Dr. Gibbons On Proposed Education Reform

May 23, 2014

Minister of Education and Economic Development Dr. Grant Gibbons spoke today [May 23] about proposed amendments to the Education Act of 1996, citing the need for parents to be more involved in their children’s education.

Dr. Gibbons said, “Parental involvement in children’s education is absolutely essential for the improvement of public education in Bermuda and around the world.

“It is common knowledge that parental involvement makes a difference in the success of the education of children. Parents are their children’s first teachers; they watch them grow, and are a consistent source of guidance and support throughout their school careers.

“There have been growing voices among many parents who state that they want more information, more understanding, and more say in their children’s education. I have heard the calls of parents, and have responded by asking PTAs and their general membership to engage the Ministry of Education and Economic Development in a public consultation process to amend the Education Act 1996.

“The policy proposals and amendments to the Education Act 1996 are intended to provide a sound legislative foundation for growing meaningful parental involvement within our public school system.

“Community support is also a key aspect of the proposals because we know that public education is in many respects a shared responsibility of an entire community, and we also know that the Ministry and Department of Education cannot do it alone.”

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker, parental involvement in children’s education is absolutely essential for the improvement of public education in Bermuda and around the world. It is common knowledge that parental involvement makes a difference in the success of the education of children. Parents are their children’s first teachers; they watch them grow, and are a consistent source of guidance and support throughout their school careers.

Mr. Speaker, there have been growing voices among many parents – who state that they want more information, more understanding, and more say in their children’s education. They want to be part of the change that the public education system is making for our children. I have heard the calls of parents, and have responded by asking PTAs and their general membership to engage the Ministry of Education and Economic Development in a public consultation process to amend the Education Act 1996.

Mr. Speaker, the consultation on the proposed amendments to the Education Act 1996, brings closure to the series of public meetings held during the fall of 2013, and seeks to introduce School Community Councils as a means to increase parental involvement and improve governance in our maintained schools.

The policy proposals and amendments to the Education Act 1996 are intended to provide a sound legislative foundation for growing meaningful parental involvement within our public school system. Community support is also a key aspect of the proposals because we know that public education is in many respects a shared responsibility of an entire community, and we also know that the Ministry and Department of Education cannot do it alone.

Mr. Speaker, members of this House should note that as the consultation is rightly focused particularly on parents, I have opted to communicate directly with parents on the introduction of School Community Councils. I will therefore be meeting with PTAs and other parents on Thursday May 29, 2014 at the CedarBridge Academy to share information about the proposals and to listen and hear their views.

Mr. Speaker, the consultation process will conclude on June 9th, 2014, and both parents and members of the community are invited to send written submissions to the Department of Education by this date. I strongly encourage parents and other interested parties to ‘weigh in’ on the proposals prior to a final decision being made on the way forward.

Mr. Speaker, let me remind the House that the genesis of the proposed policy and amendments to the Education Act stems from the previous consultation process initiated in the fall of 2013, by the former Minister of Education, Senator Nalton Brangman. During that time, the Ministry presented different options for change. We listened to passionate and concerned voices, and the Ministry responded by committing to come back to parents and the community. This follow-up consultation is the fulfillment of that commitment.

And the content of these proposals reflect careful thought and consideration of the questions, and recommendations that arose last fall. I hope that all who came out to the public meetings or provided submissions can see the reflection of their questions, views and recommendations in the revised policy proposals.

Mr. Speaker, to expand a bit on the revised policy proposals let me share some information about school community councils [SCCs], which I believe, represent the balancing of divergent views on the best way to involve parents and the community in schools. The focus is to keep student achievement in mind because we want a system that holds the best interests of children at heart.

School community councils are advisory bodies made up of parents, community representatives and school principals. The SCCs will hold school improvement and student achievement at the centre of their functions. They will provide school communities with transparency around school improvement.

SCCs would be made up of parent and community representatives, in addition to school principals. It is proposed that 5 school community councils be established representing communities of schools; each SCC would consist of 4 or 5 maintained primary and middle schools.

Their membership would include elected parents totaling four or five parents [depending on the number of schools within the SCC], and a corresponding number of Ministerial appointments of community members. School principals would also sit on SCCs.

It should be noted, that whilst SCCs are the preferred approach for every maintained school, the Minister responsible for Education would still retain the right under the Act to appoint boards of governors for individual maintained schools in the future. This aspect of the proposals comes directly from parents who felt that boards for every school might be an unnecessary burden on individual schools and their communities, but could be a viable option for certain schools at a later point.

These proposals would not affect the CedarBridge Academy, or aided schools which have existing boards of governors.

Mr. Speaker, as I noted, SCCs would hold school improvement and student achievement at the centre of their functions. Their responsibilities would be:

  • To consider and offer recommendations on the development of school improvement plans for each member school of the SCC to principals prior to submission to the Commissioner of Education; they would also monitor progress of the school improvement plans
  • To review the objectives of the school’s draft budget and advise the principal before the budget is submitted to the Commissioner of Education or his or her designate
  • To consider and offer recommendations on matters of policy concerning schools to the Board of Education
  • To consider and give advice to the Commissioner of Education on the involuntary transfer of all teachers, including the principal to the member schools of each SCC
  • To develop and approve a written school parent and community involvement policy
  • To support school-community relations and provide support to the member schools of each SCC

Mr. Speaker, a common theme throughout the earlier consultation was the need for information sharing about what is happening at the school level. These proposals give SCCs – who would represent wider school communities – the opportunity to participate directly in the budget process, policy development, support parent and community involvement and school-community relations.

