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MPs pass law that hammers ‘another nail in the coffin’ of three-tiered school system

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Legislation to open the first parish primary schools as part of wider education reform was given the green light in the House of Assembly.

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, said on Monday night that both Purvis Primary and Francis Patton Primary will formally relaunch as parish primary schools in September.

He said the Education (Primary Schools) Temporary Act 2023 would “hammer another nail in the coffin” of the island’s three-tiered school system as the Government moves to phase out middle schools.

“The product will be high-quality education for all including meaningful, integrated real world learning experiences that meet the needs of our children and their families,” Mr Rabain said.

He said that as part of the phasing out of the island’s middle schools, students will stay at primary school for eight years instead of six.

“As the structure of primary school education is provided in the Education Act 1996, legislation needs to be changed or introduced to change the structure of primary schools and the public education system to provide for two years to be added to parish primary schools,” he said.

“This Bill is temporary because it is designed to be in place until the ten selected primary schools are all reformed into parish primary schools throughout the phased implementation of education reform.”

During the reform process parents of students at parish primary schools will be able to choose if their child will go to middle school after P6 or remain at their primary school through P8.

However that will change once middle schools are fully phased out and no longer in operation.

Mr Rabain said the changes “might be somewhat confusing”, but the Ministry will work to lay out in plain language how transfers and enrolment function during the transition process.

He said the amendments would also allow the minister to close schools when they are no longer needed.

Mr Rabain said that reforms of the education system were necessary and, while the closure of schools was always a difficult decision, it would be addressed with care and sensitivity.

“Long before the Government’s education reform plan, we knew we had too many public school facilities as a community,” he said.

“While some may disagree, I am pleased that the collaborative decision making processed used for parish primary schools allowed the ministry, educators, parents, alumni and other community members to discuss the reality of our demographics, facilities and human and financial resources.

“These factors had to be considered and finally addressed in order to achieve a vision of education and learning that is relevant, flexible, personalised, inspiring and future-focused.”

Susan Jackson, the OBA spokeswoman for education, voiced her support for the legislation, noting that because education reform is a massive project it was important to be introduced in phases.

She said that adding two years to student’s time in primary school was a positive, stating: “It really gives children the opportunity to be comfortable and develop a level of confidence and security.”

However she questioned if students would get the same access to educational experiences – such as science labs – in primary schools as they do in middle school.

Mr Rabain said that students in P7 and P8 may not have the same experience as students in M1 and M2, but they would not be put at a disadvantage.

“The outcome for our young people, whether they are in P7 or M1 will be comparable,” he said.

“How the curriculum is configured to meet those outcomes will be different based on a significant curriculum and learning experience design process that is under way as we speak.”

David Burt meanwhile highlighted the significant amount of consultation that has taken place as the Government considered how to reform the island’s education system.

“This is not just consultation for consultation’s sake,” he said. “We have gone back, adjusted plans based on feedback received, then gone ahead and presented those plans again and sometimes we have had to revise those plans.”

He added that while difficult decisions had to be made, the Government was committed to making the right choices for the future of the island and its young people.

“None of these decisions are easy,” Mr Burt said. “None of these decisions are politically convenient. None of these decisions will earn the Government votes at the next election.

“I remember speaking to my colleagues in a room and saying I would be happy to lose votes if we did the right thing for the future of the children of this country.”

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Published March 01, 2023 at 7:45 am (Updated March 01, 2023 at 7:45 am)

MPs pass law that hammers ‘another nail in the coffin’ of three-tiered school system

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