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Education consultants to get $1.8m for extended contract

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Contract extension: Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A contract extension of one year for an overseas company tasked with redesigning Bermuda’s public education system will cost taxpayers close to $2 million.

A notice published in the Official Gazette on Monday said that Innovation Unit Australia New Zealand would receive $1,868,654 for the contract that has been extended to run from November 1, 2022 until September 30 this year.

The Innovation Unit’s previous contract was funded to the tune of $2.1 million over a two-and-a-half-year period, bringing the total amount invested in the company to $3,968,654.

The description of the services that will be provided is on the notice as “education reform/school redesign“.

Education reform plans include the phasing-out of middle schools, the introduction of signature schools and the closure of eight primary schools, leaving one per parish with the exception of Pembroke, which will have two.

Ben Smith, the Shadow Minister of Education, said the initial contract was for the consolidation of primary schools and the implementation of signature schools.

He said: “The first [two] signature schools have started but we have very little information regarding the third signature school, which was supposed to be tourism-centred.

“In the Senate it was mentioned that the third school could potentially be at TN Tatem but there hasn’t been an update on this signature or the location of the school.

“Considering the contract was for conceptualising the plan and then its implementation, it is obvious that the job is not complete, so the contract had to be extended.

“The parish primary school plan and consolidation of several schools seems to be in the early stages. I cannot comment on the change in cost from the two-and-a-half years to the new contract but would expect that the minister should explain the significant cost increase and whether this was part of the original negotiated contract as they move from the planning phase to implementation.”

Ben Smith, the Shadow Minister of Education (File photograph)

Mr Smith said it would be “helpful” to know whether the minister expects further extensions of the contract after September.

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, announced that the contract with Innovation Unit would be extended in November at a press conference expanding on the Throne Speech announcement.

However, he did not reveal why the contract had been extended.

He said the Learning First team, which included local representatives working with Innovation Unit on reform design, would be replaced by the newly formed Education Reform Unit headed by Lisa DeSilva, a veteran Bermuda educator.

Mr Rabain said at the time: “The unit will reside in the Ministry of Education’s office, reporting to the Office of the Minister of Education. A group of experienced Bermudian education professionals will be released from all other duties to focus solely on our ambitious but critical agenda.”

When Innovation Unit was selected in 2020, Mr Rabain said, the firm had worked with “educators and system leaders in the public and private sectors” in Africa, Europe and North America, and that it had a “proven track record of more than 15 years' experience co-designing processes and methodologies for education systems”.

He said that Innovation Unit had “emphasised that Bermudians are the guardians of the vision for the Bermuda public school system”.

Mr Rabain added: “We will take ownership of transforming our public school system.

“It is important to understand that our future system will be designed by Bermudians via consultation with our stakeholder groups and these consultants are being hired to guide all stakeholder groups through this change management process.”

The Ministry of Education has been approached for comment.

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Published February 01, 2023 at 7:54 am (Updated February 01, 2023 at 7:54 am)

Education consultants to get $1.8m for extended contract

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