Education Minister: Full Budget Statement

February 21, 2011

The Ministry of Education received the second largest percentage of funding in the 2011/12 Budget, with approximately 11.9% of estimated expenditure going towards education, which was second only to the Health’s Ministry’s 15.9%.

But Education Minister Dame Jennifer Smith said at  a press conference following the Budget statement on Friday [Feb. 18] that economies need to be made in the public school system as in all areas of Government and a number of cost-cutting measures have either all already been initiated or are in the pipeline.

” … We went over policies, programmes and positions with a fine tooth comb to ensure that they aligned with the Act, with financial instructions and with our responsibility,” she said. “While we are still in the process of examining every aspect of education, those things that were ineffective, not in line with financial instructions, or no longer relevant have been changed or are being examined with a view to implementing best practice.”

Dame Jennifer’s full remarks follow below:

In the 2011-2012 the Ministry of Education has been allocated the sum of One hundred and twenty-eight million, one hundred and fifty-eight thousand dollars comprising four million, four hundred and ninety-five thousand dollars for the Ministry Headquarters, one hundred and five million, five hundred and forty-four million for the Department of Education and eighteen million, one hundred and nineteen thousand dollars for the Bermuda College.

I should also note that three million, four hundred and eighty-eight thousand dollars has been allocated for the capital account.

We have simplified and focused the Ministry of Education’s mission: “To raise the quality of teaching and learning so that public schools become the number one educational choice for parents and students.”

We have clarified the Ministry’s role, which is:

  • To support schools to raise teaching levels so that students are encouraged to learn to the highest possible degree;
  • To provide expert help and services which support schools in teaching and learning for all students so that they reach agreed standards; and
  • To assess and evaluate the results of teaching and learning to determine progress and to offer help and encouragement where needed.

In Education, as in every Ministry, we are well aware that the times we live in require shared sacrifice as we re-position the economy to seize tomorrow’s opportunities – so we do not consider it too much of a sacrifice to give up being centrally located in the city of Hamilton, to being located a half-hour away.

That said, we will institute a cost saving measure that also has the side benefit of uniting the Ministry and the Department of Education in one location at Southside.

Currently, the Ministry Headquarters and Student Services are located on Dundonald Street – Finance and Human Resources on King Street – and the remainder of the Department of Education at the former Bishop Spencer School on Glebe Road, Pembroke.

We, in the Ministry of Education are committed to delivering education in an innovative and directed way.

Through it all, we remain sensitive to the needs of students, fostering hope and providing help; while at the same time responding to increased pressure to be operationally more efficient and cost-effective, while delivering value for money in the face of heavier demands on resources.

This meant that we went over policies, programmes and positions with a fine tooth comb to ensure that they aligned with the Act, with financial instructions and with our responsibility. While we are still in the process of examining every aspect of education, those things that were ineffective, not in line with financial instructions, or no longer relevant have been changed or are being examined with a view to implementing best practice.

An example of this would be our services to students with special needs. This is an area that cannot have a ‘one size fits all’ solution. Each case is different, and therefore requires a solution that is best for that individual student. We are currently looking at how education can best serve students – with medical advances, with technology and, in some cases, by assisting with their education abroad.

Let me tell you about some of our new policies and programmes:-

  • 1. In order to take advantage of ‘economies of scale’ we have changed to one line of accountability for office supplies, travel, consultants (both foreign and local), contracts, grants, professional development and training. All of these line items will fall under the authority of the Permanent Secretary as represented by the Commissioner of Education. Budgeted programmes will continue to function as usual, with the expectation that proper contracts are executed and each purchase must be justified to the Permanent Secretary, before being approved.
  • 2. Para-professionals are an area of significant cost. The Para-professional title refers to a vast range of people and skills; but, in the main, they are persons assigned to support children in the classroom. This programme is being reviewed to ensure proper and appropriate utilisation.
  • 3. Vacant posts, when justified with a rationale that fits the new Ministry structure, will be filled in line with our plans for transformation.
  • 4. In response to the needs of schools to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for students, we created an opportunity forthe community to play a role. The Adopt-a-School Programme is growing in leaps and bounds and I look forward to the day when every school can boast of being ‘adopted’.

The generousity of our Construction firms and local businesses to improving the physical environment of our schools, provides timely assistance, helps us to achieve efficiencies and providesour students with career role models as they watch those who do the work.

The Adopt-A-School Programme also allows principals, teachers and students to get on with the business of teaching and learning, without being diverted by maintenance and repair needs. To date we have commitments of one hundred thousand dollars for our schools.

In conclusion, we have trimmed expenditure in some areas; opted to modify and/or discontinue some practices and procedures. Specifically, the way we provision student services in schools and make purchases; and we are examining the way we allocate substitute teachers and paraprofessionals. We will continue to examine every policy and programme to ensure that it is in line and relevant to our mandate.

There remains much work to do as we reset the dial – but we have started.

Thank you.

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