Log In

Reset Password

Union says school staffing shortages must be a priority

Dante Cooper, the general secretary of the Bermuda Union of Teachers, has hit out at staffing shortages within the Department of Education (Photograph supplied)

Fixing an “alarming” shortage of substitute teachers for public schools should be the Department of Education’s top priority, teachers’ representatives insisted.

Dante Cooper, the general secretary of the Bermuda Union of Teachers, said the situation meant teachers faced burnout and some classes were neglected.

He explained: “The executive of the BUT continues to monitor the situation in our public schools around the alarming shortage of substitute teachers with great apprehension.

“The Department of Education must make correcting this highly volatile state of operations their top priority.

“Teachers are being driven to burnout through a lack of support in the form of substitute teachers that can cover staff absences, and this is not the first time we have made this call for more substitute teachers to be made available, whether through redistribution or hiring.

“Our students are being neglected in many incidences with classes going untaught, and even unsupervised, in some schools and other schools having to go to the unfathomable extreme of closing due to lack of available staff on campus.

“This must not become a regular occurrence — it’s quite disturbing that it even happened once.”

Harrington Sound Primary School and Dalton E. Tucker Primary School were forced to close their doors temporarily in recent weeks owing to an absence of staff.

Mr Cooper said there needed to be an urgent re-evaluation of protocols for substitute coverage and that immediate action was required to expand the list to include more qualified professionals.

He added: “We implore the Department of Education to work collaboratively with us to ensure that our teachers and students receive the support they need to maintain a high-quality educational environment.

“We remain steadfast and committed to supporting our teachers, and advocating for changes that will enhance teaching and learning in the Bermuda public school system.”

The Royal Gazette contacted the Ministry of Education and was referred to a statement from Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, which was released last week when it was announced that Dalton E. Tucker was closed owing to staff shortages.

Ms Richards said then that she was not aware of any staff concerns at the school that would warrant industrial action.

She explained that schools had access to a pool of reserve staff and that contingency plans went into effect if a school needed further coverage.

Ms Richards added that under a new collective-bargaining agreement, teachers were 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.”

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

Published May 21, 2024 at 7:54 am (Updated May 21, 2024 at 7:54 am)

Union says school staffing shortages must be a priority

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