Teachers Union On ‘Pressing Issues’

September 12, 2023 | 6 Comments

“As we embark on the academic 2023/2024 school year, we feel compelled to shed light on the alarming conditions our dedicated educators are currently experiencing,” the Bermuda Union of Teachers [BUT] said.

A spokesperson said, “On August 24, 2023, during our meeting with the Minister of Education, we were assured, based on information from the Commissioner of Education, that school buildings would be fully prepared for teachers to set up their classrooms by September 1, 2023. The Commissioner of Education reaffirmed this sentiment on August 30, 2023. Unfortunately, our visit to Purvis Parish School on Thursday, September 7, 2023, revealed that these assurances were far from reality. The fact remains that up until yesterday, September 10, several schools were not prepared to open. We must express our deep concerns about the state of education leadership in Bermuda.

“Our educators have twice expressed a vote of no confidence in the current leadership of the Commissioner of Education for various reasons. We believe it is vital for the broader community to understand why we maintain this stance and what is at stake for our cherished public education system.

“Here is a summary of some pressing issues that demand immediate attention, while bearing in mind that these are not the only concerns:

Unsafe Learning Environments: Many classrooms, as of yesterday, were still undergoing rewiring work, with exposed electrical wires. Some classrooms have incomplete floors, broken windows, untreated walls, and other unfinished construction work in progress. Shockingly, one classroom had ongoing asbestos abatement when teachers returned to work, exposing our educators to potentially hazardous conditions and jeopardizing their health and safety.

Delayed Contracts and Unstable Positions: Currently, dozens of teachers are left in a state of uncertainty, anxiously awaiting their employment contracts, which they should have received on or before September 1, 2023.

Last-Minute Curriculum and Assessment Changes: On September 7, 2023, principals received a letter from the Director of Academics, informing them that teachers in lower primary at specific schools will be required to adjust by September 11, 2023, to teach a stage lower than their current year level. This short notice is unprofessional and unacceptable. It’s important to note that this change will not be consistent across the entire system, potentially causing misalignment for students who have transferred schools this year.

Facility Issues and Inadequate Preparation Time: Schools, including the new Purvis Parish School, faced dire conditions, such as non-functioning bathrooms, electrical issues, filthy uncleaned classrooms, excessive dust, missing screens in windows, rooms without ceilings, and missing furniture. Ongoing construction at these schools has stolen our teachers’ preparation time for classrooms and lesson planning. It is evident that schools under construction are not suitable to welcome students until the premises are safe. For the Commissioner of Education to be aware of these conditions before teachers’ arrival is either a sheer display of ignorance or a deliberate breach of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1982.

Mass Exodus: Regrettably, a concerning trend has emerged where teachers and students are leaving the public education system for private alternatives. This threatens the viability of our public schools and diminishes the diverse and inclusive character of our public education system. This exodus is directly linked to ongoing operational challenges, education reform and the current leadership’s approach.

“Historically, the Department of Education has struggled to prepare adequately for school reopenings. This year, the level of unpreparedness is unprecedented. Our educators, students, and parents deserve better. This recurring issue underscores the urgent need for improved inter-departmental collaboration.

“Teachers are frequently tasked with developing contingency plans for their students because school buildings are not ready. Despite facing the perception that teachers lack flexibility, teachers across the island, especially at Purvis and Francis Patton Parish Schools, have consistently shown dedication by arriving on-site for their originally scheduled classroom set-up days and demonstrating remarkable adaptability in these challenging circumstances this year. No one should have to report to work in such conditions or be expected to “make do.”

“As parents and students eagerly prepared for the first day of school this past weekend, it’s disheartening to know that hundreds of teachers across the system, who have families of their own, were tirelessly in their classrooms [if they had access, as we are aware W&E/Parks were working over the weekend to prepare school buildings]. The situation is undeniably unfair and places a significant burden on these dedicated educators.

“We call for a thorough and immediate assessment of leadership in the public education system. The future of our children and the integrity of our education system are at stake. Together, we can advocate for change, transparency, and a renewed commitment to quality public education in Bermuda.”

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Comments (6)

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  1. Joe Bloggs says:

    “The fact remains that up until yesterday, September 10, several schools were not prepared to open. We must express our deep concerns about the state of education leadership in Bermuda.”

    Why now? This has been going on for decades!

  2. Gwan says:

    Mass exodus of students is what the Ministry of Education and some teachers wants. Less students but same pay for teachers. Less students equals less of a need for teachers, schools, services etc… In the end it is the tax payer that suffers. Pay taxes that go towards free education. However, free education no longer equates to a consistent and good education. Some great teachers in the public education system, but unfortunately many are not. The B.U.T. must take some responsibility for this problem. Under performers and substandard teachers are still rewarded with employment each year and are protected by the B.U.T at the expense of the children and the schools reputation. At worst a teacher will be “encouraged” to relocate to another school or even “promoted” to a new position. Meanwhile parents pay taxes that pay for education but choose to take on 2nd and 3rd jobs to put their kids in homes school or private school. Basically, they pay for kids education twice!

    But many of you all got what you wanted, so you thought.

    • Joe Bloggs says:

      “Mass exodus of students is what the Ministry of Education and some teachers wants.”

      A mass exodus of people, including students, is what Bermuda got. But that was 10 to 15 years ago. That mass exodus together with falling birth rates is why schools are empty now.

      As for the employment of teachers, I will leave you to your opinions. I do not agree with most of what you say on that issue.

  3. I said what I said says:

    Yet another reason for them to place the East End Primary students at St. George’s Prep & St. David’s Primary until East End is finished construction. (If the plan even goes forward)

  4. Darren says:

    ‘Dedicated educators’. You have got to be kidding me. They are as bad as the Government. The only worse are the BIU. The public system needs to be put in the hands of the private system.

  5. Really... says:

    I can’t wait until one day we can let the public know the issues we have with these so called perfect educators…the public would be shocked.

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