Beaches! Palm trees! Coconuts! When you’re a parent of a small child in an island paradise or about to move there, it’s fair to say that school is probably the last thing on your children’s minds.
Fortunately, your kids have you to look out for them. As anywhere, the “school of life” is an important part of the Bermuda experience, however, a little more will be required by the Bermuda authorities.
Schooling in Bermuda is compulsory between the ages of 5-16. Choosing the right school is a critical element of ensuring your time on the island is a success for the whole family.
In this article, we’ll school you on everything you need to know about the education system in Bermuda. From private to public schools, GCSE to International Baccalaureate, you’ll find everything you need right here.
What kinds of schools does Bermuda have?
You can choose the public education system, run by the Bermuda Ministry of Education, or you can go private by choosing one of the international schools that are independently funded and operated.
Just like every other country in the world, in Bermuda, there are positives and negatives for each system. The question to ask yourself is: what is right for your child?
As a local parent of a small child entering school or an expat in Bermuda, there is a range of issues to consider when picking a school. Which school has the approach that will suit your child the best? Do you want your child to follow the curriculum you want for your child or that of your home country? Do you expect to be in Bermuda for your child’s entire school career or might you move to another overseas jurisdiction?
Most importantly, which school will best prepare your child for life after school?
Public schools in Bermuda
In Bermuda, public schools cover a five-stage program that’s similar to many education systems in the west, mostly following general curriculum guidelines such as those in the UK, USA, Australia/New Zealand, Canada and France.
The first and last stages – preschool and college – are optional. Primary, middle and senior school are compulsory until at least the age of 16. Around 6000 local Bermudian children attend public school on the island.
Number of schools
4 and up
P1 – P6
5 and up
M1 – M3
11 - 14
S1 – S4
14 - 18
Public schools in Bermuda teach in English and the school year runs from September - June. Education is free up to the age of 19, and students graduate with the Bermuda Certificate of Education (BCE).
After completing senior school, students have the option of enrolling at Bermuda College , which is the only tertiary institution on the island. Many students also apply to universities overseas.
Preschools in Bermuda
From the age of four, your child can attend any of the 10 free neighborhood preschools across the island. Classes are limited to 10 per teacher, and all teachers are qualified with the minimum of a Bachelor’s degree.
Primary schools in Bermuda
Bermuda’s 18 primary schools are zoned into three districts. Students must attend a school that is part of their residence zone – so where you decide to live will have a big impact on the options available. The 18 primary schools offer a curriculum that covers English, math, science, social studies, music, art and physical education.
Middle schools in Bermuda
After primary school, students move on to one of five middle schools offering core courses in English, math, science and social studies. Students can take additional classes in art, music, business studies, design and technology, and physical education.
Senior schools in Bermuda
School in Bermuda concludes with four years at one of two senior schools . Here, students have a similar core curriculum as the primary and middle schools with classes in English, math, science and social studies. They also have more choice of electives, depending on their interests. These include electives such as visual arts, health education, family studies, business studies, theatre, dance, design and technology, music, physical education and computer science.
Secondary schools also offer a range of certification programs:
- The Bermuda School Certificate (BSC), which is awarded after students achieve 104 credits over four years of attendance
- External GCSE examinations in a range of subjects. For students who choose these exams, the Ministry of Education covers the cost of the exams in core areas.
- NCCER courses (National Centre for Construction Education and Research) for design and technology or technical arts students. This option assists students looking for certification opportunities to continue their education after graduation, for example in more vocational or specialized courses, such as carpentry.
Does Bermuda have schools for children with special needs?
Yes - there are two schooling options for children who have special needs, whether they are physical, cognitive or behavioral.
- Dame Marjorie Bean Hope A cademy, for up to 25 students with physical and cognitive challenges
- The Education Center, for up to 30 students with severe behavioral challenges
Private and international schools in Bermuda
There is a long and established private schooling tradition in Bermuda. In fact, the oldest private school on the island, Warwick Academy, was first founded in 1662 and is said to be the longest-operating school in the Western hemisphere.
Private and international schools in Bermuda don’t receive government funding. They’re funded through donations and student fees, which gives the schools more flexibility to design their own curriculums or align them with the countries from which many of the students originate.
International schools can be an excellent option for expat families. Instruction often comes in multiple languages – French, English, Japanese, German - and studies can be easily transferred to another overseas location with minimal disruption.
Which curriculums do Bermuda’s private schools offer?
- Bermuda High School – follows the UK system and offers the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Single-sex for girls only up to grade 11, then co-educational for IB classes.
- Bermuda Institute – follows the North American system, under the guidance of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church (kindergarten – grade 12)
- Mount Saint Agnes Academy – a Catholic school following the North American system (kindergarten – grade 12)
- Saltus Grammar School – follows the UK system, including GCSE and I/GCSE
- Warwick Academy – follows the UK system and offers the International Baccalaureate program
- Somersfield Academy – a Montessori school with an International Baccalaureate middle school program (ages 3-12)
How much do private schools in Bermuda cost?
In general, you can expect to pay annual tuition fees anywhere from around $11,000 per year to over $22,000 – and that’s without factoring in the additional cost of extra-curricular activities such as music, sports, excursions and other items.
Unlike many other countries, any scholarships or other forms of financial assistance are only available for local Bermudian students. This means you’ll have to consider the expense of these schools in relation to the package your employer is offering, along with the relatively high cost of living in Bermuda.
Here are some recent examples of annual school fees for some of Bermuda’s popular private schools:
- $11,500 for Bermuda Institute (2016-2017 academic year)
- $18,990 for Warwick Academy (2016-2017 academic year)
- $19,990 for Bermuda High School (2016-2017 academic year)
- $22,040 for Saltus Grammar (2017-2018 academic year)
Is private school in Bermuda worth it?
Bermuda’s private schools are very popular with expat families. Places are limited and highly sought after, so the best advice is to apply well in advance.
What makes the private schools so popular? There are three key reasons:
- Many expat families see the quality of education at Bermuda’s private schools as more to their liking.
- Students at the private schools are seen as better prepared to qualify for places at international boarding schools or, after graduation, for universities in other countries such as the US, UK or Canada
- A high number of the schools follow international curriculum, which is helpful for those students who will eventually return to their home country – or move to a new jurisdiction – as well as for those who want to apply to universities overseas.
Making the decision that’s right for your child
Choosing a school is something that will be influenced by many factors. Quality and expense are just two. Remember that cultural fit and teaching style are often just as important. It can be a good idea to visit the school and talk with the principal and teaching faculty to understand more about their approach.
Ultimately, you need to make the decision that is best for your child. Be ready for them to have a strong opinion about which one they’d rather attend! Choosing a school is never easy. This is true no matter what country you’re in. But rest assured as you weigh the decision, Bermuda has everything you’ll need for your child’s education in one way or another.