The Ministry of Education wishes to provide the public with this month’s status report on progress being made within the Bermuda Public School System.
This update is part of a promise we made to ensure that the public is informed on the work being done within the Ministry and the Department of Education.
Bermuda College and St. Francis Xavier University Partnership
A new education transfer pathway partnership has opened at the Bermuda College.
St. Francis Xavier University, in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, recently signed a five-year agreement with the College to offer graduates a 2 + 2 partnership in the actuarial science concentration, within the Department of Mathematics.
The agreement allows Bermuda College students graduating with the Associate of Science degree in Actuarial Science to transfer credits seamlessly into St. Francis Xavier where they can complete their Bachelor’s degree in two years.
This programme is especially exciting because it is the first agreement negotiated for Bermuda College students to continue their concentration in Canada, providing geographical options.
We hope that this will be the first of a number of agreements and look forward to more students from Bermuda taking advantage of this opportunity at St. Francis Xavier.
TN Tatem Middle School
All TN Tatem students are now officially transferred to Sandy’s Secondary, Dellwood and Whitney Institute Middle Schools, and by all reports, are settling into their new environments. The TN Tatem staff have been redeployed to the same middle schools and the Principal continues to supervise staff and students at their respective sites.
During the meetings that I held last month with TN Tatem parents, I informed them that an assessment of the school building would be conducted to determine the extent of the repairs and maintenance that is required to get the school up to standard. Once that assessment is complete, I will update parents on whether TN Tatem will reopen in September 2019. I made a commitment to inform all stakeholders about this before the end of school term 3, and I will honour that commitment.
Primary 6 and Middle 3 students from all public primary and middle schools, including TN Tatem students, sat the Cambridge Checkpoint Exams for English, Math, and Science during the weeks of April 15 and 22, respectively. Students at the primary and middle levels will take national exams in core subjects during the month of May and June 2019. Senior students will sit their international examinations in May 2019 and national examinations in June 2019.
50th Anniversary of Preschools
Last month, Education Month, we highlighted the work that our preschools are doing in relation to the inquiry model for teaching and learning. This school year marks the 50th anniversary for preschools in Bermuda. In recognition of this, we plan to hold a tea to celebrate and recognize the contributions of preschool leaders and educators who have served within the last 50 years.
It is also fitting that during this 50th anniversary year of preschools, the Department of Education will launch the first Autism Spectrum Disorder Programme at the preschool level. This programme, which is being developed based on international standards and practices, will be led by a specialist teacher with the assistance of a para-educator. The addition of this programme will enable the Department of Education to now provide services for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder from preschool to senior school.
Communications Consultant for the Bermuda Public School System:
The Department of Education has received responses for the RFQ for a Communications Consultant for the Bermuda Public School System. The panel which has been selected to review and assess submissions will have a recommendation available by early June 2019. The hiring of a Communications Consultant is in alignment with Plan 2022, Priority 5, Strategy 5.3.1 - Ensuring system success by strengthening external community and engagement.
Recruitment of Staff for 2019/2020
Recruitment of staff for the 2019/2020 school year is well underway. Principals have been provided with an overview of needs and progress to date. Ensuring that all schools are provided with their complement of staff for the start of the 2019/2020 school year remains a priority goal for the Department of Education. I can also advise that the Department of Education now has an Acting Education Officer for Reading and Mathematics. The two Education Officer posts that remain vacant are for Language Arts and Science.
Progress with Plan 2022
The first Annual Report for Plan 2022 was released the week of April 15, 2019 and includes some of the progress made with executing Plan 2022 adaptive and technical strategies for the period of January 2018 to March 2019. Part of the process for reviewing our progress for Plan 2022 will involve formally assessing staff progress with executing Plan 2022 strategies included in their Job Forward Plan objectives for 2018/2019. The process will take place during the month of May 2019. Additionally, all staff is required to have one or more Job Forward Objectives for the 2019/2020 fiscal year directly linked to Plan 2022 strategies. This approach connects our staff to Plan 2022 and aids in our progress with executing strategies for the Plan.
