Video: Minister On Concerns At West Pembroke

December 1, 2018

We are working “to ensure that the things are put in place to ensure that everyone has a comfort level in our education system,” Education Minister Diallo Rabain said as he addressed concerns raised by West Pembroke School.

The Minister’s comments follow after almost all the teachers at West Pembroke School calling in sick on Friday after agreeing to go on work-to-rule earlier this month, while School Principals are also engaging in work-to-rule. In addition, earlier this month the Bermuda Union of Teachers [BUT] confirmed that teachers “voted to take ‘appropriate action’ over a series of issues they say are negatively impacting schools and students.”

Speaking with Bernews on Friday about the situation at West Pembroke, the Minister said, “The situation is developing as we speak, and so we’re just doing things that need to be done in order to reach out to the teachers, the Union, and everyone else to ascertain what next steps we plan to take after this.

“When West Pembroke first announced their work-to-rule which happened on a Thursday, actually two weeks ago yesterday, I immediately assembled the team at the Department and I also visited the school to talk to the Principal and the teachers.

“As a result of those meetings, the Department met with the Principal the following Friday, and the next Monday after that, there were things put in place to alleviate some of the concerns that the teachers did have.

“There was some things that have been mentioned that there is no overnight fixes for, but we are looking into how we can address those as well.”

Learning Support Teacher

According to a letter [PDF] from the WPS PTA, the school was “informed that a lower school learning support teacher will not be provided,” with their letter noting that Northlands [170 students], Victor Scott [147 students] and Purvis [158 students] all have 2 learning support teachers.

“This is unacceptable as WPS has 217 students. Of these, 39 students in classes P2 to P6 were identified, by our staff as needing ‘additional academic interventions,” the letter said.

Minister Rabain said, “One of the things that has been brought up is the lack of a learning support teacher at West Pembroke, and the narrative has been that West Pembroke has 217 students, but one learning support teacher.

“What I’ve been able to ascertain is that learning support teachers are assigned based on the amount of students that require learning support. And thus far, at West Pembroke, there’s only six confirmed students that require learning support, hence the need for only one teacher.

“The thing coming back from the school is that they’ve identified many more students that possibly need learning support,” the Minister added, explaining that those students are now being tested, and by January they will “have a concrete idea of what needs to be done, in terms of if we need to add additional teachers.”

Autism Spectrum Disorder Classroom

The letter from the school’s PTA said, “The WPS Autism Spectrum Disorder classroom had been promised an additional para-educator to assist with the demands of the eight clientele. WPS has the most students [in comparison with other ASD schools] in the ASD with the least amount of staff support. All other schools have three para-educators with one teacher. West Pembroke School has one teacher with two para-educators.

“Furthermore, the ASD staff have made multiple attempts to request assistance with transporting students from WPS to the Windreach facility. The staff have had to use their own vehicles and funds to provide transportation.

“Currently, teachers are experiencing tremendous fatigue, sickness, loss of preps and frustration as their request for assistance has not been met. A promise date had been given [return from the mid-term break] of October 29, 2018, however no para-educator has been provided.”

Addressing the concerns about the ASD program, the Minister told Bernews that he was told by his technical officers that there are six students in the ASD program, with an ASD teacher and two para educators.

“So those are the types of conversations we have to have back and forth with students services to determine is that enough teachers in the room, three to the six students, or do we really do require more. So these are the conversations that we have to have,” he said.


The letter from the PTA said, “It is the expectation of the Ministry of Education to input grades on a bi-weekly basis. The teachers wish to meet this expectation, however, due to the poor quality of bandwidth [10megs for the entire school] it is impossible to meet the request as the internet freezes constantly throughout the day. Teachers have resorted to inputting grades on weekends when the internet is faster. ”

Addressing this aspect, Minister Rabain said, “The other thing that was mentioned is the lack of bandwidth at the school. All of our schools have a minimum of ten megabits of bandwidth going to them.

