Tuesday 26 May, 2020

No agreement on reopening schools, BUT says

BUT President Sean Spencer

BUT President Sean Spencer

Education Ministry called out for saying that unions support the reopening of schools for 11-plus students without facilitating a requested meet to discuss teachers responses.

The leadership of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) has sought to provide some clarity about the phased reopening of primary schools after statements made by Minister Santia Bradshaw at a press briefing on May 16, 2020.

In a written correspondence posted to members on its Facebook social media page, the Barbados Union of Teachers sought to address several matters as it related to comments made by the Education Minister. The letter stated:

“No concrete agreement was made on the conditions for the reopening of schools. For the purpose of clarity, it was proposed that Class 4 students would return to the classroom on June 14 to have four weeks of face-to-face instruction. This proposal was accepted pending a discussion with primary school principals but not before they had engaged Class 4 teachers.”

The written correspondence went on to point out that there was to be further discussion on the matter of reopening schools and that was scheduled to take place yesterday, Monday, May 18. It went on to indicate that “additional logistics and requirements were also to be investigated by primary school principals.”

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In addition, the document suggested that there was no agreement as to the official start date of Term 3. It contends that “the Union has strongly objected to the notion that school began on May 4 since remote teaching - and staff meetings in some cases - commenced on April 14.”

In her address on May 16 to members of the media, Minister Bradshaw had stated: “The Trinity term, we would have announced beginning on the fourth of May… just to say that had we not been in this environment, the Trinity term would normally run for approximately 12 weeks. It would have started on April 14, if all things had gone according to plan, and it would have ended on July 3. If we apply the same 12-week period to the start date of this Trinity term then the official end of the term would actually bring us somewhere around the 24 July.”

However, the posted BUT statement said that “to discount the three weeks of instruction which occurred during that period and extend the term until July 24 would amount to a 14-week term.”

While highlighting that any adjustments to the start date of the Trinity term would have “implications for any organisation of the 2020/2021 school year” the letter also went on to state that “this series of events also emphasises the deficits in the communication of the Ministry of Education and the lack of consideration for future administration of schools.”

And this builds upon the fact that “the first draft of the Guidelines for the Safe Reopening of Schools (June-July 2020) compiled by the Ministry of Education was received by the Union after yesterday's [May 16] press conference. Without the courtesy of access to the full text of the guidelines to make pronouncements alluding to the full agreement of the BUT on proposed guidelines - and other proposals and recommendations - is to grossly misinform the public.”

In the absence of further dialogue between the Union and Education officials, BUT insisted that “the statements of May 16 on the reopening of schools may be considered to be premature” and posited that “the Union is of the view that it is misleading to inform that any agreement was finalised, other than in basic principle.”

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