Video: Press Conference On Signature Schools

March 31, 2021 | 0 Comments

[Updated] Minister of Education Diallo Rabain is holding a press conference this morning [March 31], and we will have additional coverage later on and in the meantime the live video is below.

Update: The live broadcast has concluded and the 39-minute replay is below

Update 4.20pm: Minister Rabain’s remarks:

Good Morning and thank you for coming.

Today I will provide information on the transformative work that the Ministry of Education has been undertaking in carrying out the Government’s commitment to phase out middle schools and introduce signature schools.

The vision for transforming the Bermuda Public School System has the best interest of Bermuda’s children at the forefront in that they are safe and healthy; they enjoy fulfilling lives with families, communities, at work, and, in society more widely. Equally important is that transforming our education system is vital to this island’s economic prosperity and building the future of Bermuda.

On Friday, March 20th, the Education Amendment Act 2021 was passed in the House of Parliament and just this week Monday in the Senate, establishing senior school signature schools. This amendment will introduce the concept of signature learning programmes into senior school education for our public school system. This amendment will start the process of phasing out Middle schools by lowering the enrolment age for senior school. Students will typically be 13 years of age when they begin senior school instead of 14 years of age. M3, which is currently the last year of middle school, will become the first year of senior school. This change will also mean that senior school will be five years in duration.

The first two years of middle school, M1 and M2 will remain in place until middle school is phased out completely, which will be the subject of future legislation.

Senior schools with signatures will enable each and every Bermuda student to follow their passions, build on their talents and achieve their career and further education aspirations. This is a major milestone in our Education Reform initiative as we steadily progress towards creating a public school system that positions our students to compete locally and contribute globally.

As I have said many times before, to achieve a successful transformation of the public school system, consultation, communication and engagement with key stakeholder groups and the Bermuda community at large is paramount. This includes reaching out and connecting with our teachers, principals, students, parents, education advocates, unions, school boards, business and community leaders. We all have a part to play; we all have a contribution to lend to successful transformation.

Engagement Process to determine Signatures

Therefore, I am delighted to announce the next stage in the development of our signatures, of which we invite the contributions of everyone to determine what might be the signatures for our senior schools. During the month of April, we will be sending out, via email, social media posts and through the Learning First newsletter, a pack of materials that set out proposed signatures for our senior schools. We are seeking comments and responses from everyone. This pack will contain a set of easy-to-read slides and cards with multiple ways in which people can send us their feedback and include any questions they may have.

The new legislation identifies four signatures – tourism, finance, insurance and trades. The Ministry will be proposing additional possible signatures for input and feedback from the community. These include:

  • Building construction and maintenance [Trades and Professions]
  • Climate, environment and resources
  • Community safety and social justice
  • Education services
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Financial Services [as per the Act]
  • Health and social care
  • Hospitality and Tourism [as per the Act]
  • The Arts
  • Sports and leisure
  • STEAM: science, technology, engineering, agriculture, math

We will be gauging interest on all signatures as to which will be the first to introduce in September 2022.

These signatures are being proposed following a rigorous research process undertaken by technical officers in the Department of Education in collaboration with the Department of Workforce Development. Skilled expertise in determining the research methodology followed was provided by consultants Innovation Unit, our change management partner, as it related to reviewing data sets on local employment and the economy, exploring the literature on global trends, and discussions with key senior business leaders on the island to gain their insights on what the future employment opportunities might be for Bermuda’s children and young people. To identify sectors of Bermuda’s economy and society that are likely to be sustainable or grow in the future, even though specific jobs and occupations will undoubtedly change in the decades to come.

I am immensely grateful to all those who took part in this process which will help to shape the future of our education system, our children’s future and Bermuda’s future. A report, Future World of Work: Bermuda, has been developed to share aspects of the research process and will be available with the pack of materials seeking feedback on the proposed signatures.

