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Send us high performers

90 per cent of students placed at one school have 40 average

BY RACQUEL PORTER
Observer staff reporter
porterr@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, June 21, 2018

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The principal of the newly renamed Enid Bennett High is appealing to the Ministry of Education to place students with 80 and 90 per cent test averages at the St Catherine school.

Principal Patrick Phillips made the appeal Tuesday at the official function during which the school's name was changed from Bog Walk High.

“When I take a glance at the GSAT (Grade Six Achievement Test) list for the new school year it is not encouraging,” Phillips told guests, including Education Minister Senator Ruel Reid. “We received 216 students on the list; of these 216 students the highest grade is 73 per cent, and it is just one student. Two students received a mark of 71, one received a mark of 69 per cent, two received a mark of 68 per cent, and 90 per cent of the students received below 40 per cent averages. I am appealing to the ministry to send us some students that are doing well academically. Please pep up our intake.”

Phillips argued that in order for the 47-year-old institution to shed the non-traditional high school stigma, students entering must be at a level at which they are prepared for secondary education.

He said that, despite the challenges with which the school is grappling, the teaching staff is highly qualified, dedicated and motivated, but they need students with high scores as well to disconnect some of the negativity associated with the school.

“... A great majority of this negativity stems from the fact that our school was among lower schools that started in the 1969 to the 1972 era under the new deal in education,” he explained. “We received then the students who did not pass the Common Entrance Examination, so the school started out with a negative stigma. We were then a junior secondary, then secondary, then comprehensive high, and then high school. This negative stigma continued with us being labelled as a non-traditional high school. Some of our students, because of the stigma, started this institution with low self-esteem.”

He appealed for the labels traditional and non-traditional high schools to be abandoned and pointed out that the schools labelled as traditional high have more equipment and resources. However, Phillips said it is not the resources and the facilities that make the difference in a child's life, but the teachers.

Next year, the GSAT will be replaced by the Primary Exit Profile (PEP), which the education ministry has said will be its new way of determining whether a student is ready to leave grade six and enter high school.

According to the ministry, PEP “should provide a better and more complete profile of students' academic and critical thinking capabilities at the end of primary-level education”.

Meanwhile, Phillips used the event to solicit assistance from the ministry for his school, pointing out that it was is in need of a perimeter fence, additional classrooms, workshops, and science labs, among other things. He said, for example, that it is hazardous for teachers to be walking back and forth to classes with chemicals to facilitate experiments.

Minister Reid, in his address, announced that $5 million would be allocated to the school — $1 million towards the Boys' Empowerment Fund, and $4 million for the construction of a science lab.

In honour of the late Enid Bennett, Reid said the education ministry will donate $20 million per year, over the next three years, towards the capital development of the school.

Bennett served just over 30 years as member of parliament for St Catherine Central, and eventually St Catherine West Central, until she retired from representational politics in 1997.

She was instrumental in securing funds and land to build schools such as Tacius Golding and Bog Walk high, and Lucky Valley Primary in the 1960s. She was also instrumental in establishing community centres in Buxton Town and Point Hill, as well as improving the St Catherine West Central road network and bringing electricity to several communities in the constituency.

Bennett died last December after a brief illness. She was 86.

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