Top Student at the St. John's Primary School, Natalia Steer (right), speaks with JIS News at the St. Catherine-based institution recently. Her mother, Tedece Weir, looks on. Photo: Dave Reid
Photo: Dave Reid

When other students were preparing to sit the recent Diagnostic Test, St. John’s Primary School student Natalia Steer was hospitalised and battling an illness.

After surgery, the student returned to online school, and despite missing out on a great number of classes, she sat the examinations and scored the highest. This propelled her to becoming the Top Girl at the St. Catherine-based institution and gaining her first choice of St. Jago High School.

“I was sure that I would get out [of hospital] and do good on my exams, and I am very happy with what I got. The doctors treated me very good. The teachers are great, they did their best for me, and I really appreciate it,” she tells JIS News.

The budding engineer shares that while she was on a ward at the Bustamante Hospital for Children, her hope remained firm that she would pass for St. Jago, and when the results of the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) were announced, “I was very excited, because I really wanted to go to St. Jago”.

She says she grew up with the perception that the institution is a “very good school” based on testimonies from family members who are past students.

Natalia’s mother, Tedece Weir, shares that during the time of hospitalisation, she spent many nights at the hospital. Her finances were being depleted but the medical team saved her daughter, and her brilliance has landed her in her school of choice.

“I could not eat, I could not sleep, but thanks to the doctors and nurses at Children’s hospital. I am very grateful; continue to do your great work,” Ms. Weir told JIS News.

Family members are also past students of St John’s Primary and describing the institution as a “family school”, Natalia’s mother, says her siblings and several other family members attended the institution.

She asserts that the teachers were very supportive during the difficult times, and their role also added to her child’s success. Despite challenges with Internet connection, Natalia got the best at a very caring primary school.

Vice Principal at the school, Cynthia Dawkins, says the student is focused on her education, has a quiet personality, is a good writer, and has the right attitude towards success, even in trying circumstances.

“She understands what she needs to do to become a good Jamaican citizen,” and she spends time to prepare herself, Mrs. Dawkins says of the Valedictorian.

While highlighting the successes of the school, the Vice Principal says the institution is sought-after because it has strong management and is “moving from good to great”.

Vice Principal at St. John’s Primary School, in St. Catherine, Cynthia Dawkins (right), in discussion with top female student, Natalia Steer (left), and mother of the student, Tedece Weir (centre), at the school recently. Photo: Dave Reid


“Scoring as high as 99 per cent” in the PEP examinations “and we did well, considering the challenges that the students had. So, St. John’s is on the path to greatness, and we are pleased. We have some of the best teachers on the online platform,” she states.

Starting in the 2018/2019 academic year, students commenced sitting the Primary Exit Profile, which replaced the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) as the national secondary school placement test.

The main objective of PEP is to enhance the academic and critical thinking capabilities and creativity of students by the end of primary-level education. It involves a series of assessments that start from grade four and end in grade six. The three categories include Performance Task, Ability Test and Curriculum-Based Test.

PEP tests students’ aptitude, knowledge and skills in Mathematics, Science, Language Arts and Social Studies. They are required to apply their knowledge to real-life situations.  The Ability Test allows students to demonstrate their critical reasoning skills in areas outside of the curriculum.

The Curriculum-Based Test, the third and final assessment, is administered in grade six and focuses on Mathematics, Science, Social Studies and Language Arts.

With the closure of school in March of 2020 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), pandemic, the students have been placed based on the grades they received in the Grade Four Performance Task, and the Grade Six Ability Test.

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