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Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness, has explained that there are no set grades by which students are awarded high school places, as it is the level of competition that determines if students are placed in the schools of their choice.
He said that with students doing better across the board in the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), due to the new thrust for excellence at the primary level, students are achieving higher grades, and there is an increased number of students achieving top grades. This has resulted in more students competing for the limited number of traditional high school places.
The Minister was speaking at a press conference, held at Jamaica House today (June 21), to give an update on the results of the 2010 GSAT, which were released on June 18.
Mr. Holness said that the competition for places is evidenced by the fact that the top 20 preferred schools have a total of just 4,720 places available, but some 24,239 parents chose these schools.
“The Ministry of Education does not set a score. There is no minimum score to get into a school that is set by the Ministry. What happens is that if the top school has 200 places, the person who has the highest grade, starting at rank number one to number 200, they get those preferences. We don’t then go down to the 250th person (for example) and place them…if your score matches you with a place, based on a rank, you get it, and it’s done automatically,” the Minister explained.
Once all the preferences (schools chosen by the parent/student) have been exhausted, the Ministry then places students according to proximity, which refers to the location of the primary school the student attends from the high school, where they are being placed, and not the closeness to their homes.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Audrey Sewell explained that this may be the reason why many students are placed at some schools which they never chose, as a result of their failure to find places in the five schools of their choice.
Mr. Holness said the Ministry could not do it any other way. “We understand the frustration of parents.which is why I am appealing to parents (to understand) that the school that your child is placed, the Ministry is working with that school to make sure that that’s a preferred school. Help us, work with us to make that school a preferred school,” the Minister implored.
He said parents, students and the public at large must start giving all schools a fair chance at being successful. “We are working to improve the instructional and institutional components, and leadership of the schools. Let’s work together to make all our schools successful,” he urged.
Meanwhile, Chief Education Officer, Grace McClean, said her team is available to address all queries and concerns related to the GSAT. “We invite parents who are having unique circumstances to get in touch with the regional offices, and we will try to see how best we can provide assistance,” she assured.
Regional hotlines that have been established for parents are: 948-9964 (Region One); 993-5106 (Region Two); 917-8348 (Region Three); 684-9751 (Region Four); 961-2973 (Region Five); and 754-4842 (Region Six).