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Fee-for-service model introduced as Govt reduces straight grants

Bermuda Sloop Foundation will receive a grant of $200,500 to continue providing voyages to middle school students, Education Minister Dame Jennifer Smith announced yesterday.

The Ministry will hand out a total of $430,310 in grants to external bodies in 2012/13, Dame Jennifer said, less than half the amount in 2011/12.

But more cash will be awarded on a new fee-for-service model, meaning the overall level of spending on such groups will remain around the $900,000 mark.

Opening the Budget debate on Education yesterday, the former Premier told the House of Assembly Bermuda Sloop Foundation and seven other bodies would receive the same funding they got in 2011/12.

Bermuda Broadcasting Company gets a grant of $40,890, Bermuda National Gallery gets $16,355, the Centre for Talented Youth gets $104,000, Global Arts gets $33,120, the Student Leadership Development Programme gets $10,000, WindReach gets $15,000 and YouthNet gets $22,445.

As the Ministry tries to keep a tighter rein on the way cash is handled, some groups which formerly received grants will now be paid fees based on their service: the Adult Education School, Bermuda School of Music, Care Learning Centre, the Family Centre, the Reading Clinic, Teen Services and Tomorrow’s Voices.

Dame Jennifer has previously criticised the lack of oversight into how grants were allocated and spent when she first joined the Ministry in 2010.

Reading the brief on her Ministry, Dame Jennifer revealed details on how it will spend its budget of $134 million, a decrease on the $139 million it is expected to have spent by the end of 2011/12.

Examples include $296,000 awarded towards helping children with visual needs, more than triple the $91,000 spent in 2011/12, so that the number of specialist teachers can be increased from one to three.

Dame Jennifer said the Braille classroom at Prospect Primary School, set up last year to help six students with low vision and blindness, has been a great success.

Two extra teachers will mean the service can be extended to include more of the Island’s 38 children with medically diagnosed visual impairments.

“The programme has benefited from overwhelming school, family and community support,” said Dame Jennifer.

“The students and their paraprofessionals are not only learning Braille, but also compensatory skills to help them function and thrive in their regular classroom environment and in the world.”

The new Out of School Suspension Programme, which aims to stop the practice of poorly behaved students being sent home with no educational supervision, will get $733,000.

That programme provides therapeutic intervention for students at risk of dropping out of school, or who may escalate into serious anti-social behaviour.

It runs in tandem with the Alternative Education Programme, which currently has 25 at-risk students undergoing regular assessment.

“Their strengths are encouraged and they are taught the skills needed to address their challenges,” said Dame Jennifer.

Both the Island’s senior schools are expected to spend less than in 2011/12, with Berkeley Institute getting $12.0 million and CedarBridge Academy $13.8 million. Each is estimated to have spent about $1.5 million more in the current fiscal year.

Curriculum implementation gets $4.2 million, an increase of $1.4 million to provide instructional materials for core subjects of social studies, English, math and science.

Dame Jennifer said content specialists in those subjects will work in schools to improve and reinforce teaching methods.

The Minister also responded angrily to Shadow Education Minister Grant Gibbons’ criticism of inconsistent data provided on teacher numbers.

Her Ministry had erroneously omitted support teachers and educational therapists from figures released in response to Dr Gibbons’ Parliamentary Questions.

“I cannot defend the error but let me take this opportunity to make it clear and extinguish any doubt,” said Dame Jennifer.

“We at the Ministry of Education are a work in progress. I said this 17 months ago when I was appointed Minister of Education and I continue to say it.

“I will not make excuses for areas that need to be improved. What I have said is that we will do better. We have, and we are.

“I say this because there have been some insinuations that we intended to mislead this House and the public. This is a malicious allegation. There was no intent to mislead the House or the public.

“An incorrect inference was made that the request was for regular classroom and subject teachers.

“And, I have to say, the number of teachers in the public school system is readily available public information.

“I’m sure that if anyone was to ask the Bermuda Union of Teachers for their numbers, they would be proud to communicate their teacher rolls. The information is not secret.”

Useful websites: www.gov.bm

Photo by Mark Tatem The Spirit of Bermuda: The Bermuda Sloop Foundation is receiving a grant of $200,500 from Government.

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Published March 08, 2012 at 8:59 am (Updated March 08, 2012 at 8:59 am)

Fee-for-service model introduced as Govt reduces straight grants

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