New Policy Coming for Private Schools


The Ministry of Education has drafted a new policy on the operations of private educational institutions, Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Audrey Sewell, has disclosed.
Mrs. Sewell said that Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness, will soon reveal the policy, which will focus on issues such as the general management of the institutions, including their financial, registration, enrolment and examinations systems.
“We have had problems in the past, and that would have informed the decision to draft this policy, which we will be presenting to the executive management and the Minister, and hopefully to Cabinet, soon. But we are looking at it within the broader framework of the education transformation agenda,” Mrs. Sewell said.
She made the disclosure at a media briefing at the Ministry, National Heroes Circle, in Kingston on Monday (March 8) which looked at the issue at Hutton’s Education Unit, a private, secondary school, whose students may miss Caribbean Examinations Council Exams this year, due to its failure to pay over their fees.
Mrs. Sewell said that the Ministry will be investigating the operations at Hutton’s, a private, secondary school with campuses in Kingston and St. Catherine.
Approximately 1,000 students of the institution have been registered to sit the 2010 Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) external examinations in June. However, Hutton’s owes the governing body, the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC), just over
$4 million, after missing payment deadlines up to December 31, 2009.
The fate of the students hangs in the balance until Monday, as lawyers for the Overseas Examination Commission (OEC), the local CXC registrar, and Hutton’s, attempt to reach an agreement in time for the final extension date for payment for sitting the 2010 regional external examinations.
Mrs. Sewell said that a Ministry Committee, which oversees independent schools, will be asked to undertake an investigation into the operations at the Hutton’s.
“We cannot allow one institution to shake the integrity of our independent external examination system. We would like to know what are the real issues (and) what is the truth in all of this,” she stated.
Giving a chronology of the developments, Executive Director of the OEC,
Mr. Hector Stephenson, said that having missed the initial payment deadline and extensions up to December 31, 2009, Hutton’s has been required to make penalty payments, in addition to the fees.
He said that Hutton’s made two payments, between January and February, amounting to some $6.4 million, then requested a waiver of late fee payments, which currently stands at $4.09 million, in a letter to the OEC, dated February 5.
This application was declined by the CXC, when the OEC met with them on February 24. The CXC contended that late registration incurred additional costs for printing and distributing material for candidates, which has to be met.
Mrs. Sewell said that the Ministry has already indicated to the school that it is unable to meet the outstanding costs, however, having taken the students situation into consideration, the CXC has indicated a willingness to allow them to sit the Exams, on condition that Hutton’s sign an “irrevocable agreement” to pay the fees within a timeframe to be decided.
She pointed out that they are required to sign the document ahead of the final extension date for registration, March 15.
“We are hoping that he (Mr. Hutton) will sign this agreement, that will allow the students to sit their examinations,” she said.

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