Minister Scott On SCORE Education Report

February 8, 2016

[Updated with video] “Education is the foundation on which we build the future” and it is the “key to opportunity and the ticket every child needs to pursue their dreams,” Minister of Education Wayne Scott said today.

Speaking at a press conference about the SCORE Report, Minister Scott said, “About a year ago, I started a consultation process to discuss the possibility of school reorganisation and/or closures, using criteria that reflect the changing realities of Bermuda: declining birthrate, lower enrolment, disparity in cost per student and challenges brought on by extreme national debt.

“Other criteria included the provision of quality programs, capacity and accessibility of schools, health and safety, transportation, and maintenance concerns, and other optimal uses of school facilities.

“The consultation process yielded valuable feedback, which was carefully considered, but it became obvious that I needed more information to move the process toward decisions that were fact-based, sensible and fair.

“To bring that about, I expanded the consultation process by setting up the SCORE Advisory Committee – a group of volunteers representing parents, educators, community members and business leaders.

“I asked them to review the state of our primary schools and identify ways to improve and expand our public education so that it better serves our students going forward.

“The SCORE Advisory Committee submitted its report and in recent weeks we have presented its findings to education stakeholder groups. Today I have asked you here as a first step to presenting the report to the wider public.

“But first I want to make a few remarks about the findings of the report. In doing so, I’m not going to mince words because they confirm my suspicion of major failings in a system that is meant to serve our children.

“School infrastructure, for one, is in a terrible state. No child can get a good education in some of the terrible conditions detailed here, but you have my commitment and the commitment of this government that we will find resources to address the crumbling infrastructure.

“There are threats to health and safety. Fixing them has to be our first priority and we are taking steps to address items sited by the SCORE committee. Issues involving mould, water leakage, and security are being addressed on an immediate basis.

“We are nowhere near having the competitive public education system we want for Bermuda. There are places that are making progress and even some shining examples of a job well done. But only some progress is not acceptable when we’re talking about our children and the future we have the responsibility to help them build.

“There is something for everyone to dislike in the pages of this report. Beyond the items I’ve just touched on, the report outlines scenarios for possible school consolidations or closures, and highlights other matters that need immediate attention.

“Working our way through these toward decisions that make sense for our kids and the system that serves them will be painful, but we have to do it. We have to right size the system and do it in ways that ensures our children’s needs are met.

“As for how we got here, I am not interested in laying blame. I’m interested in solutions and progress. The reason I initiated this process was to establish the broadest understanding of where we are and to have clarity on the options for positive action.

“It is why I made the process as open and transparent as possible and why the focus going forward will continue to emphasize broad consultation with all stakeholders.

“With that in mind, it is vitally important that all stakeholders – parents, teachers, community leaders – consider the scenarios outlined in the report and share their views with me and Ministry representatives at the consultation meetings we will soon hold.”

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Good Morning Everyone and thank you for coming.

When I accepted this position a year ago, I said that my number one priority would be Putting Our Children First. This continues to be my focus – doing whatever is necessary to make sure our children get the education they need to succeed. Education is the foundation on which we build the future. It is the key to opportunity and the ticket every child needs to pursue their dreams, meet their needs and, ultimately, support their loved ones.

The hard work necessary to make this the reality for every student in every classroom takes a big step forward today.

About a year ago, I started a consultation process to discuss the possibility of school reorganisation and/or closures, using criteria that reflect the changing realities of Bermuda: declining birthrate, lower enrolment, disparity in cost per student and challenges brought on by extreme national debt. Other criteria included the provision of quality programs, capacity and accessibility of schools, health and safety, transportation, and maintenance concerns, and other optimal uses of school facilities.

The consultation process yielded valuable feedback, which was carefully considered, but it became obvious that I needed more information to move the process toward decisions that were fact-based, sensible and fair. To bring that about, I expanded the consultation process by setting up the SCORE Advisory Committee – a group of volunteers representing parents, educators, community members and business leaders. I asked them to review the state of our primary schools and identify ways to improve and expand our public education so that it better serves our students going forward.

The SCORE Advisory Committee submitted its report and in recent weeks we have presented its findings to education stakeholder groups. Today I have asked you here as a first step to presenting the report to the wider public.

But first I want to make a few remarks about the findings of the report. In doing so, I’m not going to mince words because they confirm my suspicion of major failings in a system that is meant to serve our children.

School infrastructure, for one, is in a terrible state. No child can get a good education in some of the terrible conditions detailed here, but you have my commitment and the commitment of this government that we will find resources to address the crumbling infrastructure.

