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MONTEGO BAY – Minister of Education, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites, has said that the National College in Educational Leadership is to commence the training of 30 school principals and vice principals by year end.

Rev. Thwaites, said the Government's quest to develop school leadership is on track, noting that, "over 30 principals who are now serving, but who have expressed the desire for further training, or who have evidenced the need for that (training), … or persons who are doing well at their level in the education system, who are obvious candidates for advancement in due course, will be included in this initial endeavour."

He made the disclosure while delivering the main address at the opening session of the annual conference of the Association of Principals and Vice Principals, held on Thursday, October 11, at the Bahia Principe Clubs and Resorts, in Runaway Bay, St. Ann.

He said that the training will last for several weeks. "It is not going to require absence from your post for long periods of time. It will be articulated in ways that allow for you to carry on your duties with appropriate rest when there are intense sessions," the Minister said.

Minister Thwaites explained that the initiative, which is to start "hopefully by November", was put together by experts in leadership development and will be conducted by the Mona Institute of Business and personnel from the Education Ministry.

"School principals and vice principals can no longer be just graduated teachers, although the best of our principals have had strong and laudable teaching careers. The fact is that the task is becoming more and more involved, and involves many skills. The Government accepts the need for very intricate training for those who will assume the responsibility of school direction. The talents of a good principal and vice principal are not only in the academic sphere that he or she may have been trained in, the talent involves advanced management techniques," he stated.

He further added that the management and coordination of the school population, its finances and infrastructure, have now attracted greater focus than they did in the past.

He also called on the Association to work with the Ministry of Education to resolve several issues, including the skewed teacher/student ratio at some schools.

He further challenged the group to help change the culture of reliance on imported goods, especially drinks that are sold to students, many of which are not nutritious. He noted that in many situations, there were parents involved in agriculture, and with leadership and motivation, their produce could be used to make the products sold in schools.

The Minister also announced that the Jamaica Teaching Council Bill has gone through eight months of consultation process with various stakeholders, and in another three weeks, several regional consultations will take place before it is presented for approval by the Parliament.