OBA’s Susan Jackson calls for details on teacher training plan
The opposition One Bermuda Alliance Party has questioned Government plans to shut down almost half of the island’s 18 primary schools.
And Shadow Education Minister Susan Jackson also called for more detail on the training that teachers will be given to carry out a new education programme under a proposed shake-up of education.
Ms Jackson spoke out after Diallo Rabain, the Education Minister, gave a detailed update on school reform developments in the House of Assembly yesterday morning.
Mr Rabain said that a public consultation process on plans to reduce the number of primary schools from 18 to ten had produced a number of themes, including concerns over the potential closure of high-performing schools.
“A powerful vision for learning has been proposed, and that vision cannot be achieved with the school buildings of the past nor the teaching and learning styles of the past,” Mr Rabain said.
“Thus, careful thought went into determining the school building sites recommended for parish primary school locations. It is critical for these sites to have the potential for expansion and development to support the new vision for learning.
“It would not be fair nor prudent to propose school building sites based on the performance when there are many other social and economic factors that impact a child's school performance.“
Ms Jackson later described the minister’s statement as “comprehensive”, but said it still left questions unanswered.
“Closing high performing schools deserves further consideration,” she said. “Time and time again, we hear stories of parents sending children far afield to attend high performing schools.
“The local community recognises some of the high performing local schools have an historical origin and there’s an appetite for restorative justice, but we should not throw the baby out with the bath water.”
Ms Jackson said high performing schools could be relocated to new, larger sites to allow more students to enrol so as to “not dilute the academic gains of a school’s success”.
“We cannot ignore the social and economic impacts,” she added. “I am the product of a school closure during the introduction of integrated schools in the early 1970s and it was my experience, transferring into a less performing school, that the social and academic standard was no longer a challenge.
“The reverse, which I experienced at middle school, was that entering a higher performing school forced me to raise my standards to meet the academic challenge.
“My recollections are that in both primary and middle school, it was not the physical plant, but the social and academic standards that fuelled my success.
“It would be interesting for the minister to show evidence to the contrary.”
Addressing the issue of teacher training, Ms Jackson said teachers needed to know what training programmes – along with salaries and career programmes – will be in place.
She said: How long will the training be and will statutory bodies such as the Bermuda Educators Council be involved?
The minister mentioned a locally created training programme which is admirable, but it’s also important to consider the significance of providing teachers with globally recognised skills.
“Students aspire to travel oversees for further education. As much as we may want to develop locally, our students are competing globally. Our students deserve international exposure to education based on global standards.”