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Executive Director of the Education Transformation Team in the Ministry of Education, Frank Weeple, said that plans are in place to establish a leadership college that will collaborate with sector stakeholders islandwide, to provide “state of the art” professional development and support for principals.
Addressing the National Council on Education’s (NCE) Awards Dinner at the Mona Visitors’ Lodge on Wednesday (Dec. 3), Mr. Weeple said that excellent management and leadership, in addition to high quality teachers, and ensuring accountability within schools, are key factors to educational transformation and the effective operation of schools in Jamaica.
“We need to ensure that we are identifying the right candidates for principalship, (that we are) identifying potential early, succession planning, training leadership teams and middle managers, mentoring and supporting principals, and customising training and development to meet the individual needs,” he stated.
He noted that extensive training and systems of appraisal have been undertaken for principals. “We have successfully piloted our new data profilers, self-evaluation instruments, and school improvement planning instruments, to help to support schools to take greater ownership of their planning and development. We are providing support for leadership in 50 targeted schools, which are perceived not to have strong leadership,” he informed.
He noted that even with these efforts, “we have a long way to travel before we reach the uniformly high standard of leadership that the system requires” and the establishment of the leadership college, in conjunction with the Jamaica Teacher’s Council (JTC), will ensure pre-requisite qualifications for principals.
As it relates to accountability, Mr. Weeple informed that the National Education Inspectorate (NEI), is leading the charge in this regard, informing that a comprehensive programme of school inspections will commence for the 2009/10 academic year next September.
“This (NEI) is a body, of which we have very high expectations. Inspections will be linked to action for improvements. no more reports sitting on shelves with no follow-up; inspection reports will be published. Recommendations for improvements will be made, which will be (undertaken) by the schools, and supported and monitored by the Regional Educational Agencies. Strong action will be taken to remedy weaknesses and, indeed, failure,” he assured, adding that the inspectorate will report to Parliament annually, on the state of education.
Mr. Weeple further pointed to the need to attract quality teachers to the profession, noting that research shows that the main characteristics of good teachers are academic achievement, communication skills, and motivation.
He informed that the JTC has commenced work on prioritising the establishment of standards regulations, as well as introducing a licensing system as it leads the effort at developing a high quality profession.
“We need high quality professional development, mentoring, support, appraisal, and proper management of the performance of teachers. We must develop teachers who can inspire (and) teach children to think. It is the supreme act of the teacher to awaken joy, creative expression, and knowledge (within children). The Jamaica Teachers Council has a big task ahead of it, but we are confident that it will deliver,” he stated.
The National Council on Education’s Awards Dinner, was held to honour persons, who contributed to the drafting of the Educational Reform Jamaica Report in 2004, entitled: ‘A transformed education system’. They include the 14 members of the Special Task Force, which spearheaded the effort, chaired by retired University of Technology (UTech) President Dr. Rae Davis, as well as six other stakeholders, including: former Prime Minister Edward Seaga, and former Government Ministers, Dr. Omar Davies, and Maxine Henry-Wilson.