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  • As of September, the Ministry of Education will seek to improve the performances of three high schools in St. Thomas, through the pooling of resources, under a school district arrangement model.
  • The institutions identified are the Robert Lightbourne, Paul Bogle and Seaforth high schools.

As of September, the Ministry of Education will seek to improve the performances of three high schools in St. Thomas, through the pooling of resources, under a school district arrangement model.

The institutions identified are the Robert Lightbourne, Paul Bogle and Seaforth high schools.

Minister of Education, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, made the disclosure today (August 20), during a breakfast meeting with senior journalists, held at the Alhambra Inn and Restaurant in Kingston, to present the findings of the latest National Education Inspectorate (NEI) report.

The Minister pointed out that through this arrangement, an agglomeration of students in a district is provided for by the Education Code. “It was thought of before, but never implemented,” he said.

“What we have resolved to do as a start there, and it will continue, is to see if we can move the schools closer together under a single administrative organization. Not to take away the responsibilities of the individual Boards and Principals, but rather to create a legal matrix for sharing,” he said.

He noted that currently, the Robert Lightbourne High School is facing challenges in terms of teacher/student ratio, where the arrangement is one teacher to eight students. In addition, he pointed out that the well-equipped school has 1,200 places and about 200 students; while five miles away, a triple shift school is being run at Seaforth High.

Similarly, the Minister pointed out that there is just a three-mile difference or so between Robert Lightbourne and Paul Bogle High, “which is on a shift system when it need not be.”

“We are trying to use all the resources at our disposal – the legislative resources, the social suasion, the relationships within the factors in the education system – to provide better results,” he said.

The decision to embark on this programme is in direct response to the NEI report which has revealed that in a large number of the schools, students have not attained the minimum academic standards, with 39 per cent of the schools rated at satisfactory and above.

This latest round of inspections were conducted in 129 schools between September 2013 and March 2014, with the objective to establish a baseline of the quality of educational inputs and outputs in the schools inspected.

Turning to other strategies the Ministry is implementing in response to the findings, the  Minister informed that five schools in Region Two, where weaknesses are pronounced, are receiving targeted support in leadership teaching and learning strategies from a programme sponsored by Jamaica National.

“We have provided leadership training for 128 principals, whose performance was unsatisfactorily under the aegis of the National College of Educational Leadership,” he further informed.

Targeted support was also given for 96 secondary schools with marginal or low performance in Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) Mathematics and English examinations. This intervention, the Minister said, resulted in the overall 18 per cent increase among these schools in passes for Mathematics and English in the recent CSEC results.

Additionally, the Ministry has deployed 90 literacy and language coaches in over 400 schools to retool teachers this year. Similarly, the Ministry is currently preparing an equal number of Math coaches, who will be deployed to weak schools starting in September.

In the meantime, the Minister, providing a breakdown of the NEI report, informed that 39 per cent or 50 of the schools inspected in this round were rated as effective, while 61 per cent or 79 schools were rated as ineffective.

“Effective schools are defined as having strong leadership, a clear school mission, quality teaching and learning, a safe and orderly climate, transparent and effective monitoring of students’ progress, high expectations and parental involvement,” he said.

This latest round of inspection has brought the cumulative number of schools studied to date to 803. This sample represents 84 per cent of all primary and secondary schools .

The Minister pointed out that of the 803 schools inspected, 45 per cent of them were assessed to be effective and 55 per cent as ineffective.

“With over 803 schools inspected, it is clear, based on the data, that these trends are not likely to change when the entire baseline study of 954 public schools is completed. This means that we have sufficient evidence to show that the level of performance systemwide is, for the most part, mediocre – with the primary schools lagging behind the secondary ones,” Rev. Thwaites said.

Concluding, the Minister welcomed the report, noting that it seeks to build a culture of accountability in the Jamaican education system.

“The report turns the spotlight on the quality of education in the nation’s primary and secondary schools, and continues to provide the Ministry of Education and various stakeholders with timely and relevant data, which has positively impacted school improvement and policy-making efforts,” he said.