Ascension : Letter From Staff At Two Boat School
Submitted by The Islander (Islander Editors) 11.02.2010 (Article Archived on 25.02.2010)
As you are aware, there have been a number of changes made to the structure of Two Boats School following a review that was carried out by Dr David Black in November 2009.
Two Boats School
1st February 2010
As you are aware, there have been a number of changes made to the structure of Two Boats School following a review that was carried out by Dr David Black in November 2009. The recommendations made in this review were discussed by the Island Council which in turn put forward its proposals to His Excellency the Governor for approval.
The result of this is that four teachers (3 secondary, 1 reception) were made redundant, along with 1 teacher assistant and 3 part-time auxiliary staff, with effect from April 2010. In addition to this, a primary staff member (who had already sought alternative employment following the uncertainty of them retaining their post and the future of the school post) had their post dissolved. Needless to say, the effect this has had on the school has been devastating, particularly the secondary sector. It is particularly difficult having to find a positive solution in the middle of the school year. The students, especially those preparing for their (I)IGCSEs, have been and will further be greatly affected.
Since this came about, the current Maths teacher and the current head teacher have indicated that they will not be here for the new academic year. Other staff members have also commented that they would probably be better off if they began job hunting because presently, with the financial situation that AIG is in, there are no guarantees that they will be employed for the entirety of a new contract. Can you blame them?
On Thursday 28th January 2010 at about 3:15pm a meeting took place between the teaching staff of Two Boats School, the Administrator and the Director of Resources. This meeting followed the announcement that one of our colleagues, who had previously been made redundant, has been offered the opportunity to remain here teaching a number of subjects that would otherwise have been unable to be taught effectively. Fair enough, but what about our other colleague who also has direct experience of teaching subjects? Why wasn’t this post advertised internally?
It was also revealed that a request by the current Head Teacher was made that interviews take place to fill the post of Nursery/Reception Teacher. Unfortunately, ‘a higher power’ refused to allow this to happen. Why? Because there was no time!
In other areas of AIG where vacancies have become available because of redundancies, personnel were invited to apply for these vacant posts. Why don’t teaching staff have the same opportunity? Why is there an inconsistency in protocol? Was this also a decision of the Director of Resources?
It appears that the Director of Resources has more power than we gave him credit for!!
We gathered from our discussion, and can appreciate the fact, to some extent, that neither the Administrator nor the Director of Resources have any guarantees as to the future of AIG because of the current financial situation. As professionals we understand this and realised from the beginning of the review that there would have to be cuts in order to save money.
However, what we do not appreciate is the fact that the excuse for bad decisions being made in respect of the school review was THERE WAS NO TIME!! Surely such an important area should demand that appropriate time be given to such an exercise?
When asked why staff was not consulted about the recommendations made by Dr Black so we could have had a professional input, the Director of Resources responded that there was no time to consult with us! It was pointed out that the management of the entire process was appalling to say the least and again the Director of Resources stated that because monies might run out in June, there was no time to consult with us!
To date, even though decisions directly concerning us have been made with reference to the recommendations from Dr Black, staff have still not seen the report following the review. Is there still NO TIME? Well, the question was asked but no, this wasn’t the answer we received; we have been told that it isn’t common practice as it is a confidential document!! So, the education system has been turned upside down but we still do not have any right to do anything about it or see why! (Ironically, there have been Human Rights sessions taking place recently on island with a visiting team of Human Rights experts! I wonder if educational rights were covered?)
What do we say to our students? Your future might be in jeopardy because our Government had NO TIME to ensure that appropriate consultations took place to secure your educational welfare?
Mention was made of the new head teacher post. It was stated by the Director of Resources that one of the requirements for the new head teacher post would be that they teach Maths. A staff member present expressed that he was of the opinion that the Job Specification had not been done as yet. The Director of Resources confirmed this stating that it was in the process of being done. Search Associates now has an advert on their website stating “Ascension Island – Two Boats School seeks a new head teacher”! (This advert was on this particular website the very next day!) And consultation with the current head teacher in order to ensure the accuracy of such a job specification was not even required! Efficiency at its best? Or a blatant lie? (Read on and you decide!)
