Government Offers Financial Support to Exempted Teachers

Today I am pleased to announce a new initiative that will support Bermudians who are pursuing a career in the teaching profession. Joining with me is Miss Laurel Burns, former member of the Board of Education when the policy was developed and a BTIP (Bermuda Teacher Induction Program) representative, and a former Mentor Teacher in the Department of Education.

In September 2021, the Ministry of Education will offer for the first time a ‘Teacher’s Certification Bonded Loan.’

The purpose of this loan is to provide financial support to Bermudian residents who are enrolled in an approved distance-learning Teacher Certification Programme. Considered Applicants must be currently working in the Public School system under exemption status as recommended by the BEC Exemption Committee; and, who are on track to successfully complete their teaching certification programme.

As a backdrop, each year the public school system experiences shortages of qualified teachers for specific subject areas. Some of the difficult-to-fill teaching positions are in the subject areas of music, drama, physical education, mathematics, English, and foreign languages.

To help fill these teaching positions, a BEC Exemption Committee legislated under the Bermuda Educators Council (BEC) Act 2002 provides recommendations to the Minister of Education for persons to be exempted to teach these subjects at schools, when they do not hold the prerequisite teaching qualifications as per the Bermuda Educators Council Act.

However, while exemptions are provided to persons to teach in the education system, it is vital that we have fully qualified educators. Therefore, persons must commit to pursue a teaching certification within a specified time for the exemption status to continue. Thus, in several instances, this leads to persons who have been granted exemptions to teach in the System and simultaneously pursue their teaching certification.

There are two University Teaching Certification Programmes that persons who live on Island commonly enroll in to undertake their teaching certification through distance learning. The Bermuda College in Agreement with the University of the West Indies provides a teaching certification programme (TCP) in Mathematics, English Language, Information Technology, Science, Modern Languages, History and Social Studies/Geography Education. The UK Sunderland University also offers a Teaching Certification distance learning programme in a variety of subject specializations as well where persons apply directly to the University for enrollment.

The teaching certification programme (TCP) broadly comprises undertaking subject-focused coursework towards a degree and participating in a 12-week teaching practicum which is assessed for successful passing. This results in persons achieving a Teaching Certification as required by the BEC Act 2002, to be recognized as a qualified educator.

The 12-week teaching practicum, is considered a period of study not employment that parallels that of an overseas student who undertakes a teaching practicum programme. Therefore, during this period, exempted status persons are not remunerated.

This has become financially challenging for persons enrolled in the teaching certification programme who also have to uphold their household financial responsibilities while adhering to the deadline for completing the teaching certification programme. Consequently, we have seen promising potential teachers opt to pursue employment elsewhere rather than finish their teaching certification.

To guard against this, the Board of Education was tasked to create new pathways to help enhance the recruitment and development of new teachers. In response, they developed a Teacher’s Certification Bonded Loan career development policy. This policy directly aligns with a key outcome in Plan 2022 in that 90% of teachers are fully certified in their assigned field.

The Teacher’s Certification Bonded Loan policy supports the Bermudianisation of teachers in the education system by providing limited financial assistance for career transferring professionals to become certified teachers.

The loss of a salary while completing a 12-week teaching practicum has become a roadblock for persons who have decided to change professions and pursue a career in teaching. By affording a bonded loan to cover living expenses, persons will be able to focus on their teaching practicum experience and successfully complete their teaching certification without financial impediment.

The Teacher Certification Bonded Loan is valued at up to $4,800 per month for 3 months and is tenable only during the 12-week practicum teaching period. The applicant has the option to apply for a pre-fixed amount to borrow, and will be responsible for the repayment of all borrowed monies.

The Bonded Loan application process requires the applicant to be a Bermudian, to reside locally, be 25 years of age or older, and already enrolled in an approved and accredited long-distance teaching certification programme. Persons must also be pursuing an area of study needed in the public school system such as music, drama, physical education, mathematics, English, and foreign languages, these subjects were mentioned earlier. Applicants must also be able to effect a Bond signed by two Sureties.

The Teacher’s Certification Bonded Loan Offering will come into effect in September 2021, and guidelines for applying for the Bonded Loan as well as the application form will be accessed on
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