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  • Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid, says almost 800 trained teachers have been engaged in the basic and infant-school departments to improve the quality of early-childhood education.
  • He noted that, to date, 276 basic schools or early-childhood institutions have been rationalised into 169 infant departments and infant schools, with another 168 set to undergo a similar transition during this financial year.
  • Senator Reid said that in keeping with this thrust, a range of programmes are being undertaken.

Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid, says almost 800 trained teachers have been engaged in the basic and infant-school departments to improve the quality of early-childhood education.

Addressing the 52nd annual Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) Conference at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa in Rose Hall, St. James, on August 24, the Minister said that, in addition, an allocation is made for 400 volunteer teachers to be engaged in clusters.

This, he said, will be done this year under the Housing, Opportunity, Prosperity, Employment (HOPE) programme.

“These teachers are being paid by the Ministry.  During this financial year, we will continue the Basic School Rationalization Programme, under which we establish infant departments within existing primary schools,” the Minister pointed out.

He noted that, to date, 276 basic schools or early-childhood institutions have been rationalised into 169 infant departments and infant schools, with another 168 set to undergo a similar transition during this financial year.

“We are fully committed to improving the quality of our early-childhood institutions, as we firmly believe in providing a good start at this level,” the Minister said.

Senator Reid said that in keeping with this thrust, a range of programmes are being undertaken. These include the use of developmental assessments to understand competencies, so as to create a learning environment that will foster the development of early-stage learners.

He reminded his JTA audience that the Jamaica Early-Childhood School Readiness Assessment was developed with this rationale in mind, adding that the assessment is used to identify those children who have social, developmental or learning challenges, in order to facilitate early intervention before their transition to primary school.

For her part, Special Education Consultant, Dr. Polly Bowes-Howell, applauded the Minister for his commitment to assist students with special needs.

She said consideration should be given to establishing resource centres at the grade-seven level, in order to assist students with special challenges.

“Children should not go into grade seven without being screened. The vision, the hearing and the physical health should all be given an indepth look. We need to set up resource rooms because, even the gifted and talented, we find that they are frustrated in the classroom at times,” she said.

In response, the Minister said Dr. Bowes-Howell’s recommendation will be given serious consideration, adding that it is very important to get it right at the early-childhood level.