During the month of April, we will be holding Zoom meetings for persons who have any questions or who want further clarity about the signatures proposed. There will also be virtual focus group sessions with upper primary, middle and senior school students, Bermuda College students, business leaders, and with trades union representatives. Also, special sessions will be held for teachers and students at the two senior schools, which will be opening as our first two signature schools in September 2022.

After all the feedback and responses we plan to receive including any suggestions for alternative signatures, a decision will be made during May on the list of signatures we will start with. It is important to understand that over the next years, as economic, employment and social trends unfold in Bermuda, this list of signatures will be modified and updated to consider new ones. During 2020, we all witnessed the rapid economic, social and financial changes in countries globally. Many, if not all occupations are changing, and new occupations and careers are emerging. We need to equip our students for the future world of work that lies ahead in the decades to come.

Let me focus on Signatures.

The general public has asked before, and persons continue to ask: “what is a signature?”

A signature is a learning programme that enables students to develop the skills, knowledge and relationships to follow their passions, build on their talents, and achieve their career and further education aspirations. The learning opportunities will include:

  • modules of relevant academic subjects
  • appropriate practical skills training
  • individual and group projects focused on real-world issues and challenges
  • internships and meaningful work placements
  • effective guidance on careers and further education

All of which will be developed in line with the vision for learning. Although signature learning programmes will be introduced, senior schools will also provide a transformed senior school education. The majority of the school’s curricula will encompass a core foundational track that will resemble a typical but modern senior school experience.

Students will take a variety of subjects and learn critical foundational and signature-specific skills. The look and feel of teaching and learning will be significantly different in that each and every student will be able to access learning that is personalised, flexible, relevant, inspiring, future-focused and for Bermuda.

Each senior school will have a core curriculum [including English, Maths, Science and Social Studies]; and also develop foundational transferable skills [communication, collaboration, critical thinking, problem-solving, digital fluency]. In addition, each senior school will offer a minimum of two signatures or two signature learning programmes that will be decided on and developed as per the process I will describe shortly.

Each student will be expected to have a major and a minor signature. However,
students with a strong passion for their major signature will be able to follow that on an extended basis and not take an alternate minor signature. Over time, signatures will be delivered through blended learning [a combination of face-to-face and on-line], enabling students to do their major signature in the school they attend and a minor signature with another school.

First Two Senior Schools with Signature Learning Programmes

As stated before, in September 2022, the CedarBridge Academy and The Berkeley Institute will be the first two senior schools offering signature learning programmes. Commencing shortly, the Ministry will be having on-going meetings with the school Boards and school leaders, teachers and students. This will include Zoom sessions in April to discuss and obtain feedback about the proposed signatures.

There is much more work ahead after the signatures or signature learning programmes have been determined. Work includes forming design teams to develop the signature learning programmes further, redesigning the core curriculum, professional development and training of teachers, recruitment of specialists, school registration, student transitioning, etc. Information about these areas of work will be shared as we systematically progress through each transformative process.

We intend to recruit teachers, students, parents and relevant business and community leaders to form design teams to develop the learning programmes for the signatures. This will allow us to develop the foundational transferable skills programme and begin to redesign the core curriculum. The design teams and all teachers in CedarBridge Academy and The Berkeley Institute will be well supported with relevant and appropriate professional development and learning.

It is intended that students entering CedarBridge Academy and The Berkeley Institute in September 2022 will have the opportunity to explore the signatures on offer. With the appropriate guidance from educators and, of course, their parents, students will make their choice of which senior school to attend. Students who, for one reason or another, are not attracted to any of the signatures/signature learning programmes on offer will undertake the traditional learning tracks at the CedarBridge Academy or The Berkeley Institute, as in previous years.

I started my remarks today by saying we had reached a milestone in the passing of the Education Amendment Act 2021. During the last few months, the 50+ strong Learning First design team has been working energetically and enthusiastically to develop prototypes of what the curriculum, teaching and learning, assessment, professional development and learning environments will be to realise our vision for learning. We are on the cusp of creating a truly great education system – a system of which all of us will be proud. A school system that will position Bermuda’s children and young people to thrive and flourish in the decades to come. A school system that will help build a strong and prosperous future for Bermuda.

