JIS News

The Ministry of Education has said that classes for the 115 students placed at the Steer Town Primary and Junior High School, after sitting the Grade Nine Achievement Test (GNAT), should begin next week.
A brief, provided by the Ministry, stated that 90 per cent of refurbishing work on the building, which will accommodate the students, has been completed, with the remainder scheduled to be finished by Monday (September 21).
“All other arrangements have been made for a smooth start-up on Monday, which includes: furniture being in place; four new teachers employed; the required support staff being recruited (and) a programme for students (being) developed,” the brief stated.
The students were placed at Steer Town as part of the Ministry’s Empowerment Programme which caters to those who scored below 30 per cent in the GNAT.
Speaking at a press briefing at his Ministry’s head office in Kingston on Wednesday (September 16), portfolio Minister, Hon Andrew Holness, noted that despite reports of “chaos” at the institution, the Ministry has executed its duties in finding spaces for the students in a “fair and responsible manner”.
“We negotiated with the principal, [who] agreed to take (the) extra students, and we provided the resources to the principal for those extra students. My understanding is that, when we finally published the results, we needed to have placed an additional 20 students, and we went back to the principal. So it was not a surprise to the principal, or to the school that they would need to accommodate additional students,” Mr. Holness explained.
“They had an unfinished building, and the Ministry immediately provided the resources to finish it so that those students could be accommodated,” he added.
The Education Minister also used the opportunity to dispel the notion that Grade 10 students were being placed at a school that only facilitates learning up to Grade nine.
“That is patently not true. There is no automatic promotion for students at GNAT level into grade 10,” he said. He pointed out that most students who are successful in GNAT are placed in Grade Nine of the schools in which they are placed.
“So, if they do well at GNAT, that is they get a score in excess of 50 per cent, they get a place in a traditional five-year school, and those schools usually opt to place them back in Grade Nine,” the Education Minister said.
He reaffirmed the Ministry’s commitment to building more schools to address the shortage of space at the secondary level. He noted, however, that in the interim it is better to keep the students in school, than to have them out on the streets.
“We will have to find the resources where possible to expand, and that is what we have done,” he said.
The Ministry’s Empowerment Programme was developed in 2005. As part of the programme, students undergo a year of special numeracy and literacy studies, to ensure a smooth transition into Grade 10 after sitting the GNAT Exam a second time the following year. Those who are still not at the required level are placed under the Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning, for further remedial instruction.

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