, then they should give us all the information they have to make their decision – they didn’t come to us.”

Mr Matthie said that information released by the Ministry of Education was “misleading”.

He added it highlighted declining birth rates and lower public school pupil enrolment as a reason for closure of schools.

But he highlighted that no information was given as to how many parents sent their children to private school, home schooled or sent their children overseas because of a lack of confidence in the public school system.

Mr Matthie questioned how many pupils would return to the public sector if the Government was successful in improving public education and if there was a chance that some schools could become overwhelmed by enrolment applications.

He said: “If they are successful in changing the system to that of choice, you would expect some of the children to come back.

“With one school per parish how many would cause an overflow?”

But a spokeswoman for the education ministry said last night said it was running a “fair. vibrant and engaging consultation”.

She added the need for consultation was included in the consultation document on parish primary schools.

The spokeswoman emphasised that no decisions would be made until after the end of the three month consultation period on March 12.

She added: “We have published a consultation document, a shorter executive summary and will be announcing consultation meetings shortly.”

The spokeswoman said that all responses would be “considered and analysed as part of the consultation and decision-making process”.

She added: “The ministry understands that not everyone will agree.

“That is precisely the reason why a consultation period is so important to us – so that we can gather and understand a diversity of views and perspectives centred on transforming public education for all students.”

The spokeswoman said: “We welcome all Bermudians and residents to participate in the process.”

She added the consultation document could be found at www.moed.bm.

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Published January 15, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated January 14, 2021 at 9:50 pm)

Protests warning over school closure plans

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