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Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, is accompanied by David Burt, the Premier, and others at a press conference about parish primary schools at St David's Primary School (Photograph by Jason Swan/Department of Communications)

Plans to close two much loved schools at either end of the island have been reversed, the Government announced yesterday.

West End Primary School and St David’s Primary School have been saved from closure, but the decision means that Somerset Primary School will close.

The Government found that West End Primary School scored “slightly higher” on a history and legacy assessment than its parish counterpart, Somerset Primary.

It said: “Therefore, the parish primary school for Sandys will be located at the West End Primary School site.

“Therefore, Somerset Primary School will eventually be closed as a primary school.”

The announcement added: “Further discussions after the rescoring process resulted in the decision to redevelop the St David’s Primary School site into an additional parish primary school for St George’s Parish.

“This decision reflects the unique historical and community context of the St David’s community.”

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, is accompanied by David Burt, the Premier, and others at a press conference about parish primary schools at St David's Primary School (Photograph by Jason Swan/Department of Communications)

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, gave a press conference at St David’s Primary that was attended by David Burt, the Premier, as well as Lovitta Foggo, the MP for St David’s, and Tinée Furbert, the MP for St George’s South and Minister of Youth, Social Development and Seniors.

The news brings to an end a tense period during which supporters of St David’s Primary School and West End Primary School protested the Government’s earlier decision to close them.

A rescoring process was initiated in response to public backlash over the original primary school closure criteria.

Members of the community including West End Warriors, a pressure group launched to save West End Primary School, called for a history and legacy component to be included in the criteria.

Mr Rabain said: “The final history and legacy score of the St David’s Primary School reflected and underscored this area’s unique character and rich history.

“It became clear that St David’s Primary deserved a distinct status.

“The school’s impressive history and legacy score was a key indicator of its unique cultural and community significance.

“Consequently, we have decided to redevelop this site as a second primary school for the St George’s Parish.

“This decision reflects our recognition of St David’s as a place of learning and a vital community hub.”

Reactions to schools’ reprieve

Lovitta Foggo, St David’s MP: “The outcome that we have heard today was the correct outcome because, yes, we are standing on ground that is a community hub. There was no doubt that the minister and his team would arrive at the decision they arrived at today.”

Gladstone Thompson, St David’s Primary principal: “Our history and legacy report was outstanding. They put in hundreds of hours to prepare for this and as a result we have this favourable outcome. We are elated, we are excited. The students were listening as it was announced and we will be celebrating.”

Kelly Pitcher, PTA president for St David’s Primary School: “I want to thank the St David’s community for all of their support and help as well as the St David’s PTA and the committee that presented to the History and Legacy Committee. I want to thank the leadership of our principal, Mr Gladstone Thompson, and the teachers and the students for their resilience as we went through this. I would also like to thank the West End Warriors for their support.”

Russell Richardson, grandson of Hilton C. Richardson, former St David’s principal: “I want to thank the minister and the Government for taking such a bold move.”

Ellen-Kate Horton, of the West End Warriors, a former Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Education: “The outcome was the correct one as expected, and we the West End Warriors are thankful. I am sorry that it has taken approximately three years to get here. I would have preferred a central location [for the press conference], but then, the St David's MPs are most supportive of their community.”

Nerissa Gilbert, West End acting principal: “I, together with the staff, students and parents, am elated at the wonderful news that we have been chosen as the Sandys Parish primary school. To quote our school motto, ‘Forward Together’.”

Ben Smith, shadow education minister: “After causing unnecessary angst for over a year, it [the Government] does a turnabout on the decisions to close two schools — what a waste of taxpayers’ dollars.

“Those who supported the schools staying open can celebrate today but the minister should not pat himself or his colleagues on the back for the result. The pressure applied forced him to cave in and political survival was his decision-maker.”

Elizabeth Deacon, One Bermuda Alliance candidate for St George’s South: “[St David’s Primary] is by any measure, a successful and well-loved parish school that has served this unique community well for more than 130 years. We commend the PTA and community members who came together, determined to make a rock-solid case for the school and I will continue to do everything I can to support the school and the community as we look forward to the next 100 years of St David’s Primary.”

Maurice Foley, OBA candidate for St David’s: “Together, let us uphold the legacy of excellence that defines St David’s Primary School, ensuring that it remains a beacon of educational excellence and a source of pride for our community.”

Mr Rabain said he recognised that the decisions on primary schools, which form part of the larger education reform plans of the Government, took longer than expected, and thanked the community for its patience.

He added: “We worked diligently to ensure that our decisions were fair and well informed while remaining sensitive to the impact these outcomes have on all stakeholders.

“The process has been one of careful consideration and meticulous evaluation guided by a commitment to fairness and the best outcome for our educational system and our system.”

Kelly Pitcher, the PTA president for St David’s Primary School (Photograph by Jason Swan/Department of Communications)

He said that the History and Legacy Committee would remain in place and work with primary schools to ensure that even though they might not be a part of the system going forward, their histories would not be forgotten.

The Education Reform Unit will now focus on finalising the three-tier to two-tier public school system plan to phase out middle schools.

The Premier said the days where governments made decisions without the input of the community had “long passed”.

He said: “You spoke, we listened. An outcome that we feel is in the best interests of all of Bermuda’s students has been reached and agreed by the Cabinet. This has been a collaborative process from the very beginning and we want to thank everyone who helped us to reach these decisions, and all those who will be part of future decisions.

“It has been difficult. These decisions are not easy but we believe that we have arrived at the best decision for the future.”

Mr Rabain was asked if any lessons had been learnt by the Government. He responded: “That this government does listen and we do take into account the decisions that we have to make are sometimes very difficult decisions.

“I am not going to say that we always get everything right the first time but the purpose of the things we do is to get them right eventually and so I think we have come to the right conclusion.”

He said the contract for Innovation Unit, the foreign consultants employed by the Ministry of Education to assist the all-Bermudian Education Reform Unit, remained in place.

He added. “Now that we have made this decision, there are critical conversations that need to take place. We will continue to evaluate their contract. As it stands, it expires in October of this year, but if we find it has to be renewed, it is something we will take on board when the time comes.”

Mr Rabain said that parents of primary school pupils will be notified on school enrolment, with acceptance or rejection letters issued in short order.

Legislation will be amended to include the names of transitioning primary schools.

Confirmed parish primary school sites are:

Sandys: West End Primary School

Southampton: Dalton E Tucker Primary School

Warwick: Purvis Primary School

Paget: Paget Primary School

Pembroke: West Pembroke Primary and Victor Scott Primary schools

Devonshire: Elliot Primary School

Smith’s: Harrington Sound Primary School

Hamilton Parish: Francis Patton Primary School

St George’s: East End Primary and St David’s Primary schools

UPDATE: this article has been amended to correct the name of the PTA president for St David’s Primary School to Kelly Pitcher; we apologise for the error

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Published May 02, 2024 at 8:06 am (Updated May 02, 2024 at 4:05 pm)

West End and St David’s Primary School sites saved

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