There are threats to health and safety. Fixing them has to be our first priority and we are taking steps to address items sited by the SCORE committee. Issues involving mould, water leakage, and security are being addressed on an immediate basis.

We are nowhere near having the competitive public education system we want for Bermuda. There are places that are making progress and even some shining examples of a job well done. But only some progress is not acceptable when we’re talking about our children and the future we have the responsibility to help them build.

There is something for everyone to dislike in the pages of this report. Beyond the items I’ve just touched on, the report outlines scenarios for possible school consolidations or closures, and highlights other matters that need immediate attention. Working our way through these toward decisions that make sense for our kids and the system that serves them will be painful, but we have to do it. We have to right size the system and do it in ways that ensures our children’s needs are met.

As for how we got here, I am not interested in laying blame. I’m interested in solutions and progress. The reason I initiated this process was to establish the broadest understanding of where we are and to have clarity on the options for positive action. It is why I made the process as open and transparent as possible and why the focus going forward will continue to emphasize broad consultation with all stakeholders. With that in mind, it is vitally important that all stakeholders – parents, teachers, community leaders – consider the scenarios outlined in the report and share their views with me and Ministry representatives at the consultation meetings we will soon hold.

This is something we ALL need to take on. Whether you have children in school or not, this focus and commitment to education impacts all of us, shaping the life of the Island– in the strength of our economy, in the expression of our culture and in the life of our democracy. Making sure our children get the education they need is making sure the future is strong, for all of us. Nelson Mandela said ‘Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”

I believe that, but I know it will take all of us working together to do it.

Now, let me change gears, and outline how the next phase of consultation will work.

First, let me point out that the SCORE Committee has made presentations on its data findings to the Board of Education, school Principals and Administrators, all Union Executive members, parents and PTA presidents and vice-presidents, primary school union representatives, senior officers at the Department of Education and my Cabinet colleagues.

I’d like to highlight some of the findings of the SCORE Report as presented to these key stakeholder groups during the past two weeks. These include the following:

1. The condition of primary schools requires many forms of upgrades for safety and health, accessibility, structural systems improvements, as well as upgrades to support 21st century learning.

2. There is inequity across primary schools with regard to special education programming.

3. Transportation and traffic considerations at the primary level vary from school to school and will impact different schools and their surrounding areas depending on reorganisation and/or closure decisions.

4. Scenarios have been created based on a 40 sq. ft. space requirement per child.

5. Insufficient resources have many teachers and parents using their own funds to purchase supplies necessary to effectively present and teach the current curriculum.

6. It is of utmost importance that all planning keep the children and their educational experience at the forefront.

Parents and the public should know, that I have already begun to personally visit every primary school, along with the Acting Commissioner of Education and our Facilities Manager, using the health and safety concerns outlined in the report as a guide. It is our intention to map out a capital expenditure plan to address the school building issues in both the short and long term.

In the SCORE Report, the Advisory Committee also provided data-driven scenarios as to which schools could be considered feasible for reorganisation or school closure within the context of their research. The scenarios were presented by school zones as follows:

Central Zone

  • Scenario 1 – Resolve overutilisation at West Pembroke Primary School
  • Scenario 2 – Close Gilbert Institute and transition staff and students to Prospect Primary School
  • Scenario 3 – Close Prospect Primary School and transition staff and students to Victor Scott Primary School and Paget Primary School

Eastern Zone

  • Scenario 1A: Close St. David’s Primary School and transition staff and students to East End Primary School and St. George’s Preparatory School
  • Scenario 1B: Resolve overutilisation at Harrington Sound Primary School and Francis Patton Primary School
  • Scenario 2: Keep all schools open and resolve overutilisation at Harrington Sound Primary School and Francis Patton Primary School by transitioning students to East End Primary

Western Zone

  • Scenario 1: Resolve overutilisation at Port Royal Primary School and Purvis Primary School by transitioning students to West End Primary School
  • Scenario 2: Close Heron Bay Primary School and transition staff and students to West End Primary School
  • Scenario 3: Resolve overutilisation at Port Royal Primary School and Purvis Primary School and transition students to Paget Primary School
  • Scenario 4: No schools closing and reorganizing.

Let me emphasize that the SCORE Advisory Committee was mandated to collect and present the data, not to make decisions. In this regard they have offered these scenarios to engage, focus and inform decision-making.

However, I encourage all parents and the general public to read the SCORE report in detail as the Ministry is interested in solutions. It is important to note that at this point I am just sharing the data findings as promised. I have not made a decision regarding school reorganization or school closures.

