Contradictory signals on education

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The Government’s plans to phase out middle schools appear to contradict its much vaunted strategic plan for education.

Last week, the education minister announced plans to phase out middle schools and introduce signature schools.

To be precise, he said: “Now is therefore the right time to share with the education and broader communities that the Government’s 2017 Election Platform commitment to reform public education by phasing out middle schools and introducing signature schools at the secondary level is progressing forward.”

However, as I have stated before, Plan 2022 seems to suggest a prominent role for Bermuda’s middle schools. There are segments of Plan 2022 that appear to outline the role of middle schools, including:

• Middle Years 1 — Introduce students to technical/vocational programmes option (2.9.1)

• Middle Years 2 — Select area of concentration to expand on Middle Years 1 experience

• Introduce City & Guilds curriculum (maths and English) in an integrated approach (2.9.2)

• Middle Years 3 — Introduce students to technical/vocational work experiences (2.9.3)

• Train teachers in industrial experience (minimum of City & Guilds and National Centre for Construction Education and Research (2.9.4)

• Prioritise science, technology, engineering, art and maths instructional strategies and learning opportunities, moving towards adaptive strategies (long-term and transformational)

• Expand dual enrolment to include diverse programmes (strengthen technical programmes at the middle school and high school levels) (2.13.3)

I stand by the comments I made last December when I said: “I am delighted to see that the Plan [2022] incorporates a prominent role for Bermuda’s middle schools, in that they will be used to support students from an academic, social and developmental perspective as they transition from primary school to secondary school. It is the middle schools that will be the conduit by which our students are introduced to technical and vocational programmes, and prepared for the City & Guilds-integrated maths, English and other Steam programmes.”

I also said: “It is clear that the stakeholders who crafted the plan recognise the important role that the middle schools have to play in the development and education of our children. It is also clear that there is no support for the PLP’s proposed intentions to eliminate Bermuda’s middle schools — on or before 2022.”

Has Plan 2022 been changed?

Has the Government investigated giving increased support to the middle schools and their staff, rather than simply phasing them out? What is the Government suggesting to make the transition from primary school to secondary school seamless?

I have also yet to see any concrete evidence presented by the Government that shows, categorically, that the performance and achievements of students are negatively impacted because of the middle school system.

You would think that a decision as important as this would be backed by solid proof that the existing system is harming the progress of our students. Please give us and, more importantly, the parents proof.

Cole Simons is the Shadow Minister of Education and the MP for Smith’s South (Constituency 8)

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Published Jul 20, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Jul 20, 2018 at 3:13 pm)

Contradictory signals on education

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