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Retired former schools administrator critical of Education Authority

Adding an extra level of oversight for Bermuda’s schools should be dropped in favour of empowering principals to meet schools’ needs head-on, according to a former Chief Education Officer.

Dean Furbert, a former head of Francis Patton Primary School, said the creation of an Education Authority would merely add “another gap in what should be a seamless process, and another place for stakeholders to ascribe blame for failures in the system”.

Mr Furbert said in a letter to the Editor that the move, proposed under both the Progressive Labour Party and One Bermuda Alliance administrations, risked adding to cumbersome administration instead of focusing on heads of schools.

He added that the island had “experimented” across decades with different models for administering its educational system.

But he called school principals “the one constant element”, and recommended the Government focus its resources on “where education actually takes place – in the school”.

Yesterday the Ministry of Education said it was aware of Mr Furbert’s letter to the editor, published today, December 29, 2022, in The Royal Gazette, with a response expected to come from the Education Authority working group.

Mr Furbert, a veteran educator, told the Gazette he had witnessed a “centralising of authority within the Ministry of Education and a decline in the authority of the school principal” over the past 50 years.

He added: “In my view, we only need competent principals, who can provide educational leadership, ensure effective teaching, and are accountable to government administration, whatever form that might take.

“We do not need another configuration of government oversight, and especially one that has an additional entity with questionable authority.”

An independent EA was pitched by the OBA government in 2017 as a watchdog to “take the politics out of education”.

The idea resurfaced in 2019 under the PLP when Diallo Rabain, the education minister, told the House of Assembly an EA had been recommended by the BermudaFirst advisory group.

The idea gained traction, with Mr Rabain telling legislators in March of this year that the EA would be funded from the public purse but would “operate at arm’s length from Government”.

The authority was proposed in the latest Throne Speech, with Mr Rabain saying last month that MPs would consider a Bill for an EA during this session of the House.

The working group for the authority was set up in 2021, with major reforms under way for public education in Bermuda – from the phasing out of middle schools to the creation of signature schools.

In November, the minister called the EA “an authority that will be put in place to control the direction and development of education in Bermuda”.

Although run by professionals, Mr Rabain said the EA would remain linked to the Government because of its public funding.

But Mr Furbert said education in Bermuda had been saddled with excess bureaucracy that left parents “dissatisfied with the educational progress of their children”.

He also said the EA could end up as a “competing authority” with ill-defined boundaries.

As well as serving as Chief Education Officer, Mr Furbert was a teacher at the former St. George’s Secondary School from 1958 to 1970.

His tenure was followed by 12 years as principal of Francis Patton Primary School and five years as principal of Dellwood Primary School.

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Published December 29, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated December 29, 2022 at 8:00 am)

Retired former schools administrator critical of Education Authority

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