Accountability is key to success of education authority, says BEN

Transparency and accountability will be crucial components of a successful Education Authority, a teacher advocacy group has said.

Becky Ausenda, founder of the Bermuda Education Network, said her organisation is broadly supportive of an independent governing body for education, which the Government announced in the Throne Speech would be considered in this session.

However, she added: “We question which responsibilities of the Board of Education and the Department of Education will be taken over.

Becky Ausenda, the executive director of the Bermuda Education Network (File photograph)
Ben Smith is the shadow education minister (File photograph)

“We hope that there will be a clear time frame for decision making now in the hands of the education reform governance committee to be assigned to the independent Education Authority.

“The minister has referred to the role of an Education Authority to improve the relationship with schools, and we believe that this can be achieved by a focus on transparency and accountability as system values.

“A lack of accountability has undermined many of the reform efforts over the past decade. It has allowed several good initiatives such the 2013 Inclusive and Special Education discussion paper and parts of the Plan 2022 to remain unimplemented and standards have slipped due to the lack of school inspections.

“More transparency will be crucial for relationships with primary schools who need to know the timeline for commencement of renovation works, closures and staff transfers connected with the parish primary schools.”

Bermuda Education Network says to achieve the government’s goal of transforming outcomes for students, an oversight system must provide support for the following:

• Transparency and accountability as system values
• A system for accreditation for locally devised curriculum for the signature programmes.
• Professional learning communities which allow schools to collaborate and develop purposeful partnerships to improve the quality of teaching and learning
• An enhanced HR system which not only complies with the Employment Act, but builds capacity at the recruitment and training stages and creates pathways for ambitious teachers to pursue leadership roles
• Expansion of services to ensure an inclusive learning system that meets the needs of children with learning differences and social challenges
• A continuum of services from “cradle to college” including a sufficient supply of early education programmes and strong communication between primary and senior schools.

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, said in a press conference on Monday that an authority would never be fully independent from the Government as it would receive public funds but said Government involvement would be minimal.

Senator Ben Smith, the Shadow Education Minister, questioned the claim, saying: “The track record of the Government is to interfere with appointments to boards or creating more discretion for ministers.

“An independent Education Authority is what we need with experts in education making the decisions. Some educators have expressed concern that some of the people involved with the new concept are a problem in the present education system.

“We hope that the Education Authority will be truly independent and not follow the path of the Bermuda Tourism Authority. The Progressive Labour Party government has continued to provide political interference and appoint more political influence to the BTA which has impacted the results of that authority.”

Mr Smith asked: “How will they set up the Education Authority so that the same level of PLP interference does not take education off the rails before it can start to make the needed changes?”

He said the Opposition looked forward to the details around the renovations in the parish primary schools including what adjustments need to be made to each facility, the cost of the project and adjustments to staffing.

Sarah Lagan Created: Nov 15, 2022 07:49 AM