Video: OBA Hold Press Conference On Education

July 6, 2017

[Updated] The One Bermuda Alliance [OBA] held a press conference today [July 6] with Minister of Education Cole Simons, Senator Lynne Woolridge and candidate Nicholas Kempe discussing education.

The press conference has just concluded and we will try and post additional information later on, and in the meantime the 25-minute live video replay is below.

Update: Minister of Education Cole Simons Remarks:

Everyone in Bermuda wants an education system that works; a system that prepares students with the basic skills and knowledge to find their place in a challenging world.

In addition, we want to produce good citizens and good people, who are confident, respectful, look out for others and who take real ownership of their future

Parents want that. Students want that. The OBA wants that. The PLP wants it.

We can all agree that Education is key to productive, positive life, and so it is incumbent on whoever is in Government to make sure that happens.

That’s an easy thing to say, and yet difficult to do.

In Bermuda over the years, we have had solid success with many aspects of public education, but we also know we can do better for our students, and also for those who bear the responsibility every day to make the system work for them.

As Minister, it is my duty to ensure that this Government delivers world-class educational services to our students. It is also my duty do everything possible to make sure the system works in ways that positions students to ne successful and progress their lives.

This means developing their potential, their awareness of what they can be and the possibilities before them. It also means equipping them with skills to move forward and instilling the discipline to make it happen.

That’s the way I see my job. In my mind, it is largely classroom-focused, but I know that a successful education system is much more than that. Perhaps the best way to reflect that is to say: It takes a village.

This morning I want to speak to some of the plans the OBA has put forward in its Election Platform, because I believe they encompass all the elements Bermuda’s young people need to move forward in life and develop their full potential.

I am joined by my colleagues Lynne Woolridge, who is our candidate in Constituency 16, and Nick Kempe, our candidate in Constituency 18.

Together, the three of us will speak to different aspects of the OBA plans, and then I will open it up to any questions you may have.

Our Mission is threefold:

  • 1. We will expand student support programmes from Day 1 to Graduation.
  • 2. We will expand the options for technical education, and
  • 3. We will endeavour to make the system work more effectively.

In terms of making the system more effective, there are three points I want to address.

The first is teacher support.

The quality of teaching is fundamental to student success, and we want to make sure teachers have everything they need to bring that about.

To that end, we will create a standalone Centre of Teacher Excellence, staffed with the resources teachers need to enhance instructional skills, lesson content and classroom management abilities.

To make sure teachers have all the classroom supplies they need, we will take the unusual step of providing each of them with an annual budget of $1,000. This will give them the flexibility to make sure students’ material needs are met.

We will create an independent educational performance board to review school performance and review academic outcomes. Having a clear independent assessment of these basic components of education is essential for improvement. You can’t know where you need to go if you don’t know where you are.

There is clearly a need to modernize our school buildings after decades of under-investment. To that end, we will continue with the improvement plan outlined in the SCORE report. This is an essential programme – a priority – for the simple reason that a safe and comfortable environment makes for a better learning environment. Again it gets back to the classroom. If we succeed there, we succeed for our kids, for their families, for Bermuda.

The last point I want to touch on before handing it over to my colleagues is our commitment to explore the concept and feasibility of an Education Authority.

I think we owe it to ourselves to explore any idea that could strengthen such a vital area of Bermudian life.

The success of the Bermuda Tourism Authority is an example of how a system based on performance accountability can bring about significant positive and sustainable change to a situation that was challenged and needing more effective management and leadership.

And though Tourism is completely different from Education, the dynamics underlying an Authority should at least be considered.

We need to do so through the widest possible consultation, with all stakeholders – parents, educators, teachers, community leaders, educational experts, business leaders and students.

Let’s be clear: Nothing is carved in stone, but we do believe it is a worthwhile subject to explore.

Now, with that said, I’d like to ask my colleague Lynne Woolridge to speak to OBA plans to support students through social initiatives that reflect my earlier point that “It takes a village.”

Senator Lynne Woolridge Remarks:

As I said in my roll-out speech last week, and the Minister has said today, I firmly believe that it takes a village to raise our children.

If a child is provided a safe, secure and nurturing environment, it builds their self-esteem and confidence so that they’re well equipped for whatever they encounter.

We can’t keep them insulated in the bubble that is Bermuda because at some point they’ll need to interact with others in the wider world. We can’t stop those outside Bermuda from affecting us, but we can equip our children to survive and thrive in the world today and in the future.

With that background, I’m pleased to speak on what might be deemed the “social development” aspect of education.

We need to stop focusing on education only in terms of what happens in the classroom and determining success in education based on how much money is spent.

Teachers are fantastic resources but they can’t be expected to work miracles. We can provide them with tools to help children learn, but the home environment also factors greatly in terms of the potential for success.

To that end, we see the value of parents spending more time with newborns, and thus there’s the idea of legislated paternity leave. Some employers offer this, but it would be beneficial if all fathers could spend more time with their children.

Our platform also seeks to reduce the burden on parents when it comes to the cost of school uniforms – simplifying them and thus lessening the dollar spend each year. School pride and individuality have their place but we recognize that the costs can be onerous.

The Minister already mentioned the “Reach out and Read” programme, which will help children and their caregivers to improve their reading and comprehension skills.

There’s an emphasis on school readiness for toddlers and pre-schoolers, and as students become more senior, they’ll have access to more counsellors and social workers to help them with the inevitable life choices.

While we work to enrich the lives of our students, we also need to nurture and support the teachers – we ask so much of them!
To facilitate that, we’ll establish a Centre of Teaching Excellence to help guide the development of teachers and principals.

I remember quite well how, every summer, my mother would use her hard earned funds to purchase extras for her classroom. It’s no different today, even though there’s a storehouse of basic necessities, it’s nice to go beyond the basics and have extras.

I recently spoke to friends whose daughter is a teacher, and asked them how she might react to the $1,000 annual supplement to be given to teachers to purchase extra supplies. Their immediate response was that they themselves thought it was an excellent idea since they themselves often help to fund her classroom purchases.

Before anyone jumps on the “mould” bandwagon, let’s stop to remember what type of climate we live in. We wouldn’t close up our homes and trap in the dampness – we’d air them out periodically – and this is what needs to happen in our schools.

Mould didn’t just start growing on December 18, 2012. Infrastructure and maintenance challenges were highlighted in the SCORE report and are being addressed by the Ministries of Education and Public Works.

Our 2017 platform aims to support students from day one to graduation and I’m happy to see the small and large-scale initiatives that will positively impact our system.

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