• The following statement was released today (March 5) by One Bermuda Alliance MP Cole Simons, the Shadow Minister of Education…
Cole Simons, Shadow Minister of Education

For too long politics has played too big a role in education, a situation that must change if our youth are to achieve their potential and reach the educational heights needed in today’s world.

With that in mind, it is now clear that we desperately need an independent Education Authority.

It will not happen overnight and has to be carefully thought through which is why we would establish a Cabinet sub-committee to include the Premier, the Ministers of Education, Finance, Health and Social Services and Works and Engineering to lay the foundation for the exploration and development of an education authority.

We have seen how successful independent bodies can be – the Bermuda Tourism Authority is, at present, a fine example. It has helped to revitalize tourism in Bermuda. An independent Education Authority could do the same for education.

As stated in the Budget Reply, ‘the committee would also explore and develop amongst other things, a Centre for Teaching Excellence, staffed with trainers and equipment to enhance teaching skills, lessons contents and classroom management skills’.

Our youth cannot be expected to excel and keep pace with worldwide changes and changing employer demands if those that teach them are not given continuous opportunities to enhance teaching skills.

I was struck by a statement from the Bermuda Union of Teachers who said teachers were being forced to use their own money to buy essential school supplies. It showed their dedication to duty, but it is clearly not fair and not sustainable.

That is why we believe that each schoolteacher should be given an annual $1,000 budget for supplies to alleviate the need for them to dip into their own pay packets.

Day after day we read of bus cancellations and we seem to be no nearer a new bus schedule following the failure of the Minister’s attempt at a new schedule last year.

Often these cancellations affect those who have no other means of transport, such as our young students. That causes considerable disruption and needs fixing.

As part of its work, the Cabinet sub-committee would establish a dedicated public allocation of school buses to get all our students to and from school safely, on time and on a regular and consistent basis.

An education authority would also be far better equipped to take the difficult decisions over our schools’ infrastructure and any reallocation of instructional resources.

Currently there is a lack of clarity over these issues but there now exists a real opportunity to better optimise the use of the existing infrastructure and instructional resources, but these are difficult political decisions to make.

However, better optimization of resources would result in the release and redirection of resources that are currently locked in.

Financial resources could be allocated to our some of our dated schools and campuses. Instructional resources – teachers, paraprofessionals and behavior therapists -could be moved to bolster the language, science and mathematics curriculums.

With every change of Minister and with every change of Government there is a change in strategy. This causes confusion which affects teaching and standards. The time to take politics out of education has arrived.