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Newly installed President of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA), Clayton Hall, has expressed support for the effort by Minister of Education, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites, to place more emphasis on the delivery of special education to children with learning disabilities.

Delivering his inaugural address at the annual conference of the Association, held on August 20, at the Ritz Carlton Golf and Spa Resort, in Montego Bay, St. James,

Mr. Hall reported that the JTA, in collaboration with the Canadian Teachers Federation, has been hosting several special summer programmes, which have resulted in the training of 200 teachers at all levels of the education system, to boost the delivery of special education.

"The Association will also be organising an advanced Certificate Course offered by the Nova Southern University, so it is very evident that we continue to do our part,” he said.

"Another important recommendation, and a position that the JTA supports,  is the psycho-educational assessment of students in the early years, from early childhood level, so that they can be appropriately placed in schools and their needs catered to. I therefore commend the effort for the health passport being promoted, so that the needs will be addressed as the students move through the various levels of the system,” Mr. Hall told the audience.

Rev. Thwaites, while addressing the recent annual conference of the Jamaica Independent Schools Association (JISA), held in Ocho Rios, noted that some $20 billion is spent on remedial education annually, and called for a shift to take place for special education, as some 25 per cent of school children fall on the spectrum of mild disability, or severe disability learning.

He pointed out that extra lessons might not be the best for the children, and that an understanding must be created, “to see how we can stretch and articulate our facilities to meet (the needs of) those children, otherwise we will keep doing the same thing over and over again."Meanwhile, the JTA President called for continued dialogue between his organisation and the Ministry of Education, to work for improved protection, in public spaces, of children with special needs, and have, where possible, “adjustments made…so that children who are physically challenged, can attend school."

He also urged that the “name calling and blame game” should cease over the poor performance in the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) Mathematics and English tests, and that the time should be used to come up with measures to correct whatever deficiencies that may exist.

Mr. Hall told the gathering that agricultural ventures at schools must be used to teach children to be entrepreneurs. “We would want to see school farms being used as practical training for youngsters… and we want to see poverty alleviation programmes implemented through education and training,” the President said.