Bishop Anstey Association denies agreement to transition BATCE

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Bishop Anstey High School East. – File photo by Angelo Marcelle

TROUBLE is brewing between the Bishop Anstey Association (BAA) and the Ministry of Education (MOE) over the transitioning of the privately-operated Bishop Anstey/Trinity College East (BATCE) under Government’s control.

On May 2, the Education Ministry said effective 2023, the Government has given a 5-year period for the transition of BATCE to the government-assisted model with the final recommendations and implementation plan coming out of the negotiations to be approved by the Cabinet before enactment.

However, the association said in a statement on May 4, there was no agreement with the Government “for any transition of the BATCE schools to a Denominational Government-Assisted School model over a 5-year period or otherwise.”

Newsday sought clarity from Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly on May 5. In a WhatsApp response she said, “The (May 2) press release says all that is to be said at this time on the matter.”

In the May 2 release, the ministry said the BAA, which manages BATCE, was currently negotiating the terms of the transition following the end of the 20-year legal agreement in 2021, and that negotiations had reached and advanced state.

However, BAA countered, “We believe it is incorrect to categorise our discussion with the GORTT on the subject as being ‘negotiations at an advance stage’.”

The ministry had said in spite of the expiry of the legal contract, it was committed to continue to fund school operations and 100 per cent of student spaces, as it has done for the past 23 years.

BATCE was established in 2000 with a sixth form added in 2008 by way of a build, own, lease, and transfer (BOLT) arrangement with the Government and has an enrollment of some 2,000 students.

The ministry said the estimated cost of this exercise was $60 million per year over a 20-year period. That further, as of 2021 when the loan period expired and was repaid by the Government, it gave the Government full ownership of the building and land.

With BAA choosing to transition to a government-assisted model, the ministry said complex negotiations with respect to staffing and school operations began and are ongoing with the MOE and the Teaching Service Commission (TSC).

While acknowledging negotiations are ongoing, the BAA’s release insisted there is no agreement and alluded to ‘several misconceptions’ with respect to the legal and financial arrangements.

In good faith, the BAA said it agreed to hear the Government on this transitioning proposal on the specific condition that the current management agreement remained in force and applicable until the BAA was satisfied that any proposed transition of the schools to a denominational government-assisted school model would be on terms that were not adverse to their established successful operations, school dynamics and outcomes which the GORTT (Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago) has repeatedly acknowledged.

“The BAA has no agreement with the GORTT for and transition of the BATCE schools to a denominational government-assisted school model over a five year period.

“Teachers, parents, students and other stakeholders must understand that we are in a symbiotic relationship with the GORTT for the best interest of our children’s education.

“We are equally bound in duty to consider the proposal from the GORTT and where best, agree, modify or reject same in the best interest of the BATCE schools’ operation and continued success.”

It said listening to the proposal of a valued stakeholder does not equate to agreeing with them and their implementation.

Given the complexity and challenges many areas are yet been fully ventilated and adequately assessed for the potential impact on the BATCE schools.

The BAA insists that it reserves its right to rely on the terms of the existing management agreement currently in force.