Minister Rabain Column: Parish Primary Schools

April 6, 2022

Diallo Rabain Bermuda Aug 2019[Column written by Minister of Education Diallo Rabain]

During my time as Minister of Education, I have noticed that there is rarely a discussion or debate on daily media and social media feeds about the big ideas, the vision that the Government’s team has for learning and schooling and what this means for the future of our country.

So, whilst I might disagree with some of what Rajai Denbrook has referred to in his public opinion piece, I welcome the debate. In fact, we need more of it.

Let’s start with what we agree on.

The rationale for Parish Primary Schools is strong. Mr Denbrook outlines this beautifully in his piece. We’re in fierce agreement that this is an opportunity that could be transformative for young people, their families, communities and, over time, the nation as a whole. This is not a “nice to have”, it is something we must do.

I also couldn’t agree more about the need to involve as many people as possible in developing what this means in practice. You’ll rarely hear me use the word consultation anymore. As I was reminded by a colleague earlier this week, “everything in this country has to be consulted upon”. But I think consultation, even when we meet the Gunning Principles, is insufficient. Mr Denbrook is right; we must build genuine and trusting relationships, we must reset previously held power structures, we must never do this to [or even for], we must always do this with those that will be most impacted by the changes we seek to make. In Education Reform, we call this co-design.

So far, so good, however, I must also correct some inaccuracies.

There has been no decision on when any of our existing primary school sites will close. The quote “that the first school to close will be Harrington Sound Primary” is not correct. In fact, Harrington Sound Primary was confirmed as one of the 10 Parish Primary Schools. While the Parish Primary School Consultation last year identified which primary school sites will not be used as Parish Primary Schools, there has been no decision as to when over the next five years this will happen. Which schools will be the next Parish Primary schools, beyond Francis Patton and Purvisis undecided. This is the work of the Project Management Office which has recently begun to explore the phased, staged and intentional plan for the infrastructure and financing aspects of Education Reform. We can expect a report on this in about four months.

It is also incorrect to say that there are no specific models and features of Parish Primary Schools. The Parish Primary School Consultation document presented a broad vision for such schools and Several hundred educators, leaders, community members, business partners, parents and young people were involved in this co-design process. Mr. Denbrook did express interest in 2020 and briefly joined a Design Team specifically focused on co-designing features of the transformed Bermuda Public School System.

They developed a new curriculum framework [what young people learn], new pedagogical models [how young people are taught], new assessment practices [how we recognise what young people know, understand and can do], potential options for partnerships [how we can share responsibility for learning] and new professional learning models [how the adults in our schools grow and develop] to name just a few. Although our focus most recently has been the application of these new features in the Senior School context, with the introduction of the Signature Learning Programmes at The Berkeley Institute and CedarBridge Academy for S1 students in September 2022, we look forward to expanding this to also co-developing these features in the Primary School context.

I realise the difficulties education has faced over the last several decades. It is why the work to reform and transform education in Bermuda is so important. It is critical that we have a system that is co-designed by Bermuda for Bermuda. I will continuously advocate for and request for even more people to get involved in the Education Reform process, specifically to join the School Transformation Teams who work to ensure that Bermudian excellence exists in aspects of our reformed education system.

Parish Primary Schools are just that, of and for the Parish, and we need as many people as possible involved over the next 17 months to:

  • engage local community groups in a powerful shared vision and create a call to action and change
  • co-design promising new solutions and practices; and then prototyping and testing them with diverse stakeholder groups
  • support the implementation of new practices across schools.

You don’t need to be an educator to join a Transformation Team. Bermudians with a commitment to young people and the future of learning, schooling and our country is what we’re seeking. Diversity is key.

I hope you will consider joining us on this journey [more information at]. Mr Denbrook, I hope you do, too.

  • Parish Primary School Decision Report [PDF here]
  • Parish Primary School Consultation Report [PDF here]
  • Parish Primary School Consultation Submissions [PDF here]
  • Parish Primary School Decisions Summary [PDF here]
  • Parish Primary Schools FAQs [PDF here]

- Minister of Education Diallo Rabain


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Comments (2)

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  1. Joe Bloggs says:

    “So, whilst I might disagree with some of what Rajai Denbrook has referred to in his public opinion piece, I welcome the debate. In fact, we need more of it.”

    As someone who has been threatened at a PLP Town Hall meeting for asking questions, I do not believe one word of the Minister’s propaganda speech.

  2. Rajai Denbrook says:

    Whereas I genuinely appreciate the Minister offering a response, it does not meaningfully address the concerns outlined in my opinion column regarding the consultation process used to identify which primary schools would be discontinued.

    The Minister says that “you’ll rarely hear me use the word consultation anymore” opting to focus on the co-design process that has been used for Signature School programming and will be used for Parish Primary Schools.

    This ignores the issues raised on the consultation process used. I in no way shape or form took issue with the intention to use a co-design process going forward for Parish Primary Schools. My issues are with the consultation process used between December 2020 and March 2021 to identify schools for closure and if this consultation was sincere and cultivated the necessary buy-in, which by all impressions, it hasn’t.

    The Minister also asserts that the Parish Primary vision was co-designed with the input of hundreds of people. The only point the public became aware of the Parish Primary vision was December 2020 when the Parish Primary Proposal document was released. No details on a co-design process for the Parish Primary vision are published.

    I was on a design team at one point, but this was for Signature School programming, not Parish Primary Schools. They are two distinct areas of reform and again, the co-design process for Parish Primary Schools has not begun.
    He goes on to say, “although our focus most recently has been the application of these new features in the Senior School context […] we look forward to expanding this to also co-developing these features in the Primary School context.”

    This further supports my point that the “features and models” of Parish Primary schools have not been identified in practical terms, contrary to the statement that “Francis Patton Primary and Purvis Primary will embrace the models and features of Parish Primary Schools, as determined through an extensive consultation process which concluded in July 2021”. Again, consultation ended 12th March 2021, and no models or features have been fully identified. Everything at this point is a conceptual vision.

    The Minister ends by inviting the community, and myself, to join the Parish Primary School Transformation Team. However, I reiterate the point in my column that “schools have already been identified for closure through what many feel was an insincere process. As a result, who will be inspired to actively participate in a change they do not support?”

    The Minister doesn’t address that closing schools is not included in the Government’s 2020 election platform. He doesn’t address if he feels the consultation process achieved the goal of shared-ownership and support that true consultation strives for, and chose to instead focus on the co-design process to come by conflating it with the Signature School co-design process, which are two separate things.

    I fully acknowledge the error made with Harrington Sound Primary. The column was updated early yesterday, and a note was added acknowledging the mistake and offering apologies.