As the Shadow Minister of Education, I am delighted that “Plan 2022: Bermuda’s Strategic Plan for Public School Education”, the multi–year strategic plan for Bermuda’s public school system has at last been presented to the people of Bermuda.
This community-driven and community-owned document represents the culmination of work and contributions made many of Bermuda’s education stakeholders, including the Board of Education, the Ambassador Design Team and the Strategic Review Team. The contribution of these stakeholders is essential and this grave oversight must be addressed and remedied before any consideration is given to the plan being implemented.
For the record, the Opposition supports the vision that all of Bermuda’s students, whether they are enrolled in public, private or home school, should be educated to the level that allows them to be able to compete and lead globally and locally.
The plan’s priorities include enhancing teacher practice and leadership, improving infrastructure, and ensuring student career and workforce readiness. I would like to know how these stated priorities will be implemented and delivered because the plan does not detail the methodology, which is the crux of the matter. How will these priorities be accomplished?
It is crucial that this plan be a complete blueprint for the future and not just an aspirational dream.
There has to be strong leadership to implement and carry through the objectives of the plan. This means that there has to be a clear understanding and acceptance that the change required can be performed only by an individual who is transformational, not transactional. Accordingly, this will require a restructuring of the Department of Education to ensure that staff are equipped and able effectively to deliver the strategies outlined in the plan.
It is vital that an organisational restructuring be considered because it is, from a governance perspective, the first rung on the ladder of reform for the Department of Education — and it is critical for the effectiveness and success of the plan. While change is never easy, a realignment of the existing staffing will signal the advent of a new era in the delivery of education in Bermuda. The senior management team must include those individuals who can create the best and most effective team.
To achieve effective implementation, there should be a director of education — or education commissioner — a director of finance, a director of IT services, a quality assurance director and a director of communications. It is this team that would drive the objectives set out in the new plan and provide the necessary resources to enable the Permanent Secretary of Education to effectively support our students, teachers and the Minister of Education.
The director of education and the educational technical team will be the driving force behind the delivery quality of the plan and ensure that all children enrolled in Bermuda’s school system receive a world-class education. All policy and educational decisions must have the consent and authorisation of director of education.
I am delighted to see that the plan incorporates a prominent role for Bermuda’s middle schools in that the middle schools will be used to support students from an academic, social and developmental perspective as they transition from primary school to secondary school. It is the middle schools that will be the conduit by which our students are introduced to technical and vocational programmes, and prepare our students for the City and Guilds-integrated maths and English and other Steam programmes.
It is clear that the stakeholders who crafted the plan recognise the important role that the middle schools have to play in the development and education of our children. It is also clear that there is no support for the Progressive Labour Party’s proposed intentions to eliminate middle schools on or before 2022. This position reaffirms my publicly stated position that the closure of our middle schools is a non-starter.
The Government has yet to provide the public with the analytics and data to support how closing middle schools will improve our students’ performance output. Therefore, I do not see how it has arrived at the conclusion that middle schools should be eliminated. It is my hope that the Government recognises that the closure of middle schools goes directly against the future success of our students.
The PLP’s 2017 Educational Platform stated that its government would reform public education by phasing out middle schools and by introducing signature schools at the secondary school level, which will focus on the learning styles and interests of our children, including academic, technical and the trades, business, sport, arts and special needs education.
However, this plan does not include any mention of the signature schools.
Overall, the plan is a good first step for the Government. The key now is having effective implementation and ensuring that the Department of Education has the necessary people on the team to carry out all the tasks for that complete and strategic implementation.
Cole Simons is the Shadow Minister of Education and the MP for Smith’s South (Constituency 8)