As is acknowledged globally, and as I have said many times before, educators are the single most significant in-school influence on outcomes for children (academic and otherwise). I recognise that schools cannot thrive daily without dedicated education professionals. We, as a country, will not achieve the ambitious targets that we have set for education reform without teachers and school leaders at the heart of this change.
Bermuda’s teachers have done a remarkable job in what has been most certainly, some unprecedented times. While many sectors and industries here in Bermuda and worldwide have come to a standstill due to COVID19, our Education System has continued to serve and educate our children and young people, the core of Bermuda’s future.
Our teachers and school leaders have gone to extreme lengths to ensure that our school buildings are open and safe for in-school teaching and learning. These processes have been crucial to supporting our students, parents, teachers, and their families in ensuring they can maintain their roles in other aspects of Bermuda’s economy. And yes, it has not been easy. I do not say these things to deflect from the matters raised in the BUT’s open letter, but to acknowledge our teachers’ critical role in society.
It is clear from the recent vote of no confidence in our leadership at the Ministry of Education by the Bermuda Union of Teachers that we have not yet gotten to a suitable place. Although, the best interest of our young people of this country has underpinned everything we do.
The relationship between the Ministry, Department, and BUT is fractured, but I believe this is not where it ends.
I think we would all agree that this current dynamic is not in the best interest of our young people and needs immediate rectification. However, this will take all parties willing to collaborate productively to develop new ways of working with each other.
I acknowledge the BUT’s commitment to ongoing engagement with the Ministry and Department of Education and reaffirm our commitment to the same.
Often, when a relationship gets to this point, the involvement of an independent third party can prove to be beneficial. We met with the BUT Executive on February 2nd, presenting the option of having an independent party join discussions between the Ministry and the union, which they declined.
Just as in relationship therapy or mediation, it takes the full cooperation of all parties to see the benefits and positive results truly.
We had hoped this invitation to bring in intermediary help would assist us in working through the matters raised in the BUT’s open letter, some of which are rooted in issues that are decades old. More importantly, this gesture was a path for us to forge together and a way for us to define new ways of working harmoniously in the future. So, I extend the invitation again.
Co-designing and co-producing an improved school system for Bermuda requires all of us to be moving in unison. Bermuda’s children and their families deserve nothing less. Together, collaboratively, with the possibility of external help, I am confident we can work through the current issues to a resolution and refocus our energies back to Education Reform.
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