Student Assessment Centres to be Established in Regional Offices

The Ministry of Education and Youth is to establish student assessment centres throughout its regional offices, in order to expand and improve the quality of psychological assessment services offered to students with disabilities. This is being done in keeping with the Ministry’s mandate to transform the education system.
Speaking at a JIS ‘Think Tank’ on March 21, Education Officer in the Special Education Unit, Hixwell Douglas, said that the establishment of these regional centres formed part of the objectives of the Ministry to decentralize its operations, by providing more autonomy to its six regional offices located across the island.
He added that the centres would provide standardized assessment services to schools which might have students with ‘special needs’, particularly those who have intellectual, learning and behavioural disorders. “Within the plans for the transformation of the education system, a recommendation has been made to establish regional assessment centres. These centres will undertake the task of ensuring that students go through proper assessments and that they are identified in their regular school system,” he said.
The recommendation, he noted, is as a result of the fact that a number of students have specific challenges which, in many instances, go undiagnosed. As such, he said that children who suffer from these disabilities are sometimes called ‘trouble makers’ or ‘dunce’.
“For example,” he pointed out, “a student may be regarded as a ‘trouble-maker’, but the teacher may not know that this child is suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which really speaks to a chemical imbalance in the system, which is causing the child to behave in a particular way. In those circumstances, the psychological assessment is crucial.”
“We are not there yet, but we have made great strides in trying to ensure access and equal opportunities for students with disabilities,” Mr. Douglas added.
The regional centres would therefore ensure that children with disabilities are properly assessed and subsequently diagnosed.
“I think the transformation process is addressing a number of those issues and we hope that as we move forward with the decentralization of special education, that we are going to have more persons with the expertise in the different regions, and that our students are going to be catered for in a better way,” he said.
Assistant Chief Education Officer at the Student Assessment Unit, Sephlin Myers-Thomas noted that the Ministry would also be reviewing its academic assessment process, particularly at the grade one level, in order to better facilitate and accommodate students with ‘special needs’.
“We have been looking at reviewing some of our examinations, and at present we have a consultancy that is looking at the grade one readiness test, and one of the deliverables that must come out, is a recommendation on how to handle children who are challenged in one way or another,” she said.
In the meantime, Mr. Douglas said that special arrangements have been made for some 54 disabled students who will sit the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), which is scheduled for March 29 and 30.
These include special sittings, extra examination time and the use of adaptive or assistive devices.
Among those children are the blind or visually impaired, the physically challenged and those who have learning and mild intellectual disabilities.
Students who attend the Salvation Army School for the Blind, the Danny Williams Primary or private institutions are not included in this number, since they are already accommodated in their own schools. He further noted that special arrangements would also be made for those students who have accidents close to the examination, such as a broken finger or hand. However, schools must contact the Unit beforehand, so that arrangements can be made before the sitting. On completing the examination, all students will be placed, whether in a special education high school or a regular school, depending on the nature of the disability.

JIS Social