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School cuts will not lead to numbers pressure, meeting told

Northlands Primary School in Pembroke, which could close if a new model for the parish’s primary schools is adopted (File photograph)

A cut in the number of public primary schools from three to two in Pembroke would still mean enough space for all the parish’s pupils, a virtual meeting on changes to the education system heard last night.

Kalmar Richards, the education commissioner, said there would be “individual project managers” to oversee the process if the changes to the structure of the system were approved.

She added: “We will be intentional and deliberate around planning, and how those plans will be executed.”

Pembroke is an exception to the one-school model proposed for the eight other parishes.

The proposal would leave two schools, Victor Scott and West Pembroke primary schools.

Northlands Primary School on Berkeley Road has been earmarked for closure.

The changes are part of a string of proposed changes, including the creation of an education authority and the phasing out of middle schools in favour of signature schools – which would add two years to the primary level and one year to senior school.

Ms Richards said the parish model would turn primary schools into “the hub of their parish”.

She added: “Highly effective schools have a high level of parent and community engagement.”

Ms Richards said the proposals would include a 1:15 teacher to pupil ratio and each of the Pembroke schools would be able to take up to 300 pupils.

The meeting also heard from Lew Simmons, the education ministry’s director of acadmics, who said row-by-row seating would be dropped at the preschool level.

He added up to 40 per cent of learning “should be outdoors” in the new schools, including activities such as gardening.

Dr Simmons added a “3-D studio” for projects of “invention and innovation” was envisaged at the upper primary level.

Ms Richards said cutting primary schools from 18 to ten was in line with a fall in school enrolment and declining birth rate.

She said the switch would also enable better distribution of resources across schools.

Participants were surveyed for their views on the proposal to cut Pembroke’s public primary schools down to two and one per parish elsewhere in the island.

Half agreed with the idea, 10 per cent rejected the idea and 40 per cent were “unsure“.

Ms Richards outlined reasons Northlands was proposed for closure.

She said it lagged behind the two recommended schools on scores for available land, boundaries, green field space and expansion capability.

Mr Richards said Victor Scott and West Pembroke had more space for expansion.

She highlighted that Victor Scott already had a preschool and West Pembroke Primary had space for one.

Mr Richards said that Northlands had “boundary restrictions, limited green space, and limited potential for expansion.”

She added: “We recognise that the proposed changes will impact students and staff.

“This is a very sensitive matter. Students at some schools recommended for closure would have to transfer to other schools and some would have to travel farther.

“Staff roles are going to look different in the new vision for learning, and new roles will be created as well.”

But she promised transparency throughout the process and Diallo Rabain, the education minister, pledged that history would not be lost in the transition if the changes went ahead.

Mr Rabain said it was “clear that the public needs a better mechanism to record and preserve the legacy of not just some of our primary schools, but all”.

Ms Richards said school registration would continue to be taken by zone and that pupils would be allowed to go to another parish school within their zone.

But she added: “They have to understand that proximity to the school will be the key factor.”

A second round of talks on Pembroke’s schooling future is scheduled for for Thursday and a meeting for Paget will be held next Monday.

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Published February 17, 2021 at 8:34 am (Updated February 17, 2021 at 8:34 am)

School cuts will not lead to numbers pressure, meeting told

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