Minister Holness Promises Educational Development for West Central St. Andrew


Education Minister, Hon. Andrew Holness, says plans are afoot to transform Penwood High School, in West Central St. Andrew, into a “magnet” secondary institution for technology.
Speaking at Thursday’s (June 18) official opening and handing over of the school’s computer laboratory, Mr. Holness also announced that the Seaward Primary and Junior High School is to revert fully to a primary institution, focussing on achieving full literacy and numeracy for its students.
He said that these moves form part of an educational development plan for West Central St. Andrew, for which he is the Member of Parliament.
He pointed out that Penwood’s proficiency in the area of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) showed a particular skill in turning out high achievers in the area of ICT, including in terms of CXC results.
“I want you to concentrate and focus your resources, therefore, on making sure that Penwood High School is a magnet school for technology. So while you will make sure that all your students have the core competencies, your area of specialisation and focus, the area that will distinguish you from other schools, is that you are a technology school, and the Ministry of Education will support you in doing this,” he assured.
Mr. Holness lamented that “for many years” Penwood High had been “underutilised”.
He was quick to point out, however, that recent efforts by the principal and staff have seen the student population increasing to approximately 990. This figure is expected to increase to 1,200, with the proposed relocation of the junior high school programme from the Seaward Primary School.
He said this will enable more resources to be channelled into attaining full literacy and numeracy levels at Seaward Primary.
“To do that, we will be constructing several classrooms, and we have already identified where these classrooms will be going. I personally will be using funds from the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) to build those classrooms,” he stated.
But, the Minister cautioned that these changes will require greater leadership and management at the school, supported by his Ministry.
“The Ministry will be providing the necessary teaching and support staff to ensure that the principal has enough resources to manage the size school that you will have,” he said.
Penwood High School is the 100th institution to have its computer laboratory and support areas fully equipped under the e-Learning Jamaica Project, being spearheaded by e-Learning Jamaica Company Limited, an agency of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).
While acknowledging the challenges which Penwood has faced over the years, Mr. Holness contended that the institution is capable of becoming one of the top high schools in the Corporate Area, and the country, particularly in the use of technology in education.
“I know that Penwood has committed staff, (and) it has concerned parents. But some of the challenges it is faced with are not insurmountable. I think with strong leadership, Penwood can become one of the top high schools,” he said.
Principal of Penwood High, Austin Burrell, in expressing gratitude to the stakeholders contributing to the establishment of the computer lab, recounted the school’s progression in ICT, moving from having no computers and support technology to their current complement of 75 from the e-Learning Jamaica Company.
He pointed out that in reviewing the CXC results for 2005 Penwood, with 15 computers at the time, had 21 students sit the information technology exam, of whom 19 were successful, five with distinctions.
“The following year, we increased (the number of computers) to 35, and we entered 54 students at CSEC, (of whom) 42 were successful with 12 distinctions (and) 12 credits. So, in making Penwood the leading school in ICT, we are on board,” Mr. Burrell said.
He gave the assurance that he and his staff will use the technology they have received in ensuring that maximum and optimum benefits accrue to the students.

JIS Social