Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Audrey Sewell, has informed that Alternative Secondary Transitional Education Programme (ASTEP) centres have been established in some 192 selected Primary, All Age and Junior High Schools across the island.
She said the centres were carefully selected based on geographical location, accessibility, space, availability and leadership, in order to ensure better utilisation of existing infrastructure and adequate provision of the necessary resources.
Mrs. Sewell was addressing journalists during a press briefing at the Ministry’s Hero's Circle offices in Kingston, on August 19.
“We took a decision to use 192 of the 300 schools that were audited and we now have 253 centres, because in some schools, you have more than one centre,” she stated.
She said a new specialised curriculum has been developed for the students by the Institute of Education at the University of the West Indies, Mona.
ASTEP is a two-year transitional programme for students who were unable to sit the GSAT and move on to secondary education. The students will be assessed at the beginning and throughout the programme, so educators can follow their progress. ASTEP is expected to provide a modified secondary education with focus placed on literacy, so that students can make the transition to the secondary level.
“We have almost completed the recruitment of all staff to operate ASTEP. We have recruited teachers, guidance counsellors, centre co-ordinators and literacy and numeracy specialists. We are looking, also, for psychologists and other specialists to join the staff,” she informed.
Mrs. Sewell said the Ministry has provided additional support to those schools that will be housing ASTEP centres through the provision of grants for the upgrading of specific facilities.
“We have also gone to tender for the procurement of specialised equipment for the centres, and we have had sensitisation workshops with Board chairmen and principals who are working with the Ministry to finalise preparations,” she said.
The Permanent Secretary also informed that some students will be required to get new uniforms, based on the centre they will attend.
“The decision was taken based on feedback from parents that they don’t want them to be differentiated; they want them to be a part of the school to which they have been assigned,” she said.
She pointed out that orientation for parents will be held on September 5 at the institutions to which their children have been assigned. The students will also be expected to turn out for orientation on September 6 at their assigned centres.
“Many of them are going into new environments and so they need to be properly initiated and introduced into their new environments. We start full force with our ASTEP operations on September 7,” she informed.
Mrs. Sewell noted that under the programme, students are expected to transition into secondary schools in the first year of ASTEP, and some in the second year.
“We must accept, however, that all students will not be able to transition. A modified programme similar to the Career Advancement Programme will, therefore, be created to accommodate these students and ensure that they receive a modified secondary education,” she said.
By ATHALIAH REYNOLDS, JIS Reporter