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JIS News

National Co-ordinator for the Programme for Alternate Student Support (PASS), Michael Forrester, has disclosed that over 600 students from at least 60 schools islandwide, have benefitted from the programme since 2001.
“We had over 200 students in 2008. Since the beginning of 2009, we are already at 60 plus and counting. Overall, I would say that we have seen over 600 students. When we started in 2001, the numbers were pretty low but as the years went on, we saw more and more people utilising the programme. I would say at one point in time, about 60 schools utilised the programme, and last year, 35 schools used the programme,” Mr. Forrester outlined in an interview with JIS News.
According to the Co-ordinator, the programme is designed to address the behavioural problems that students exhibit in schools, particular in secondary schools.
He explained that the programme is “pursuant to the Education Act of 1980, Section 30, Subsection 6 [which], states that within the context of behavioural problems that are overwhelming in the schools, the principals may appeal to the Ministry of Education (MOE) for assistance, so back then in 2001, the principals were crying out for help, and so the programme came into being.”
Mr. Forrester noted that the main goal of PASS is to prevent students from being expelled, so principals are asked to refer students to the programme.
“The main goal is to ensure that we keep our youths in school, so what we do is to ask principals to refer the students who display maladaptive behaviours to the PASS programme, because what we do not want is our students to be suspended and expelled,” he explained, noting that after the referral, a therapist would work with the student to find out the underlying causes for the displayed behaviours.
He pointed out that in addition to making the referral, the Guidance Counsellor, Dean of Discipline or Principal “would write up a case history form, which would give some demographics, background to the student and a synopsis of the prevailing problem.”
“When that happens, it is followed up by a behavioural scale that we give to the Guidance Counsellor. Based on what the scale tells us, we will be able to determine mild, moderate or severe behaviour, then we would match up the referred child with a clinician,” Mr. Forrester said.
He said that a therapist would arrange the therapy sessions with the students outside of the regular school time, and they would be released when the necessary adjustments are made and significant changes are observed.
“If that doesn’t work, the student could go further, because there is what you call a partial pull out. It allows the child to go to school, but the child will come to a therapist, maybe three days a week for two hours. On the other hand, when it gets a little bit worse, the child is taken out of school, maybe for two weeks. We do the therapy session with them and reinstate them in school, but they would be marked present while they are going to therapy,” the Co-ordinator said.
In the meantime, he pointed out that PASS encourages early intervention and is calling on schools to identify the problems as soon as possible.
“We try to do early intervention, so what we encourage schools to do is to look for the signs, the red flags. Once they see the kids displaying a certain behaviour, they should not allow it to fester.so one of the plans we have in place now is to conduct training sessions for Guidance Counsellors, to be able to identify the behaviour problems much easier,” Mr. Forrester said.
PASS has partnered with the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA), in its efforts.