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Minister reiterates that school closures are not set in stone

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Diallo Rabain, Minister of Education (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Controversial proposals to shut down almost half the island’s primary schools will not go ahead until a public consultation process is complete, Government has said.

But Diallo Rabain, the education minister, warned that opponents of the revamp will have to provide “a credible rationale” for their objections if they are to succeed in getting Government to change course.

The minister also dismissed several previously raised concerns about the plan, claiming that they “have already been covered”.

At a press conference yesterday to announce a series of public meetings on the scheme, Mr Rabain said Government was committed to holding “robust and transparent” consultation.

The consultation process began last month when members of the public were asked to complete a Government ’feedback form’ giving their views.

Reading from a statement, Mr Rabain said he was “pleased” with those who had returned the form as the public’s comments “are critically important to help us make the best decisions”.

Asked how many forms had been received, the minister said: “In terms of the official feedback I’m not clear exactly how many. Back in December just after we launched, I received a listing. It was just under 30.

“But that was when we first sent it out and what we’re doing is expecting a lot more. We’ve received quite a bit of feedback.

Mr Rabain added that the feedback form on the Government’s website had been accessed “close to 200 times”, but was unable to say how many forms had been returned.

“That is not something that we have the numbers to give you at this particular moment,” he said. “I don’t want to pre-empt anything that the team is working on, those type of things will be active at that point.”

In his statement, Mr Rabain stressed that the proposal “is just that – a proposal”.

But he went on: “However, based on careful examination of current data, discussions with our highly capable technical team and input from our change management consultants, the current proposal creates the equitable system needed to ensure every student is given the opportunity to reach their highest potential.”

Asked if that statement demonstrated that Government had already decided to move forward with the plan, Mr Rabain said: “I would disagree with that. We’ve been very intentional in this consultation process and the feedback that we’ve received will guide the final decision.“

Asked to clarify that point, he said: “It will help guide the final decision. The feedback has to make sense. We can have 60 per cent of the people say we’re absolutely against that without any credible rationale behind it. Should we still scrap it and move forward? I don’t think so.”

Last month Mr Rabain claimed “high performing schools are performing well because of their leadership”.

When asked this morning if ensuring that all schools had strong leadership would be a more effective way of raising standards than closing schools, the minister replied: “I understand the question you’re trying to ask and what I would urge you to do is have a more holistic view of what education reform is.

“The parish primary school proposal was only one part of education reform. It’s only one part of a whole holistic reform, so to continue to look at just this part and try and make decisions, and try and make comments and ask questions that you’re asking based on just this is not doing our children the service they deserve.

“This is the purpose of having meetings and talking with people – so we can get them to understand what we’re trying to do and we can also understand why they’re saying what they’re saying.

“All of that data will be collated and put together and a decision made based on what the feedback is and what the final decision should be. At the end of the day what we’re doing is creating a system that our children deserve, our children require and our children need to have in order to move forward with a world-class education system in Bermuda.”

The first three in a series of public meetings will take place on January 26, January 28, and February 1.

Because of Covid-19, all meetings will be held virtually on the ZOOM video conferencing platform, starting at 6pm.

“The Ministry of Education understands that education reform is an issue of significant national importance, which is why we want public input and feedback over the next seven weeks before determining the next steps forward,” Mr Rabain said.

In addition to being hosted on ZOOM, parish meetings will also be broadcast on CITV, YouTube and Facebook Live.

ZOOM registration is required for security reasons to safeguard meeting attendees from inappropriate content and disruptions. People are encouraged to register early and can do so up 3:00 p.m. on the day of the meeting they wish to attend. The dates and times for the upcoming parish meetings are listed at www.moed.bm

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Published January 20, 2021 at 2:56 pm (Updated January 21, 2021 at 8:20 am)

Minister reiterates that school closures are not set in stone

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