Talks continue between Education Ministry, Bishop Anstey/Trinity College East

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Bishop Anstey High School East. FILE PHOTO/ANGELO MARCELLE –

THE Ministry of Education (MoE) says its talks continue with the Bishop Anstey Association (BAA) over the transition of Bishop Anstey/Trinity College East (BATCE) from being run as a private to a government-assisted model, in a statement on May 2.

The MoE statement said a transition had been agreed – by saying the two parties were “currently negotiating the terms of transitioning” and the BAA last August chose to transition – but an internal school memo on Friday said the BAA had not made any final decision.

On May 1, someone began an online petition on the website titled, Keep BATCE a privately operated school, after which the ministry issued its statement followed by a school memo to BATCE staff.

While petitioners vented fears the school would decline under the Government, the petition was closed on Thursday, with an explanation, “The myths about the situation have been debunked.”

The ministry statement noted the end of the 20 year arrangement in 2021, but assured in the negotiation period the Government would continue to fund school operations, and all student spaces, as done for the past 23 years.

The ministry statement said BATCE was set up in 2000 (with a sixth form added in 2008) via a build, own, lease, transfer (BOLT) arrangement with the Government at a cost of about $60 million per year for 20 years. The Government fully paid the loan and now owns the property.

After negotiations began in 2019, in August 2023 the BAA chose to become government-assisted. “This decision by the BAA triggered complex negotiations with respect to staffing and school operations.”

The talks are continuing and the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) has been engaged, the ministry said.

As of last year, the Government has given five years for the BATCE to transition to becoming government-assisted, with Cabinet to approve the final recommendations and implementation plan.

The ministry said the Government was resolutely committed to ensuring a smooth transition and to financially support BATCE in the negotiation and transition periods.

“The negotiations are at an advanced stage and final recommendations for the transition are expected to go to Cabinet within the next 30 to 60 days.

“The ministry assures all stakeholders including parents, students and staff that the transition team comprising the MoE, BAA and TSC has been working sensitively and collaboratively towards the conclusion of this matter, and all decisions taken will be in the best interest of the school and its continued success.”

A memo to school staff from acting head of administration, Brian Wickham, on May 3 painted a slightly different picture.

It said Anglican Bishop Claude Berkeley held an emergency meeting with the BAA and negotiating team on Thursday over the ministry statement, and unanimously agreed to engage counsel.

The memo said, “No final decision has been made by the BAA on the proposed transition and the operations of the BATCE continue as is.” The BAA has told the ministry of its “unyielding position that the retention of jobs, years of service and positions of staff must be assured” as they have been key to the school’s success over 23 years.

The school statement said the option to remain “as is” would be at “a significantly reduced cost per student,” compared to becoming government-run.

It said the BAA and negotiating team said negotiations must be done under an ethic of fairness and caring, and that “the BATCE product is not compromised now or in the future.”

Promising updates, the memo concluded, “I thank you for your forbearance during this difficult time and for ensuring quality teaching and learning to our students has remained unaffected.”