I am not wedded to these scenarios, and I will be seeking feedback on them and possible other alternatives. Collaboration from all stakeholders is needed if we are to make this transformation a reality for the Bermuda Public School System.

The open consultation process starts today, February 8th, and will continue for 4 weeks, ending on March 4th. There will be three public consultation meetings to be held in February. The time and location of the meetings will be announced later. After this open consultation period closes, all collected information will be considered, with the intent of reaching a decision. The outcome of this entire process, will determine the need and scope of any further possible consultation.

Also, the Ministry will open the same email address it used when it started this consultation process in February of last year, educationconsultation@moed.bm to receive feedback about the report’s findings, and any other suggestions, from all stakeholders and the general public.

In closing, let me say that the data findings detailed in the SCORE Report and any other feedback I receive from stakeholders will be used as a foundation to lay the building blocks necessary to move the Public School System toward improving the quality of our student’s educational experience. My priority will continue to be Putting Our Children First. There is a lot of work ahead of us but as we all know, change does not happen overnight. As such, we endeavor to start the building today so that in the longterm, the public school system will be one that meets the needs of our children.

Certainly, by all of us working together we can change our education system to provide the quality education that our children deserve.

Thank you.

-

The full SCORE report follows below [PDF here]:

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Comments (9)

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  1. Lets see how they’re gonna pull this rabbit out of their @$$.

  2. Scott: Real human beings will be affected by you and your party’s philosophy for MOVING AHEAD AND DOING WHAT IS RIGHT.
    Do you care about your “own children’s future” in this country. You are tinkering with young lives.
    This could come back to bite you and your party.

  3. jrsmith says:

    absolutely crazy.. we see the results that cedar bridge gave us and now they want to do the same with primary schools. If they really wanted to improve our future we should be doubling down on education for our youth. Instead they are doubling down on tourism, big govt/private jobs, immigration.. the kids are innocent do not gamble with their future..

  4. Bermy girl says:

    What happened to the “adopt a school” programme?? If some of the schools are in such poor shape and the Government does not have the money to fix them up, why not go out to the community at large to find another solution besides closing our schools??

    Gilbert Institute (I am a parent of a GI graduate and have about a 30 year interest in the school as numerous family members have attended the school over the years) is an amazing school. The campus is well kept and has been assigned as the school for the hearing impaired for many years now.

    It would be such a travesty if ANY of the schools were to close because successive Governments dating back to the 1990′s (if not before) have failed the public education system. The school system has been treated like the proverbial ping pong ball…Not one plan to revamp the system has been successful and now the “threat” of closing schools has again resurfaced!

    Mr Scott, you need to listen to the people of Bermuda!

    Even though my child is out of school now, I will be attending one of the planned meetings because I still have a vested interest in the education of our children.

    I urge all parents who have school aged children to attend a meeting and make sure your voices are heard!

  5. bluebird says:

    We are going to have to “CLOSE” some schools as we don’t have the population to fill the places.
    And “NO” don’t give the teachers more money as many don’t earn it today anyway.
    $2.385BILLION in DEBT still borrowing $220MILLION per year and paying just under half a Million dollars per day in Interest.
    Now try and pull that one out.

    • Ride says:

      @bluebird,

      Have you even read the report? I’m about a quarter way through and one of the things it is saying is that the current schools are too small.

      Try reading it before you comment.

      Ride

  6. GCO says:

    Question? Why would you release this information in the same week that schools are going to be registering children? Is this a scare tactic. Now parents are going to be questioning where they should place their child.

  7. Time for Change says:

    It is time that these politicians stop messing with our lives and our children. Money has made you so EVIL that you are destroying not just our country but our children. It is time to make a change. Everyday is a struggle between the haves and have nots. With more and more being taken from the have nots. We as a PEOPLE are being abused everyday by these OBA politicians. It is time to fight back. There is no more “GOOD MORNING” or “I’M DOING FINE”. Let these vilains know that you will not sit down while they constantly TAKE, TAKE, TAKE. . Words just float in the air and lawyers use them to keep you in check. OBA politicians playing tit for tat with our lives and the lives of our children. And constantly using MONEY as the fact that this is what we do when we are broke. B*****. Normally people work Smarter, they don’t sell off everything.

    • Keepin' it Real!...4Real! says:

      I was with you until you used the letters O B and A…you started with “politicians” so I thought you were unbiased and against bad governance…until you said OBA…haven’t you heard of the PLP..?? Hahaha…you’re transmitting loud n clear but I think you better get your receiver checked.