Minister outlines education budget – says new reform unit to get $4.4m
The Ministry of Education has dedicated $4.4 million to the work of a new Education Reform Unit, it was revealed yesterday.
Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, gave a breakdown of the expenditure for the coming year during the Budget debate in the House of Assembly.
The new Education Reform Unit headed by “education veteran” Lisa DeSilva will be staffed by reassigned public officers from the Department of Education and other ministries as well as consultants.
Mr Rabain said that the operational expense for the unit is $4,412,000, which includes $675,200 for general office operation and supplies, $815,000 for the continuance of the Learning First programme, which now falls under the ERU, and about $2.9 million for “consultants, for media and other professional support services, for meeting and events and professional technical services required for systems and school building infrastructure changes that form part of the reform unit”.
Mr Rabain listed 26 working groups involved in the ERU covering everything from school choice and admissions, school and system leadership, and professional learning to school transformation, overall curriculum, pedagogy and the development of signature schools and parish primary schools.
He said: “This extensive listing of working groups provides insight about the breadth of work required and which is being undertaken for sustainable education reform. This list also indicates the extent and type of manpower and focused efforts that are required to transform our schools and public education system.”
The Ministry of Education received an overall budget allocation of $139.8 million, an increase of $4.5 million, or 3 per cent, on last year.
Inclusivity and cultural responsibility; school choice and admissions; school leadership; system leadership; professional learning and future workforce and capability building; learning environments; IT strategy; transportation; learning partnerships; personalised learning capability; metrics and KPIs [key performance indicators]; resourcing and budgeting; the Education Authority; communication and engagement; school transformation; overall curriculum, pedagogy and assessment frameworks; S1 — signature-learning programmes; S2 and S3 signature-learning programme development for the existing signature programmes; S1 — the new signature learning programme development; parish primary school curriculum and learning experiences development for P1 and P7; senior school math; senior school science; pedagogy; graduation; certification; and assessment.
The Department of Education was allocated $114.8 million, up 2 per cent. Mr Rabain said: “The main contributing factor for the increase is the need to fund education reform activities such as $1.7 million for the new parish primary schools at Francis Patton and Purvis Primary for September 2023 and $865,000 to bolster the substitute teacher budget.
He said “unequivocally” that last year’s substitute budget of $2.7 million was not enough and that the ministry was trying to find the “sweet point”. While this year’s allocation was $3.6 million for substitutes, he anticipated that more will be needed in the next Budget as more teaching staff are out of the classrooms to work on education reform.
There were savings in the region of $23,000 in general administration due to a reduction in Covid-19-related expenses.
The Commissioner of Education and two direct reports — the director of academics and director of educational standards — were allocated $398,000, down by $631,000. Mr Rabain said they are responsible for the “strategic planning, leading, overseeing, monitoring and auditing staff work and holding the staff in the department and schools accountable for carrying out their duties and responsibilities”.
He said the decrease in funds represents a reallocation of funding for education reform to the newly reformed Education Reform Unit as well as expenditure efficiencies. The Office of the Commissioner also funds a communications consultant, Mr Rabain said.
Mr Rabain said staff development funding was down “minimally” to $672,000 and that educators have been engaged in professional learning focused on changes that are specific to education reform.
Mr Rabain said that system transformation teams are progressing towards the implementation phase of parish primary schools. During this phase, school transformation teams will focus on the logistical components such as staffing, training, equipment and curriculum.
He added: “Also included in this phase is the stage gate reviews. During the stage gate reviews the system transformation teams present the prototype of their blueprint statements to the education reform governance committee to determine what ethical, legal, political, fiscal and regulatory processes are needed to be taken into consideration, and addressed to stress the test of the desirability, feasibility and viability of the blueprints.”
The first two parish primary schools saw budget increases — Francis Patton of $918,000 and Purvis Primary of $741,000. Both are due to open in September and the increases will pay for additional employees, supplies and equipment.
Francis Patton will be getting eight new teachers and Purvis Primary School will get an additional six.
Mr Rabain said the department now has a “full complement” of school psychologists with a budget allocation of $930,000, while the counselling unit received $3.4 million.
Preschools were allocated $4.7 million
Primary schools received $29,692,000, up $1.5 million due to the anticipated increase for the first two parish primary schools
Special schools received an increase of $42,000 to $659,000
Middle school funding was up $140,000 to $14.8 million
Senior schools – CedarBridge Academy funding was up $287,000 and The Berkeley Institute received the same amount as last year
The Bermuda College received $14.6m — the same as last year. Mr Rabain said the college will also make use of a $200,000 tuition grant and a capital grant of $75,000 for needed campus upgrades.
There was $630,000 set aside for external grants — a minor increase of $22,000. This includes $450,000 the Bermuda College Promise Merit Award Programme, a merit-based tuition grant, for which there were 452 student admissions this year compared with 517 last year.
More than $1.3 million went towards the ministry’s annual scholarships and awards programmes.
The Department of Libraries and Archives received $3 million up 2 per cent.
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