Minister of Education, Hon Ronald Thwaites, says that while there are many schools performing below expectations, the solution is not relegating them to "failed status", but by renewing focus on adequate preparation at the early childhood education level.
The Minister made the remarks while touring the Holy Trinity High School, situated in his Central Kingston constituency, which is among the schools designated as failing by the Ministry of Education last year.
Speaking to the search for solutions, the Minister proposed that clusters of top achieving schools could interact with each other in order to provide motivation, and share resources and experiences to raise standards and achieve excellence.
Using the Central Kingston cluster of schools – Alpha Academy, Kingston College, St George’s College and Holy Trinity High School- the Minister said he will be approaching respective school boards, to explore the idea and ensure that it becomes a reality by the beginning of the next academic year.
Mr. Thwaites indicated that the success of this approach, will inform its application to similar circumstances across the island.
With specific reference to the Holy Trinity High School, He said that the resource constraints need to be addressed. He added that with some 1,600 students in regular attendance, “the school is over 60 percent of what it was designed to accommodate."
He also noted that other facilities, such as the library and the computer laboratory, were inadequate.
The Minister promised to engage private sector partnerships to expand the physical plant and, in so doing, end the shift system and allow students more opportunities for extra-curricular activities and other enrichment programmes.
With respect to the critical need for additional school places island-wide, he urged the private sector to partner with the government and invest in this aspect of education, not merely as a "philanthropic gesture", but as a serious investment in potential human resources that would drive economic development.
He encouraged the school's staff to redouble efforts at delivering quality education, despite the resource constraints, and the school's generosity of spirit in accepting many students who did not perform well in the GSAT examinations and thus were "rejected" by other schools.
He also thanked the school board's members for their service, and assured them that they would remain in place for some time, despite his right to appoint a new board. The Holy Trinity High School was the first school to be visited by the newly appointed Minister.