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Schools need to be fit for the future, education commissioner claims

Out with the old: Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education. (File photograph)

Primary school buildings are outdated and not fit to provide the education system of the future, the Commissioner of Education has claimed.

Kalmar Richards spoke out at a public meeting for St. George’s Parish residents last night on Government plans to overhaul the primary school system.

She said that to bring about “a major shift” in the way education is delivered, schools had to be upgraded.

Ms Richards added: “Our students cannot prepare for a future in buildings and education systems that were built for the past.”

She was speaking at a Zoom meeting of about 25 members of the public.

Ms Richards said: “ Our facilities are old and cannot support the new vision of learning.”

The number of primary schools will be slashed from 18 to ten, with a single primary school in each of the nine parishes, except Pembroke, which will have two, under Government proposals.

East End Primary has been selected as the school to remain in the parish, with St. George’s Preparatory and St. David’s Primary – two of the most high-performing public primary schools on the island – earmarked for closure.

Ms Richards said that performance was not a significant factor when selecting which schools should be culled.

She added: “It’s not fair to select school locations based on achievement or school performance.”

Ms Richards insisted the potential for each site to be redeveloped and expanded was key.

She said East End Primary, which can accommodate 300 pupils and already has a preschool on site came out on top.

She added: “At the heart of education is teaching and learning.

“We have learnt so much about what best practice is. We’re taking what we have learnt and are using it to create such a powerful vision for learning.

“That vision will be a major shift from what we have, and we need to have 21st century facilities.

“We’re talking about going from one size fits all to a model that will allow children to demonstrate what they know and how brilliant they are, rather than just a pen to paper strategy.”

Ms Richards said: “We have to redesign and refurbish our buildings in order for that to happen.”

She added that a reduction in the number of schools meant that Government could target resources and use them more efficiently.

She said: “We understand all Bermuda’s children are capable and brilliant and talented, but not all children are excelling.

“There’s a gap and we have to address that. We want to have a system that offers our children a first class experience no matter which school they got to.

“Teaching and learning are at the heart of education. We cannot achieve that vision for learning without renovating existing buildings.”

Llewellyn Simmons, the director of academics at the education ministry, painted a picture of what the classroom of the future might look like.

He said: “Today, all of our classrooms are traditional – we want to take out the traditional classroom.

Mr Simmons added that classrooms needed to become more interactive, flexible and adaptable to provide ”personalised learning for children”.

He said the new approach would enable pupils to see themselves as entrepreneurs and innovators rather than consumers.

Mr Simmons added: “Upper primary school isn’t a sit-down classroom for sit-down teachers.

“Teachers must be fully engaged with mobile students. This is co-operative, collaborative learning.”

Diallo Rabain, the education minister, said that the overhaul would create “a significant shift in how instruction is delivered” – and that a different mindset was needed to implement it“.

Mr Rabain added: “The time has come got us to be brave and bold.

“The vision that we have for children moving forward cannot take place in the buildings that we have.”

Mr Rabain said it was too early to say when the new system would be in place, or how it would be financed.

He added: “This is a phased process that will not happen overnight with all ten schools under construction at the same time.

“Once we get past this hurdle, that will affect the timeline and budgeting. We intend to do this right. We don’t intend to rush just to make a date.”

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Published February 03, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated February 02, 2021 at 11:04 pm)

Schools need to be fit for the future, education commissioner claims

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