Veteran educator attacks government over results secrecy
Government avoids being held accountable for school performance if it continues to keep academic grades “top secret”, a former top civil servant told education reformers this week.
Mansfield Brock, CBE, a former Permanent Secretary of Education and the founding chief executive of the Bermuda College, took a swipe at the current and previous governments during a Hamilton Rotary presentation on the introduction of signature schools as part of Bermuda’s education reform.
Following a presentation on Tuesday by Keren Caple, chief executive of consultancy firm Innovation Unit which is tasked with helping to rebuild public education, Mr Brock said: “The senior secondary results are atrocious and they hide the results of the bad performance … The Ministry of Education in Bermuda has a policy of making certain that the general public never gets the evaluation results of our senior secondary schools.
“When was the last time that any of you saw the IGCSE results of CedarBridge [Academy] and The Berkeley [Institute]? They are top secret and will not be published.”
He asked whether that would change with the introduction of government’s senior level signature schools.
Ms Caple, who in her presentation gave an overview of the development and implementation of signature learning and schooling in Bermuda, responded: “We worked last week with the school transformation teams at CedarBridge and Berkeley to begin identifying what the success metrics would be for signature learning and signature schooling.
“We did that with the intention of saying yes, grades are one part of it but there are whole other metrics that point to educational success. For example, one of the strongest predictors of success in life in terms of beyond schooling is not in fact your grades, although they are really important, I am not shying away from that, but it is how a young person feels about their learning and their engagement with learning.”
Mr Brock continued to question why grades were not made public saying: “That key piece of information is secret in the Government of Bermuda today.”
Tracy Hayward, Government Internal Governance Project team member, said: “It may be top secret coming out broadly, but as a parent I know from my child how they are doing and I know the information I need to know. We have parents who are advocating for their children.
“That is an important piece too. We reached out to parents and said we want you involved as well. As a current parent, am I pleased with everything that I see? No. But I have seen things out there like the Dual Enrolment Programme where the students are graduating from Bermuda College.
“Yes, there are excellent things going on so we don’t want to just look at the bad things, we want to look at what we are doing well and the things that need to be improved.”
Ms Hayward added: “There are far too many people with skin in the game to allow any of the success or failure to be a secret.”
There will be five senior schools under government restructuring plans, each offering two “signature’ or specialist courses.
CedarBridge Academy and the Berkeley Institute, the inaugural signature schools, will begin teaching them from next September.
CedarBridge is to offer Signature Learning Programmes in Building Construction and Maintenance, and STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] while Berkeley will offer Health and Social Care, and Finance and Insurance Services.
Six other signatures were recently announced. They are: Climate, Environment, Agriculture and Resources; Community and Social Investment; Arts and Culture; Education Services; Sports and Leisure Management; Financial and Insurance Services.
These will be taught in three other signature schools which will be chosen from the four current middle schools - Clearwater, Whitney, Dellwood and Sandys.
The Rotary presentation also included in its panel Laurel Burns, a former member of the Board of Education and now a Government Internal Governance Project team member.
Ms Burns said accountability would be a key element in the public education reform process.
A former school principal, Mr Brock has served the Bermuda Government in numerous capacities including Financial Secretary and chairman/chief executive of the Bermuda Monetary Authority.
Ms Caple said she welcomed the input of those who are passionate and knowledgable about education including Mr Brock.
But Mr Brock said he wrote a letter to the Ministry of Education offering to help and he got no response. He added that although he considers himself to be “one of the most experienced educators in Bermuda’s history” … “they don’t want my help”.
Mr Brock said: “It hurts me, I’m in my 90th year, it hurts me to see the fact that the professionals are afraid to let the public know anything that is going on inside the schools or the output. Fortunately, we have the Bermuda College … that is doing a fantastic job.”
Ms Caple said that 850 people took part in the signature school engagement process over the month of April.
She added: “Learning First has a newsletter and it averages about 350 views per month. In April it had 900 views and the Signature Engagement Pack was the most viewed item. We had more than 3,000 views on materials put online.”