Careers & Education

Wolmer's Girls tops school inspections

BY LUKE DOUGLAS Career & Education senior reporter douglasl@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, December 16, 2012    

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WOLMER'S High School for Girls is the only institution of 135 assessed by the National Educational Inspectorate (NEI) in its latest report to be classified as having an exceptionally high performance.

At the other end of the performance scale, four schools — one technical high and three primary — were classified as being in need of immediate support, which is the lowest possible level.

The NEI is the body responsible for assessing the standards attained by students in primary and secondary schools, using inspection indicators structured as a set of eight key questions asked by school inspectors.

The eight indicators assessed by NEI inspectors are:

* leadership and management;

* teaching support;

* students progress;

* curriculum and enhancement programmes;

* students' attainment;

* personal and social development;

* use of human and material resources; and

* safety, security, health, and well-being.

Explaining the classification process, chief inspector at the NEI Maureen Dwyer told the Jamaica Observer that the first four indicators carried more weight than the others in determining the category in which the schools were ranked.

According to the NEI's inspection summary report tabled in Parliament last week, inspections on the 135 schools were conducted from September 2010 to March 2011 in Regions One, Two, Three, and Six.

Of the schools assessed, 31 were at the secondary level and 104 were primary-level schools.

The 40-page inspection report for Wolmer's Girls, which, like the other schools' reports is available online, shows the school scoring "exceptionally high" in several areas, including leadership and management, performance in national and regional tests, personal and social development, and use of human and material resources.

Inspectors identified "a very supportive community and parent body", "school programmes which assist members of the local community" and "caring teachers who work beyond the call of duty" among their findings.

Of the 31 high schools assessed, nine were listed as performing "good", including traditional institutions, such as Holy Childhood High, Immaculate Conception High, Jamaica College, Meadowbrook, Westwood High, St Hilda's High, and Wolmer's Boys. But also newer high schools -- Denbigh in Clarendon and Troy in Trelawny -- were listed as "good".

Interestingly, eight secondary-level schools were listed as performing "satisfactory", including traditional schools such as Kingston College (KC) and William Knibb Memorial High.

Looking more closely at KC's report, the comments included the following: "There are sufficient and fairly suitable human and material resources available, but there is too little use of those resources, especially the material ones. Of note are the e-learning laboratories and audio-visual aids which are currently underutilised." It was also noted that KC "in its most recent history has had five principals in seven years". "As a consequence, there is no continuity of vision for the school," the report said.

Haile Selassie High, a school which has had its share of problems over the years, was classified as "satisfactory". However, the institution's NEI report listed attendance at only 73 per cent and said "many teachers are constantly late for school and classes and attendance is unsatisfactory."

Among those schools listed as needing "immediate support" is one secondary school — Marcus Garvey Technical in St Ann. This was one of four institutions designated as "failing" last year by former Education Minister and Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

The other schools listed as in need of immediate support in the most recent report were Alps Primary in Trelawny, Bybrook Primary in Portland and Padmore Primary in St Andrew.

Commenting on the schools in need of immediate support at a press conference on Wednesday, Education Minister Rev Ronald Thwaites noted that Marcus Garvey Technical has been taken off the shift system, which should enable it to improve.

Thwaites said there had also been a "very significant" turnaround at Padmore Primary with "more students and better results" since the appointment of a new principal, Keisha Hayle.

The minister also said that Alps Primary and Bybrook Primary had both had interventions in weak areas by specialist educators.

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