“And immediately after hearing that I had our IT department do an evaluation of what it is that our internet services are being used up by, why can’t they connect. Because in order to connect, get on your computer and send email or connect to powerschool, it doesn’t require a lot of internet bandwidth to do that.

“But what we discovered is the bulk of our bandwidth within our schools is being used up for YouTube, and really surprisingly, there was Netflix in there as well.

Uuntil we can improve our internet speed, we’re probably going to have to put a limit on how much schools can use those types of services, so there’s resources left over to do the things that need to be done, like updating grades, inputting stuff into powerschool, sending emails and that sort of thing.”

Working On Issues

“What I do want teachers, what I do want parents and the general public to know, is that we’re working on these issues,” the Minister said.

Saying “some of them are longstanding” and  “date back three or four Ministers ago,” Minister Rabain said, “I don’t use that as an excuse because this is my job now, and it’s my job to ensure that the things are put in place to ensure that everyone has a comfort level in our education system.”

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Comments (10)

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  1. Eye 4 and Eye says:

    If it’s not Berkeley the PLP don’t really cake. Berkely comes 1st 2nd and 3rd. Every other school comes somewhere after that.

  2. Infidelguy says:

    Minister Rabain says:
    As a result of those meetings, the Department met with the Principal the following Friday, and the next Monday after that, there were things put in place to alleviate some of the concerns that the teachers did have.

    “There was some things that have been mentioned that there is no overnight fixes for, but we are looking into how we can address those as well.”

    What “things” have been put in place? If he can’t enunciate the actions that he took, I’m inclined to believe that he didn’t do anything….other than meet with the teachers.

    Can we please put somebody in this position that is competent???

  3. What says:

    YouTube and Netflix? Surely you can set the router to prevent streaming like this and why are our teachers and kids on Netflix during the school day anyway? Sounds like a party atmosphere going on and now that we know that it’s time to put in procedures to stop it or penalize for it! There to learn not to watch movies!!

    • Concerned says:

      I’m a bit shocked at the level of idiocy your comment represents. Surely you understand that Netflix and YouTube can be used as a learning resource for a wide variety of learning styles. For you to assume that they are being used inappropriately shows the level of ignorance the public has when it comes to employing effective and modern teaching techniques and how easy (and lazy) it is to accuse teachers of doing an ineffective job without even the slightest understanding of what their job entails. I wish I could say I was surprised, but teachers are an easy target, everyone seems to think they know better, like it doesn’t take years of study and constant up-to-date training just to maintain your qualifications. I’d like to see these same people second guess doctors and nurses and engineers on how they do their jobs. Try taking a pragmatic approach next time you decide to comment on something you obviously know very little about.

      • Question says:

        Netflix amd youtube. FFS. This is why most Bermudians are illiterate.

        • Concerned says:

          Really? That’s what you’re going with?MOST Bermudians are illiterate? And that relates directly to the use of visual media in classrooms? I’d very much like to see your peer reviewed research on the matter….

          Blanket statements like this with no basis in fact are just plain ignorant. It’s foolish of people to think that the only way to learn is by reading a textbook and taking notes. Smh

          • Wahoo says:

            If the Netflix and YouTube were a part of standard teaching method why would the minister make special mention of it? To me that indicates that teachers and students are using free wifi to watch personal material.

      • JAYBIRD says:

        I don’t know what you consider to be effective and modern teaching techniques, but based on the output of the Bermuda Public School System over the past several decades, there should be a whole lot more second guessing going on!

      • Anbu says:

        If a doctor used a youtube video to learn how to do surgery on me id sue the breath out of his establishment. You arent serious right? Netflix is a learning tool now? Ya sure. Always an excuse lol

  4. MM says:

    Ministers frequently change , they signed off to their top civil servants various matters , thus it’s really the civil servants who have worked many many years behind the scenes to keep the machinery running. It appears that someone failed to be fully apprised of what is needed in the schools.