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School forced to close due to ‘unexpected staff absences’

School’s out: Dalton E. Tucker Primary School in Southampton (File photograph)

A primary school in Southampton was unable to open yesterday because of a staff shortage.

Pupils at Dalton E. Tucker Primary School were turned away after an “unexpected high number of staff absences”.

Education heads did not say if the absences were the result of unofficial industrial action by teachers.

Last week, Harrington Sound Primary School closed for a day after many teachers called in sick. The Bermuda Union of Teachers later said that the unscheduled shutdown highlighted a shortage of substitutes that are drafted in to cover absences.

The Royal Gazette also heard reports of a similar sick-out at Paget Primary School on Monday, although the Ministry of Education denied that any action had taken place.

Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, said she was not aware of any staff concerns at the school that would warrant industrial action.

Ms Richards said: “The Department of Education regrets to inform the community that Dalton E. Tucker Primary School was unable to open today due to an unexpected high number of staff absences.

“We recognise the inconvenience and concern this causes for our students, parents and the wider community, and we are deeply sorry for the disruption. We thank parents and guardians for their patience and understanding.

“We are unaware of any specific concerns of Dalton E. Tucker staff that would lead to any form of industrial action.

“The community will be updated as we work through these challenges and will provide information about the reopening of Dalton E. Tucker as soon as it becomes available.”

Referring to the alleged shortage of substitute teachers, Ms Richards said schools had access to a pool of reserve staff and that contingency plans go into effect if a school needs further coverage.

Ms Richards also said that under a new collective bargaining agreement, teachers had been given more personal days off.

She said: “Typically, during the summer months, there is a peak in the number of staff across the public school system taking their personal days off.

“This exacerbates challenges of securing substitutes when staff call in sick in the morning. All schools have been asked to have emergency plans to help mitigate this.

“We are actively addressing these challenges and are committed to finding solutions that will prevent similar disruptions in the future.

“The department will engage in discussions with the BUT to address concerns around coverage for absences and the utilisation of substitute teachers in general.

“Our priority remains the education and safety of our students, and we are striving to minimise any impact on their learning experience.

“We thank our parents and guardians for their understanding and patience as we navigate these complex issues together.”

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Published May 18, 2024 at 7:56 am (Updated May 18, 2024 at 7:56 am)

School forced to close due to ‘unexpected staff absences’

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