Interestingly, “the teaching contract from September 2010 will be 220 days, of which 190 will be teaching days” and “30 days per contract year”. All teachers operate on the 190 teaching days and 5 training days contracts at present and in the past. Unless you are an educationalist, you might find it difficult to appreciate the fact that staff do work outside of normal working hours. Many people only see the fact that teachers have “holidays”. However, teachers don’t have the option of taking leave during term time or accumulating leave and going on long, relaxing holidays for a few months if we choose. But there is much, much more to being a teacher than “holidays”…
Does anyone see staff leaving from work after normal working hours because they have to prepare for a lesson first thing in the morning? How many people see the books that are taken home to mark, the reports being written, coursework being marked – and marked again? Parental consultations – parents might decide that they won’t attend this particular one. We as teachers are obligated to attend. There are many other occasions whereby staff have to go above and beyond the normal call of duty – and we do it because we care about our students and their futures!!
In addition to the above regarding the new Head Teacher post, it is not stipulated in this advert that teaching Maths to GCSE level is a requirement. Could this mean then, that since our meeting on Thursday (28th Jan) afternoon further information has been provided from elsewhere that we are not privy to, whereby the replacement head teacher doesn’t have to teach Maths to GCSE level after all? Or even that the person appointed should preferably be a secondary specialist expected to take on a substantial teaching load! Omission of this information is deliberately misleading!
On the website www.expatnetwork.com the post of Head Teacher for Two Boats School was posted on 11th January 2010. Interesting, isn’t it?? Knowing this, why even state in Thursday’s meeting that the Job Specification is in the process of being done! Should this not go hand-in-hand? One would think in the logical order of things a Job Specification for any post would be completed before advertising a vacancy! But then, a lot of things have taken place in the past few months that can’t exactly be described as logical.
Are we being lied to? Is this who we need in charge of the future of Two Boats School and ultimately the education system on the island? How do you feel about your children’s futures, our future generation’s lives being in the hands of people who cannot be trusted or believed??
It is a shame that those in charge do not feel that parents should be exposed to the information that affects their children’s and ultimately their futures. It was stated in Thursday’s meeting that they (the parents) do not need to know everything. There are staff members who are also parents who are greatly concerned for the educational welfare of their children and the rest of our students. We understand the detrimental effects that these decisions are having on our children’s futures and are anxious about what is going to happen to them. Why don’t other parents have the right to know the seriousness of it all?
It is time that the true, cold, hard facts are revealed instead of being sugar-coated! If parents are aware of what is happening they may decide to have their children educated elsewhere. They have the RIGHT to decide, don’t they?
Although the Administrator cannot give us any guarantees with regards to the future of AIG, he has stated that a new head teacher will be appointed. With the current negative press that AIG is receiving because of their financial state, as one staff member said (quite accurately in fact!) “No one in their right mind will touch AIG with a barge-pole!” Bearing this in mind, how easy is it actually going to be to recruit for Two Boats School? Therefore, how positive is the future of Two Boats School looking?
Despite all our concerns, unfortunately there seems to be nothing that we can do. We have discussed rational, logical, SIMPLE ways to overcome the situation somewhat but without the stability needed for such ideas to move forward positively, our hands are tied!
We as staff have the future of our school, and more importantly, our students, paramount in the grand scheme of things. Unfortunately there are a few in power who do not view this as important as other things, for example the crane at the pier head! AIG must ensure that finances are available IN CASE THE CRANE BREAKS DOWN! Whilst we appreciate the crane is important to the island when the ship is in port and necessary goods need to be transferred from ship to shore, do YOU feel it should be taking priority over our children’s education? Surely there is a more important purpose for our finances to be in tip-top shape? (Realistically, we know there are but this is a poor example to voice to a group of educators whose primary concern is the educational welfare of our students!)
It is time that openness, transparency and, most importantly, HONESTY came to the forefront of the AIG powers! STAFF, need to know what is happening, STUDENTS have a right to know what is happening, PARENTS need to know what is going on. I am sure there are also members of THE COMMUNITY who also would appreciate information that would make them aware of what is taking place.
The school and the education system are in dire straits! It might not be unrealistic to say that it could result in there in being no education provision on Ascension Island, particularly for secondary education.
Take away the education, you lose the students, you lose the families, and THEN you will have lost the COMMUNITY!
Is this really what Ascension Island has come to?
Staff of Two Boats School