Schools in doubt

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With the new school term set to begin in seven days, the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) has raised concerns about the readiness of a number of primary and secondary schools for the new academic year.

This morning BUT president Sean Spencer told Barbados TODAY that based on the union’s most recent assessment, ten school plants needed to have works completed while other schools were being hindered by staffing logistics.

“We are presently aware of issues at a number of schools, primary and secondary, where the state of readiness come September 9th is questionable. Some arrangements have been made as a matter of urgency but in other cases we are aware that work is ongoing. We want to ensure that the readiness is not just a completion of work being done but also the cleaning. We need to be sure that residue is not going to compound the problem,” said Spencer, who revealed that at one St Peter school, teachers turned up for planning week and found the building still being painted.

“There are at least three secondary schools where readiness come Monday remains questionable, at best,” he said. “We encourage our members to report the challenges which present at the earliest moment to the management team as well as the BUT. The subject of occupational health and safety remains a priority for the union and will be treated accordingly.”

He contended that while most of the problems could be rectified in time for school to start, much would depend on the quality of the workmanship, variables which are not under the control of the Ministry of Education.

Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training Santia Bradshaw has already issued the caution that some schools would remain closed due to challenges contractors working around the clock have encountered on the job.

Bradshaw, senior education officials and union representatives are scheduled to tour several schools tomorrow to assess the work being done.

Meanwhile, Spencer also raised concern that some school administrators were having a difficult time planning for the new year as principals are yet to receive the staff list for their schools.

“Some principals have indicated that they do not have a staff list when the planning week began yesterday. There are some implications when it comes to staffing as to who would be teaching a particular class as well as the allocation of non-teaching periods.  This can become problematic and stressful. What is also challenging is the continued failure by the Ministry of Education to provide detailed staff lists that indicate seniority. Questions have been asked without any answers provided,” he said.

Spencer told Barbados TODAY that in one school there were as many as six transfers, but the school is still expected to cater to the same number of students, with no word about replacements. In addition, one teacher on the current staff list was promoted to acting deputy principal two years ago, creating an even further shortage of instructors.

“There is one particular school which would have lost six teachers and the roles have not diminished in any particular way. To have six teachers fewer and the same number of students will pose problems. Obviously, you are understaffed and in that regard you are going to start the school year with a number of persons under a greater level of stress. This is not something that we want to see if the aim is the better delivery of instruction. We have certain ratios to bear in mind and we have to cater to them as best as we can,” Spencer stressed.
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