Introduction of Learning First and Innovation Unit

I’ll now ask that Laurel Burns of Learning First and Keren Caple of the Innovation Unit share information regarding the next stage in the development of our signatures.

Final Summary

I hope you, Bermuda, is as excited as we are about the transformational things being done with Education through Education Reform. I encourage everyone to get engaged in giving feedback on our proposed signatures and to participate in our great education reform. To make sure you receive the information pack on the signatures engagement or receive the Learning First newsletter, send an email to

Before I close, I would also like to remind Bermuda, each of us has a role to play in stopping the spread of the coronavirus. Follow Public Health guidelines, wear a mask, practice good hand hygiene, maintain physical distance and download the WeHealth Bermuda app. If you haven’t already, register to get vaccinated.

Thank you

Laurel Burns remarks:

Thank you, Minister, for the opportunity to provide some supporting remarks.

Through Learning First, the Ministry of Education has begun to work with teams of teachers and principals, and engage with students and parents, businesses and community organisations, to begin to develop the curriculum and the model of teaching and learning that will enable each and every learner to have an education that meets their unique needs, talents and passions.

Our country’s vision for learning can not be fulfilled without high quality teaching; teachers are critical to supporting students to achieve ambitious goals and world class learning outcomes.

The work to develop the education workforce, one of six national and core priorities currently being addressed by the Learning First design team, is currently focused in three areas:

1. Professional learning for educators to support the implementation of school redesign

Ideas under development in this category include:

  • Creating a teaching task force of skilled mentors and coaches able to demonstrate, support and quality assure new teaching practices as they are introduced into schools
  • An approach to practice development, based on the proven lesson study model, in which educators work together using peer observation and coaching to test and improve new lessons, resources and assessments and embed these in their practice

2. Introducing consistent teaching standards and shared accountability for excellence

Ideas being explored in this category include:

  • The development, with the profession, of Bermudian professional standards for educators that describe key aspects of effective practice at every career stage from novice to master teacher and into leadership roles, including school principal and administrator
  • Support for schools’ professional learning communities, to be rich in evidence based models for professional learning where collaboration is the norm
  • A professional growth planning team, educators working together each summer term to plan, design and commission professional learning for the coming year, based on national and school priorities and educators’ needs and interests

3. Raising the profile of the profession and making a career in education a natural choice for Bermuda’s brightest graduates

Ideas for meeting this challenge include:

  • An annual Bermudian education conference showcasing the best of education in Bermuda
  • Partnerships between schools, businesses and community organisations to provide work placements, enrichment and resources for students and career development opportunities for educators including exchanges and externships

Keren Caple’s remarks:

Thank you, Minister, for the opportunity to also provide supporting remarks.

The concepts and ideas referenced by Ms Burns are consistent with and informed by the global evidence base on high quality professional learning that contributes to improved learning outcomes for children and young people.

In an increasingly global professional community there are myriad opportunities and challenges in: how we design and engage teachers in meaningful professional development; who delivers professional learning; how educators participate in learning that makes a difference to outcomes; and when and where these development opportunities take place.

It has been essential to continue to deepen our understanding about what contributes to effective teacher performance and improvement and find out what fresh approaches to professional growth are being trialled within the education sector, both here and globally.

Through Learning First, we have identified and interrogated what the innovators are doing in this space and explored new ways of driving positive changes in practice. We have been, of course, also interested in approaches to professional growth that have already gained traction and demonstrated some level of impact here in Bermuda.

The Ministry of Education commits to providing impactful professional learning for all our teachers and enables them to collaborate to continuously develop and grow their practice. This will begin with the formation of Design Teams from the first two signature schools which will be supported and enabled across the 2021-22 academic year to engage in professional learning focused on building both teacher confidence and competence in new models of teaching and learning, curricula and signature learning programmes.

It is envisioned that through this investment, Bermuda’s teachers will become even more empowered and skilled educators who are valued in the community and able to support Bermuda’s children to achieve world class learning outcomes.

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