Ninety-eight per cent of the 701 students at Mile Gully High School in Manchester are re-engaged, following the two-year disruption of the education sector, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Principal of the school, Christopher Tyme, told JIS News that they carried out extensive outreach interventions, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Youth’s ‘Yard to Yard, Find the Child’ initiative, in an effort to reach all the students registered in grades seven to 13, from 40 communities.
“We’re only down to about two students because we have found that the addresses on file and numbers that we have [are unreachable]. We cannot locate them, and persons were either unwilling to assist us or just didn’t know where these students were,” he said.
Mr. Tyme, who has been Principal for four years, disclosed that the school began its in-house interventions in November 2021, when the Government allowed students sitting their exit examinations to physically return to school.
“We really went out to get those children. We would have identified about 23 of them who are working and had no intention of going back to school. They were gainfully employed,” he said.
According to the Principal, of the approximately 140 students registered for grade 11, only 40 to 50 were participating in online classes.
He pointed out that the school’s initiative resulted in 120 of these students being engaged prior to the ‘Yard to Yard’ project by the Ministry in January.
Meanwhile, the school’s initiative also found that approximately 272 students from the other grades were disengaged from December 2021.
On March 7, 2022, the Government allowed for the full resumption of face-to-face classes for all students, and Mr. Tyme commended the Ministry for providing a social worker along with a youth worker to assist the school in finding the students.
“They were the ones, along with the Dean of Discipline, the Guidance Counsellor, and form teachers who would have identified students that are unaccounted for and would have produced a spreadsheet of those students,” he said.
Mr. Tyme said after making more than 300 phone calls from the list, students began returning to school.
“Those who we were unable to get through by phone calls we visited and batched them according to the communities that they live in and reached out further,” he said.
Some 264 of the 272 students were accounted for under the ‘Yard to Yard’ initiative.
The Principal said the school’s welfare programme continued to provide social support for students with financial challenges.
“We bought shoes, bags and uniforms for them and we did a lot of things to make sure they came out to school. Our Chairman would have provided over 50 bags with books and those who had those challenges were able to receive them,” he noted.
“Also, the Guidance Counsellor, a very resourceful individual, would have also facilitated several families [to receive help] from the Poor Relief Department in Manchester. Those would have gotten assistance and still do, in order to come to school at this moment,” he added.
Mr. Tyme said following the disruption of classes for two years, there is “significant learning loss” among the students.
“What we have done is to identify those children who have the greatest challenge and place them in a special intervention programme,” he told JIS News.
He said the programme is being piloted with 20 students under the management of a literacy specialist and special educator.
“They would have designed the programme that we’re presently implementing, and the school would have initially identified $340,000 for the programme,” the Principal said.
Mr. Tyme said following the first assessment at the end of March this year, some students’ reading levels have increased.
“Over the past two months since the programme was implemented, we have had about two students who have not shown any progress and they will be recommended for psycho-educational testing to see if there are any other issues that we need to deal with,” he noted.
Despite the challenges, Mr. Tyme remains optimistic that the students will continue to progress with the support of staff and the relevant stakeholders of the school.