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Professionals react to schools revamp plan

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Mike Charles, the general secretary of the Bermuda Union of Teachers (File photograph)
Mary Lodge, a former principal of St George’s Preparatory School (File photograph)

The number of teachers in Bermuda’s public primary schools cannot be cut if school rolls remained the same, a senior teachers’ union official warned yesterday.

Mike Charles, the general secretary of the Bermuda Union of Teachers, was speaking after the Government announced proposals to slash the number of primary schools to ten from the 18 in operation at present.

It was said a reduction in staffing levels would be “expected”.

The document also admitted that some children “may have to transfer to other schools”.

But Mr Charles said: “If you have the same number of students, I don’t see how you can reduce the number of staff – you will overload the classes.

“I know that on a day-to-day basis, we already have a shortage of substitute teachers.”

A consultation document released by the ministry said that staff reductions were expected “through attrition, via retirement or persons who take up other opportunities within or outside of the Bermuda public school system”.

Mr Charles said that the academic performance of schools did not need to be a factor in a decision for closure.

He added: “Good students will do well wherever they go.

“Also, if you are looking at overhauling the system you are not going to be using the same curriculum, so it depends on the favourability of the building.”

Mary Lodge, former principal of St George’s Preparatory School, a high performing aided school that is one of the nine facing the axe, agreed that academic performance should not be a factor in choosing which schools to close.

Ms Lodge said: “I believe that all schools have the potential to perform at the levels performed by students at St George’s Prep.

“The performance isn’t a function of the physical plant or location – there are many facets that go into children’s performance.

“It is not based on the physical plant, it is a function of the staff.”

She added: “What the aided schools have that the other schools have not been afforded the right to, is the autonomy of principals to pick their staff.

“That is the biggest difference. Principals need more autonomy and people need to believe in the public school system.”

Ms Lodge said that if there was to be one school in St George, East End Primary School would be best placed due to its accessibility.

She said: “East End is the only one that is accessible and has a separate preschool – you can’t argue with the architecture.”

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Published December 21, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated December 20, 2020 at 9:42 pm)

Professionals react to schools revamp plan

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