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The Ministry of Education is seeking to help increase the number of preferred high school places, by creating Centres of Excellence, with at least six such model institutions slated to be in place by September 2011.
“For those schools that are performing below the accepted standard of the Ministry, we will bring them under the concept of the Centre of Excellence.we have one such centre operating now, which is Belmont Academy,” Mr. Holness explained at a press conference, held at Jamaica House on June 21.
He pointed out that all new schools will be operated under this scheme of management. “The Principal and administrative leadership of the schools will be placed under a performance based contract. This is a new thrust towards improving the performance of our schools, so that we can create more preferred spaces to accommodate those students who are improving their performance at GSAT and who deserve a preferred place in our education system,” the Minister said.
The legislative authority for Centres of Excellence has been completed, and is to go to Parliament for approval. The schools to come under this concept include three existing high schools, which are among the 30 that have already been evaluated by the National Education Inspectorate, which operates out of the Ministry.
Meanwhile, three new schools, including Mansfield High (St. Ann), will be opened in September, and two others to be sited in Manchester and St. Catherine, are scheduled to come on stream in September 2011.
Mr. Holness said that the “failure” or “failing” of a school is defined through an objective evaluation of the schools, carried out by the Inspectorate. For the schools that have already been inspected, a decision is to be taken as to what kinds of interventions will be made by placing them under the administration of a Centre of Excellence.
The Minister explained that the Ministry would seek to enable and assist schools that are underperforming, to manage and address issues that might be affecting them, such as resources, lack of support, and location challenges.
He stressed the importance of accountability in the schools. “For too long our education system has been based on expectations.we expect the teachers to turn up, we expect them to deliver the curriculum fully, we expect parents to play a part and we expect Principals to lead the school in an appropriate manner – but we were not really checking. Now we are examining the schools, to see what they are doing, to see whether or not they meet the standards,” the Minister said.