The Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (METI) wishes to respond to comments made by the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) that the Ministry has failed to meet and or communicate on issues affecting teachers. The METI places on record the following facts.
On January 5th 2016 the Barbados Union of Teachers submitted and agenda of seventeen (17) items of concern for discussion with METI. Subsequently, on February 2nd, 2016, the Ministry proposed nine (9) additional items for discussion. On February 3rd, 2016, the BUT confirmed its attendance at the meeting scheduled for February 5th, 2016.
On February 5, 2016, at a meeting chaired by the Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation at the Ministry’s Headquarters, the METI met with the BUT and not only discussed issues but also reached consensus.
These issues included the following:
- Short-Term Study Leave:
The Meeting agreed that short-term study leave is given based on the exigencies of the school and is not a right.
- Term’s Leave:
In 2013 the decision was taken and approved by the Ministry of the Civil Service that Term Leave would only be given to retiring teachers or those receiving for the first time.
- Informal Subject Coordinators:
The discussion centered around the payment of Subject Coordinators. The BUT was informed that the Science and Arts Coordinators will be phased in during the Financial Year 2016/2017.
- Information Technology Coordinators (ITCs):
The meeting was informed that all persons assigned as ITCs were being paid.
- Spanish Facilitators’ Programme:
The meeting agreed that the Programme had strayed from its original concept and that there was a need to revisit the Programme.
- Teacher Evaluation
The BUT stated that Principals were experiencing challenges in relation to Teacher Evaluation as a result of inadequate staffing.
The METI stated that the Teacher Evaluation process is being reviewed.
- School Closure Policy:
The BUT sought clarification on the policy for the closure of schools as it related to water outages and other environmental issues.
The METI stated that water tanks are being installed starting with those most impacted by the water outages. The aim is to ensure that potable water tanks are installed in every school.
METI also gave the assurance that ongoing environmental issues at schools are being addressed with the assistance of the Ministries of Labour, Health and the Environmental Protection Department.
- Teachers’ Service Commission:
The BUT stated that they were in agreement with the establishment of the Teachers’ Service Commission.
The METI said that comments from the stakeholders, in particular the Unions, are still outstanding and as a result the relevant Cabinet Paper has been delayed.
The BUT assured the meeting that its comments will be submitted.
- Appointment of Teachers:
BUT commended the METI and the Ministry of the Civil Service for the appointment of over four hundred teachers, but said that the Union had some concerns about some teachers who were in the service for over ten years and who were not appointed.
METI explained that the process has not been completed. It was stated that some persons did not apply as they were of the opinion that the appointments were automatic based on their years of acting service.
10. Canadian Teachers’ Federation Summer Institute and John Cumberbatch Lecture:
The BUT sought to ascertain if the agreement for financial assistance for these activities had been discontinued.
The Union was advised that the request was not included in this year’s Estimates and that a submission should be made so that the information can be included in the 2017/2018 Estimates.
11. Mobile Technology Policy:
The METI requested that the comments of the Union in relation to the Mobile Technology Policy be submitted.
BUT committed to submitting the comments by February 26, 2016.
12. School Based Assessments:
The BUT stated that according to a survey which was conducted, the Union’s position was that the matter was not a major concern for its members. This position was communicated to METI in a letter dated February 9, 2016.
On March 4th 2016 at a meeting chaired by the Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation at the Ministry’s Headquarters, the METI met the with the BUT and not only discussed issues but also reached consensus on the following:
- National Teaching Council for Barbados:
BUT supported the establishment of a National Teaching Council, stating that the Council should consider issues of registration and promote professional development of teachers. BUT also indicated that it was reviewing the Trinidad Model. BUT further proposed that there should be a provision for ongoing professional development training.
- Health and Safety in Schools:
o The BUT identified some challenges being experienced in some schools and questioned if the schools’ personnel had the requisite skills to perform their duties.
o METI recommended that Health and Safety Committees should be placed at all schools.
o METI updated the BUT on the plans for the students at the Springer Memorial School as a result of the construction of the reservoir by the Barbados Water Authority.
o METI again requested the BUT to remind its members of the Education Regulation18( j), on the administration of corporal punishment.
o METI requested the BUT to have a conversation with its members relating to inappropriate behavior through the use of cell phones.
13. Other Meetings
- On April 4th 2016 at a meeting chaired by the Parliamentary Secretary,the METI met with the BUT and discussed the environmental issues at Lawrence T. Gay, Springer Memorial and the Lodge School.
- On April 11th 2016 at a meeting chaired by the Permanent Secretary, the METI met with the BUT to discuss the way forward for Lawrence T. Gay Primary.
- On April 27th 2016 at a meeting chaired by the Chief Education Officer, the METI discussed the issue of violence in schools in particular student on teacher violence and teacher on student violence.
It is against this background that the METI is refuting charges that it has not had dialogue with the BUT on issues submitted to the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation.
May 5th 2016