Discussion Paper: ‘Inclusive, Special Education’

July 21, 2013

The “Inclusive and Special Education, Getting It Right for Every Child, A Discussion Paper” was tabled in the House of Assembly this week.

“We believe that a radically different approach is needed; therefore, we propose to bring education in Bermuda fully into the 21st Century through inclusive and special education,” said Education Minister Nalton Brangman.

Education Minister Nalton Brangman’s full statement follows below:

Good morning ladies and gentlemen,

Today in the House of Assembly, we tabled the “Inclusive and Special Education, Getting It Right for Every Child, A Discussion Paper.”

This title was chosen because the change and transformation for public education is for children. Our children. All of them. It is the fulfillment of the Government’s promise in the 2013 Speech from the Throne and is for all citizens, including children.

We believe that a radically different approach is needed; therefore, we propose to bring education in Bermuda fully into the 21st Century through inclusive and special education.


  • Because it affects all of us.
  • Because, any child can be born gifted, with barriers to learning or both.
  • Any child can experience divorce, or have an accident or be a victim of trauma.
  • Any child can be bullied or become a bully.
  • Any child can excel at one subject and struggle in another.
  • Any child can know that they are somehow different, but every child should know that they are unique.

The ability of any child to learn to his potential can occur at birth or at any point in his childhood.

And so the best defense against low achievement for any child, is a public education system that provides high quality education to all. We must therefore be a system that welcomes and values all learners – regardless of where they start in life or what happens to them along the way.

The tabling of this discussion paper launches a public consultation on inclusive and special education. And we hope that everyone who has an interest and stake in Bermuda’s children will participate. It should be noted that not just in Bermuda, but around the world, traditional approaches to inclusion often meant that children who had disabilities were physically included in regular schools and classrooms. While the significance of traditional inclusion cannot be understated, it was a start, but not the end to providing better education for children.

The discussion paper acknowledges what parents, advocates and helping agencies have been saying since the move to inclusion – that so much more is needed to give children true opportunities to be successful, in school and beyond.

Despite good intentions, Bermuda moved to a system of ‘inclusion’ without becoming truly ‘inclusive.’ This we now propose to do in the broadest of terms.

Today, inclusion is no longer a physical place where children who have disabilities are educated like a regular classroom or a mainstream school. Inclusion is now – as defined by the United Nations – both a broader goal and a process of transformation in order to respond to the diversity of all learners.

The discussion paper therefore focuses on both inclusive and special education because it is the fundamental obligation of the public education system to serve the needs of all learners – including those who are gifted and/or experience barriers to learning.

The discussion paper:

  • Re-communicates and clarifies that all children should have access to a high quality education consisting of comprehensive programmes and services.
  • Focuses on the high quality early learning for all young children;
  • Prioritizes prevention and early intervention at all stages in the life of a child, not only when they are little;
  • Proposes that specific mandatory processes be put in place for children who are at risk of poor learning outcomes regardless of the reason for the risk; and
  • Proposes that all children with special education needs, including those who are gifted, should receive an education that is appropriate to their individual needs.

Sixteen policy priorities represent what we believe are the greatest areas of need and concern for improvement.
They reflect widespread local and international research and consultation and are premised upon a rights framework developed by the United Nations.

While each policy priority is important, I will touch on a few that really speak to the foundation for the change that we are working towards:

Policy Priority 1: Our vision for inclusive and special education must be achieved by changing both beliefs and practices of people who work with and for children.

We want everyone to buy into the premise of high quality universal education because every child should receive a good education. We also need to provide schools with the appropriate supports to do so.

Priority 2: We want to dramatically improve legislation to better support inclusive and special education to 21st century standards.

Through legislation, we want to bring Bermuda in line with much of the western world where education, must not simply be suitable, but appropriate to a certain quality and standard.

Priority 3: In partnership with the Ministry of Health and Seniors and the Ministry of Community and Cultural Development, we propose to develop and implement policies and support mechanisms for high quality early learning and development.

Our vision for early childhood education and development is for all children from 0-8 to be provided with a strong foundation for lifelong learning, behaviour and health.

We want all intervention to be early, and not delayed intervention, or worse, missed intervention.
We propose to improve co-ordination, and better support those who work directly with young children. Together, we will also develop an early years strategy.

Policy Priority 7: We propose to provide appropriate education programmes and services for the education of students with special education needs. While there are different options for some children with special education needs, we don’t have a full continuum of appropriate programmes and services for the diversity and complexity of all special education needs. Often kids with particular needs are given the best that we have to offer, as opposed to what is appropriate to their needs. This we intend to change.

Policy Priority 12: We would like to encourage, facilitate and be responsive to increased parent, family and community involvement and advocacy. Parents have intimate knowledge about their children and so their views must be a key consideration in the education of their children.

We want parents involved in their children’s education, to the extent that they are able, to improve programmes and services for kids, increase scrutiny of schools and the Ministry, and help create solutions and buy-in for inclusive and special education.