And, SCCs would provide school communities with transparency around school improvement. This is because they would be directly involved in the school improvement process.

  • They would give input and also have a clear understanding of how schools are performing and specific goals regarding student achievement
  • Gain more insight into what is happening in their children’s schools
  • Be given regular information on specific actions that are being undertaken by school staff to improve student achievement
  • Have regular access to data about student progress
  • Help in the evaluation process of the school improvement plan

Finally, SCCs would have the right to ‘weigh in’ on involuntary school transfers of teachers and principals – that is those transfers initiated by the Department of Education. Principals and teachers who want to transfer out of their school would not need to be considered by SCCs.

Mr. Speaker, it is also important to highlight the role of PTAs, as some may be wondering what their roles would be if SCCs were instituted. Active PTAs provide great support to schools. The proposed model for SCCs would see them working closely with PTAs to represent the views of parents and the community to support student achievement. I believe SCCs would help to strengthen the roles of PTAs because parents would now be formally represented in the larger governance structure that supports schools and the public education system.

SCCs would allow the Minister of Education to consider their direct representation on the Board of Education, giving them a greater voice on the oversight of the public education system. Maintained schools have been generally under represented thus far on the Board.

Mr. Speaker, before I conclude, I want to share with this Honourable House the Department of Education’s ongoing efforts to improve parental involvement. The Department of Education has begun to change the way in which it engages parents, who along with children are our most important stakeholders.

A Parent Team comprised of educators, who are also parents, has been established as an early effort in this regard. The work of the Team is to provide the Department with the perspectives of parents in all aspects of operations. Additionally the Department will begin to use a customer service approach into all of the key areas in which parents interface [registration, complaints, consultation, etc]. Finally, as outlined during the Budget Debate, the Department of Education will introduce a Parent University in October to better support parents to assist in the education of their children. Parents can expect to see greater attention to their needs going forward.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, I encourage all PTA members, parents and members of the community to read the public consultation document that lays out in greater detail the proposals to amend the Education Act 1996. The document can be obtained from the Department’s website.

I also look forward to seeing all PTA members and other parents at next week Thursday’s public consultation meeting where they will hear more about the proposals and have the opportunity to give their views.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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Comments (10)

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  1. Great news. Engaged parental involvement in the public school system is the foundation of a successful future for our islands youth!

  2. San George says:

    You see the children you see the parents – scary. The parents are the problem. This guy don’t get it – but maybe he does. The education department should just do their job and stop looking for crutches.

    • Comebye Ahh says:

      The parents are part of the problem but so is the fact that not all of our teachers are trained professionals. I’m sure we can all agree that just because you are certified does not mean you are good at what you do.

      I believe at last check, government schools spend over 2X as much per student as private schools but the results are not 2X better.

      Its time to trim some of the fat off the bloated and ineffective Ministry of Education and put the power back in the hands of the teachers and principles. Reward them when they do well but also make them accountable if they just go with the flow.

      I was a product of the public school system and I had some great teachers but I also had some that were ineffective, out of touch, untrained or not as smart as some of the students. Because teachers are never fired and just pushed on to another school if they are ineffective, a parent today is playing Russian Roulette with their child’s education. At least I the private schools they have a voice and because they are paying, they are involved and hold everyone accountable.

  3. you've gotta be kidding me... says:

    Really? The state of the public education system and he wants to talk about parents? Where’s the accountability for what the Ministry is doing (or not doing)? Not a word about that. Tell us how the Ministry is improving standards, raising the graduation rate, increasing the accountability of school principals, educating children with disabilities…the list goes on and on. Ugh! More diversion and cover up. Unbelievable. Smh!!!

    • Comebye Ahh says:

      it may take them awhile to get it right. the previous government went through how many Mins of ED. The UBP made a mistake changing to the middle school Mega School system when we had a system that worked. Cedarbridge was a bad idea, but what did they do? They created a second mega school and made things worse!

  4. PANGAEA says:

    Parents are not professional educators.

    The 90 % of the TV programing is not educational.

    CITV has a greater role to play.

    Every young person needs their learning abilities to be evaluated.

    There are not 30 rocket scientists in their class.

    Homework given is the same a workers over time this makes the child hate school.

    I did homework till 10.00 pm at night and again from 6 am to 8.00 am next Morning.

    Each class room teacher over loaded us.

    A mother and her 12 year old daughter came to visit, I asked the young lady was she satisfied with her education , she said no ! they are teaching us all the wrong things, the system is designed to sort us out into two groups.

    • Comebye Ahh says:

      90% of TV is not Educational? And that surprises you? Its made for entertainment! Furthermore, many kids don’t watch local TV anymore. This gen uses iTunes, Project Free TV, Netflix and Hulu for TV.

      While CITV is an okay idea in theory, I don’t know anyone that watches it. It has surpassed its useful life span and is no longer effective or worth the cost. Sad to say, but true.

      I know doing that much homework might seem unfair and hard but I hope you learnt something from it. Life, especially inn the workforce is not easy! You either step up OR step aside! I hope you stepped up! If you did, thank a teacher – you might have learnt more than you think.

  5. PANGAEA says:

    The smartest man in the world is not the man who knows a lot but the man who knows where he can find it out.

    Welcome to your local library .

    • Comebye Ahh says:

      What’s a Library? I heard about them, never mind, I’ll Google it! Welcome to the new world.

  6. PANGAEA says:

    Poor judgement will result in disaster.

    Common sense is the greatest gift.

    Faith; Love; Hope; and Charity and the greatest of these is Forgiveness.