Bermuda Union of Teachers (BUT)
At a meeting held with the BUT Executive on April 5, 2019, the BUT were updated on a number of Department initiatives to keep them informed on the work that was being undertaken by technical officers. This update included the additional support provided for the implementation of the Multi-tier Support System process in schools; the progress made in fixing and replacing fire alarms and windows in school buildings; and that a Cabinet paper was being prepared to request approval for the increase in bandwidth for schools. I am also pleased to report that all matters identified in the IT audit undertaken by the Department’s IT Team for primary schools have now been addressed. Lastly, we are also preparing for the sign off by the BUT and the Department of Education for the Collective Bargain Agreement for the period 2018 to 2020.
The Standards-Based Grading Steering Committee held the second Parents Matter meetings at three separate sites on April 25, 2019. The team will continue in its efforts to educate parents about Standards-Based Grading, and we encourage parents to look out for the flyer advising of the final Parents Matter meeting which will take place in June 2019. We want our parents to fully understand Standards-Based Grading as the System transitions into Standards-Based Education. Also, The Steering Committee continues with their dedicated efforts to work with Department of Education officers, school Principals, and staff to implement selected Standards-Based Education practices in our classrooms at the primary and middle levels. Teacher teams who are working to develop proficiency scales for core subject areas are working to have them completed and in place for September 2019.
Student Progress Reports
Parents are reminded that the second academic and social progress reports for primary and middle school students will be sent out this week Friday, May 17, 2019. The end of year student progress reports will be distributed to parents at the end of Term 3.
Last week Tuesday, May 7th 2019, the Commissioner of Education along with a Technical officer met with school Principal representatives and the BPSU General Secretary to discuss outstanding items to agree on. Notable progress in addressing Principal’s concerns has and is being made.
Protocol for Community Requests for Schools to Participate in Events
We take this opportunity to remind the community about the protocol for requesting school participation in community events. Following the Department’s protocol process is critically important for both the safety and education of students which is always first and foremost. All persons and representatives of organizations must write officially to the Commissioner of Education with their request detailing what the event is about, the purpose of the event, when the event will take place, where it will take place, and the time frame.
All requests must be submitted at least one month in advance of the event to allow schools to be fully informed and prepared appropriately for student participation. The Department of Education is willing to support organizations that hold community events which involve student participation, and strongly encourages organizations to follow the protocols appropriately.
Elliot Primary School Enrollment
Lastly, I want to speak to school registration at Elliot Primary School. As announced in March, the Department of Education is looking at further options at the preschool and primary school levels, due to low enrollment numbers. These options will ensure that all students enrolled will receive the best, optimum education. I will be consulting with the parents and once completed, the relevant stakeholders will be informed.
Just yesterday, I met with the staff at the Elliot school to seek their input on how to move forward to ensure students are provided with a stimulating and equitable learning environment. It was a productive meeting and we certainly commend the Elliot Primary School Principal and staff for the work that they are doing to facilitate the growth and development of students. There was much learned from the staff and their input will certainly be taken into account when consulting with parents.
The public should know that Elliot Primary School has a number of excellent initiatives over the past several years that have set students up for success. The low enrollment this year is not an isolated case, as enrollment for P1 across the system this year was 60 students less than last year. Preschool enrollment was also 60 students less this year. The conversations we are currently having around enrollment will be ongoing, even into next year.
We are mindful of declining enrollment numbers and had begun to look at potential enrollment projections for the next 6 to 8 years, prior to this year’s enrollment. This data will undoubtedly be critical as we look at the future of Public Education in Bermuda and its inevitable restructuring as we phase out Middle Schools.
The Department of Education will always continue to do what is best for public school students and the system at large. Sometimes this may mean making decisions that not everybody will agree with but the vision is to set students on an education path that will ultimately prepare them to compete both locally and globally.