Policy Priority 15: We will increase knowledge, transparency and accountability for results in general and special education. Quite simply, we have to open up, to shine the light on our successes and weaknesses to increase knowledge, transparency and accountability for inclusive and special education.

Policy Priority 16: The Government of Bermuda will commit to the continuous improvement of inclusive education and special education programmes and services supported by internal and external evaluation.

Where it isn’t working, the status quo is not acceptable. We believe that there are some serious challenges in capacity, knowledge and skills that require external and independent assistance. We propose that internal and external reviews on inclusive education on the appropriateness, efficiency and efficacy of special education programmes and services be undertaken and published. We believe that this is needed to both drive change in some very specific technical areas, but also so that staff, students, parents, helping agencies and other advocates can help to hold us accountability.

So how can members of the public help? I would like to hear as many views as there are people. So, I encourage the public to review the document, and give their views, whether they support the direction, or not, or whether they think that there are things that we have overlooked or haven’t yet considered.

The discussion paper is on our website at www.moed.bm. Views can be emailed to inclusiveeducation@moed.bm or mailed or delivered to the Ministry of Education. Interested individuals can also call the Ministry at 278-3300. We will also be launching public meetings and will release a shorter ‘easy read’ version of the discussion paper to make it easier for more people to get involved once the school year starts. The consultation will run through the end of October. I would like to share that the development of the discussion paper, like the field of education, or parenting, for that matter, has been a labour of love.

At this time I wish to both thank and acknowledge the students, parents, educators, support staff, therapists, helping agencies, and others who gave their time.

All involved have made an invaluable contribution that will help to make a difference in the lives of children and the future of Bermuda.

Thank you.


The 72-page Special Education Discussion Paper is below [PDF here]

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Comments (5)

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  1. little sound says:

    New OBA Govt. following PLP consultants down the road to nowhere. This is a complete waste of time. Does nothing about addressing complete lack of accountability in Bermuda Public Education System. Minister Brangman & Premier Cannonier just been duped by PLP supporters running Dept. & Min. of Education because these byes egos are bigger than their brains. If only they would start listening to those who really know what needs to be done. Start with Andre Agassi

    • Though your passion is in the right place, I do believe your comments are not. There are many parents out here that are witnessing their children failing miserably in a system that is not serving all children.

      I do believe that the present administration is trying to head in the right direction,but this is not an easy task considering the damage that has already been done.we still have children being pushed through the system but are dumb as hell and don’t even have basic learning to lean on.

      It is sad to see children in middle school with a primary level IQ and that is unacceptable,for to long we have not dealt with the special needs of education,this is for completely normal children with learning disabilities in academics.

      Bermuda for to many years has implemented curriculum that has failed in most jurisdictions that have tried them,but we continually think we can make something work that others failed in,we need to take our sorry proud,arrogant oxes back to to the British curriculum that worked.

      We have over the last 14 years done everything to cut ties with the U.k but have to recognize that they have parts of their curriculum that actually work and we are not using it.there are parts of the American curriculum that includes no child left behind,that sounds good but is not working.so we truly need to strike a balance that will see more successes and less failures.

      So if the present administration have directives that may be tied to the former administration,that may work. Sop the dam wining and nit picking and get on with saving our youth.

  2. Unjrust Realities says:

    @ Duane Santucci . . .you have many valid points, however I beg to differ when it comes to your statements about the UK versus the US. No Child Left Behind has nothing at all to do with curriculum, but is an administrative policy that primarily focuses on failing school districts and what they must do by federal law to raise the achievement of all children. Albeit a lofty aspiration from its inception, the general concept held school districts accountable for not providing means for children in primarily poor and/or inner city areas who are performing statistically far below as compared to their average/wealthy counterparts.

    I totally agree that children with disabilities, cognitively as well as social emotionally have been overlooked in our system. However, please do not refer to them as “DUMB”, that is an insult within itself.

  3. Impressed says:

    This paper was not written by a “consultant” but was produced by the Policy Analyst at the Department of Education. It has come after years and years of students moving through a school system that has ignored their needs and left them floundering with inadequate support and few skills with which to make it through life. The Ministry was forced to respond on the recommendations of the Ombudsman who had investigated numerous complaints from agonized parents.

    Kudos to the Department and Minister Brangman for bringing forth this document. I pray that this issue of Inclusion and Special Education is taken seriously by the community and the Government and that it is acted on expeditiously. It is criminal to continue this abandonment of our children and their futures. Let’s take action NOW!

  4. Y-Gurl says:

    Oh come on, Brangman IS the child that was left behind! if we are to get serious about the education of our children (and so far only the teachers are) we need to replace these ill placed political and board people with EDUCATORS who have graduated , are educated and understand the system and can offer proper solutions to the problem, when you reflect on the fact the private schools turn out for the most part good students and they have little or no dealings with the red tape and polital posturing in comparison to our public system which when you go above the actual school level is a complete shambles offering useless solutions, bad speeches and salaries that equal the most educated and productive people in our society.