It’s closer than you think
March 16, 2012
The government primary school system has undergone tremendous change in student population over the past half century. During the 1960s two additional primary schools were built to accommodate the bulge in births following the Second World War. These two schools were closed in the early 1970s because of the decrease in the number of children. Furthermore, by 1975 the maximum class size in primary schools was decreased from 30 to 25 as the number of children decreased further with the fall-off in the birth rate.
As the birth rate continued to drop during the 1980s there was no additional change in the actual structure of schools but there was concern about the effects of decreasing school size on the services provided in schools. At one time it had been generally accepted that most primary schools should have two teachers of physical education; one for the boys and one for the girls. In addition they would have a teacher of music along with a teacher of the visual arts (drawing). This rarely happens now as the music and arts teachers are shared between primary schools and there tends to be only one teacher for physical education. This situation is not good for developing good programmes in those areas.
Suggestions were made about consolidating primary schools in order to provide better services as it is accepted, based on many research studies, that involvement in the “arts” along with consistent physical activity improve academic performance. However there was political hesitation because of concern about the reaction from parents who may be against the loss of a school associated with one or the other of the local ethnic groups. This is unfortunate.
In the 2010/2011 school year I believe there were at least seven public primary schools with a total enrolment of fewer than 120 students; or 20 per year over the six-year period. Based on the Department of Statistics report “Bermuda Population Projections 2000 2030”, we may expect the number of children born each year to decrease by some 12 percent over that time span. That means that, unless we have an influx of immigrant children, our schools will experience a corresponding decrease in enrolment. There is no point in saying that that is a long time away. Time passes quickly and it is essential that we start examining ways to deal with this issue effectively, in consultation with parents. We cannot muddle along with small, structurally inefficient primary schools.
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