Aggressive intent to launch signature schools

  • Guided by what is right: Diallo Rabain, the education minister, gives an update on schools (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Plans to have signature schools open in a little more than a year’s time are “very aggressive”, the education minister said yesterday.

Diallo Rabain added that members of team that would lead the Government’s plan to axe middle schools and introduce senior-level signature schools had not been selected.

He said: “That is still being worked on. As we move along, we will furnish updates of what’s going on with that process.”

Mr Rabain said that “some preliminary work” had been done, but that the task to assemble the team will not “be as easy at it seems”.

He explained: “There are specific skill sets that we do want on this particular team and so that is the process we are going through now — who can be on that team.

“We realise that this is not something that our employees can do on a part-time basis.

“This is something that we are actually going to have to bring people in from different parts of the Government and actually second them to do this for us.”

The Department of Education had 314 full-time equivalent employees in 2017-18 according to the 2019-20 Budget book.

Mr Rabain said that the number, location and focus of the signature schools had “been discussed”.

He added: “There are potential scenarios that have been pushed forward.

“When we are ready to start the consultation process, that’s when we will come out with the various scenarios.”

David Burt, the Premier, told MPs in May that it was hoped that “school year 2020-21 will be the first with signature schools”.

He said that the school year starting in two months’ time will “ideally” be the last “under the current system”.

Mr Burt added that the Government “will not rush this just to make this particular timeline”.

Mr Rabain said that he could not yet say if the time frame was possible. He added: “What I can tell you is that that is the aim — and we will always look to hit our mark.”

Mr Rabain said: “It is critical to get this transformation right the first time. So we will go at the necessary pace to ensure its smooth transition.

“We will be guided by what is right for our students first and foremost.”

He reiterated that consultation will take place before a final plan for the school system change is decided.

Mr Rabain said last July said that a three-pronged process, expected to last 18 months, would be used to develop proposals for signature schools.

He said that the first would involve consultation and the second phase would develop proposals.

The final phase would involve a review of the proposals.

Mr Rabain said at the time that he expected each phase would last about six months.

The promise to phase out middle schools and introduce signature schools was made in the Progressive Labour Party’s 2017 election platform.

To read Diallo Rabain’s remarks in full, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”