Throne Speech outlines plans for island’s first two parish primary schools
Legislation paving the way for the island’s first two parish primary schools will be considered in this parliamentary session, it was announced in the Throne Speech yesterday.
Work is also being done to consult with stakeholders over the implementation of an education authority.
In April, it was announced that Francis Patton Primary School and Purvis Primary School would open as parish primary schools next September as part of the Government’s sweeping education reform plans.
Describing the reform of Bermuda’s public education system as the Government’s “greatest priority”, the Deputy Governor, Tom Oppenheim, said: “In this session, the legislature will consider amendments to the Education Act 1996 to establish P7 and P8 classes to support the opening of parish primary schools at Francis Patton Primary School and Purvis Primary School.
“The reform effort has seen design teams undertaking the work required to prepare each school and school family for their growth and establishment as parish primary schools.”
Becky Ausenda, founder of Bermuda Education Network, said that she was cautiously optimistic about the introduction of the P7 and P8 year groups and that the education authority would be a "positive step".
However, she added that more information was need on timeline and who is in charge of these major projects.
“I hope that when these reforms are presented in the house there will be a robust debate and more detailed information will become available.
"All stakeholders need to get planning as soon as possible and it will be crucial for the government to supplement the existing human resources and project management teams which have not been adequate to handle the implementation of other recent initiatives.”
Parish primary schools will accommodate two additional years of primary school — P7 and P8 — with ages ranging from 5 to 12. The implementation of the parish primary school plan, which will see eight primary schools close leaving one school in each parish except Pembroke where there will be two, is to be phased in over a minimum period of a three to five-years.
This could see some primary schools operating with eight year group levels while others have six as the system is phased in.
Mr Oppenheim added: “With an Education Authority Working Group led by change and education professionals now consulting with education stakeholders to develop an entity to deliver the needs and future direction of the public school system, the Government will advance a Bill to create an education authority.
“Once established, the authority will continue to implement change and necessary reforms to meet the needs of young people in Bermuda.”
There was no detail about how much autonomy from the Government an authority would have.
There has been opposition to some schools closing by segments of the community, not least a group campaigning to save West End Primary School from closure.
The Government has said that school’s legacy as one of the first to offer education to Black children will be honoured, as will be the legacies of other schools slated for closure.
Mr Oppenheim said: “During the work of reforming public education, the Government has noted the proud histories of institutions and education professionals which have been elevated into the public discourse.
“Having established a History and Legacy Working Group, the Government will adopt one of their key recommendations and advance a Bill to establish a History and Legacy Committee with statutory responsibilities to work with the community to preserve and honour the history and legacy of education in Bermuda.“