Log In

Reset Password

Unions force talks with education minister

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

Non-teaching staff in the Department of Education are meeting with their respective unions, claiming no progress has been made with the Government over sweeping concerns outstanding since the end of last year.

The issues, which largely centre on the handling of education reform, sparked a sit-in last December at the department’s Church Street offices.

A source within the department revealed that staff were considering further action.

The source told The Royal Gazette that Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, had repeatedly postponed meetings with concerned staff.

However, the ministry stated last night: “The Minister of Education looks forward to meeting with the Department of Education staff on May 16 to provide comprehensive answers to the questions they have submitted.”

Concerns lingering from last year include department staff having to give up hours to work for the Education Reform Unit.

Staff complained they got conflicting directions from the ERU and ministry, and queried the millions spent on consulting firm Innovation Unit Australia/New Zealand.

The source said that the majority of approximately 30 staff, including clerical and administrative employees, mentors, education officers, assistant directors and directors, felt their concerns had gone unheard.

The group sent a list of questions to the ministry as well as to the Bermuda Union of Teachers and Bermuda Public Services Union, requesting “open dialogue”.

The source told The Royal Gazette: “We agreed we would put off our urgent concerns until January. It is now May 6 and we have not had a meeting. The minister keeps promising meetings and then postpones them.

“Those in the department and ERU were not operating as one unit but very separately, and it is causing staff to be very unhappy.

“The ERU is vocal in saying the department will no longer exist. Where does that leave us? Nothing is being told to us in terms of job security.

“We have $2 million every year to give to the Innovation Unit, but what are they doing? We would love to know. There is no plan, no timeline, no communication. Everybody is tired.

“There doesn’t seem to be any urgency. It seems like the minister doesn’t care.”

The nearly 40 questions sent to the ministry on April 1 cover the Education Authority, the Education Reform Unit, the Innovation Unit, and signature schools/parish primary schools.

The document claimed morale had hit “an all-time low” over a lack of transparency by the ERU on how the EA would work, and whether the department would remain in place.

They asked how early learning was being integrated into education reform, and queried plans for special education and staffing.

They raised compensation for DoE staff drafted to work at the ERU for lengths of time they said contravened their collective bargaining agreement.

The group added: “There seems to be intentional divisiveness between ERU and DoE staff and the level of disrespect displayed by members of the ERU towards the DoE staff has become untenable to the point where some DoE staff feel bullied.”

Concerning the Innovation Unit, the staff queried its deliverables and who would be held accountable for failures.

Staff questioned what indicators were in place to show progress on education reform concerning signature and parish primary schools.

They queried whether the curriculum and assessments for signature learning programmes had been fully developed — and who got final say over which curriculums would end up getting selected.

Teacher shortages were also referenced on signature schools.

Staff claimed parents were pulling children out of parish primary schools “in huge numbers” in favour of the middle school system that was in place prior to reforms.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Education said that no department employee could be contacted or asked to do any reform tasks without the approval of Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education.

She added: “Naturally, there is a point at which the work of the ERU team and the work of the DoE converge, particularly as it relates to historical data stored within the department.

“The department processes expertise, onboarding staff and building works required for parish primary schools as well adding new signature schools.”

The ministry acknowledged “staff uneasiness” after the issues were brought to Ms Richards’s attention.

Neither the BUT nor the BPSU commented by press time.

• To read the union queries over education, see Related Media

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published May 09, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated May 09, 2024 at 7:45 am)

Unions force talks with education minister

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon