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  • A pilot project launched last year to pool the resources of the Paul Bogle, Seaforth and Robert Lightbourne high schools in St. Thomas under a school district arrangement model, has been doing “exceptionally well”.
  • This is according to Chief Education Officer in the Ministry of Education, Dr. Grace McLean, at a press conference earlier this month.
  • A National Education Inspectorate (NEI) report in August 2014, had found that the performance of the three schools was unsatisfactory.

A pilot project launched last year to pool the resources of the Paul Bogle, Seaforth and Robert Lightbourne high schools in St. Thomas under a school district arrangement model, has been doing “exceptionally well”.

This is according to Chief Education Officer in the Ministry of Education, Dr. Grace McLean, at a press conference earlier this month.

A National Education Inspectorate (NEI) report in August 2014, had found that the performance of the three schools was unsatisfactory.

Robert Lightbourne High was under-populated with a ratio of one teacher to eight students. While the school was well equipped to accommodate up to 1, 200 students, only some 200 students were enrolled.

Meanwhile, five miles away, Seaforth High was operating on a triple shift system and Paul Bogle High, also close by, was operating on a shift system as well.

Dr. McLean said a decision was made to move 140 students from Seaforth and Paul Bogle to Robert Lightbourne to boost that school’s population, and targeted literacy and numeracy interventions were implemented.

“The signs have been very encouraging,” she said. “We have seen where those students have moved upwards of three to four grade levels from where they came in,” she noted.

The students were also involved in an intensive summer camp for three weeks in July. Dr. McLean said a formal report will be formulated and made available from that aspect of the intervention.

Dr. McLean said the Ministry of Education has engaged a coordinator with responsibility for maintaining focus on teaching and learning, behavior management, as well as cultural and social development of the students at the three institutions.

 

She noted further that as part of the programme of assistance, “we have identified those (technical and vocational) skill areas that the different institutions are very good at and starting this September, the students will be going to these different institutions for those subjects.”

Robert Lightbourne High was provided with a bus to allow students to travel among the schools.

Dr. McLean said the Ministry is currently looking at the governance arrangements of the three schools so that more far-reaching initiatives can be implemented. A final report will then be done, which will determine how the model can be implemented in other parts of the island.  Schools in different regions, which fit the profile for such support, have already been identified.

Turning to other initiatives to assist under performing schools, the Chief Education Officer cited the Turn-Around Initiative, which is being implemented in 132 institutions across the island.

“We look at the issues and concerns regarding their overall academic performance and we focus specifically on different subjects, with emphasis on the curriculum, teaching and learning and other support that is required,” Dr. McLean said.

Out of the Turn Around Initiative, 20 high schools were identified, which have had improvements over the past two years but need to make further progress. The Ministry has met with the schools and they are currently developing action plans for the way forward.

“We are now meeting with them individually and are going to be ensuring that we provide the resources, the equipment that they need, the capacity building, the encouragement and the support, so we can start seeing that overall improvement that is required within the system,” she pointed out.

 

There is also the On-the-Cusp Initiative, which targets students whose examination results reveal that they are close to making the pass mark at the Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC) level, as well as in the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) and the Grade Four Literacy and Numeracy Tests.

These efforts are being buttressed through work being undertaken by the National College of Educational Leadership (NCEL) to strengthen school leadership and administration.

“We now have a pool of aspiring principals, who we are currently using to mentor some of the schools, which need that kind of support, as we build capacity in how they provide instructional support for students,” she said.