COVID-19 takes away excitement in release of PEP results

COVID-19 takes away excitement in release of PEP results

Senior staff reporter

Saturday, June 27, 2020

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SCHOOLYARDS across the Corporate Area yesterday were a stark contrast to previous years when excitement among primary school students would be at fever pitch over their secondary school placement results.

The screams of joy and tears of disappointment customary in other years this time were at a distance due to the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic which forced the closure of schools islandwide in March, leaving education officials to devise novel ways of attributing grades for the second level of the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) exams and presenting students with those grades and placements.

Yesterday, the scene at several schools canvassed by the Jamaica Observer was one of quiet triumph and anxiety in some cases.

At Jessie Ripoll Primary School on Camp Road several nervous parents, mobile devices in hand, congregated to wait for some word as to their children's performance. They told the Observer that they had been unable to access the results through the portal the ministry had provided. School administrators, the Observer was told, were locked in a meeting and had also at that time not been privy to the results.

“Gimme my paper, mi nuh believe inna online. Yuh si di online something, mi not going to join it. Yuh si fi log on and buy online, mi nuh inna it,” one restless father expressed.

“Si it deh, page not working,” one mother said, holding her handset out for the other parents to view. “This is the message I keep getting every time I try,” she said, showing the Observer her phone with the words, “User locked out, username and password invalid” displayed on the screen.

Another parent, who said her son had chosen Ardenne and Wolmer's Boys' School, said she was at the school in a bid to 'quench' her anxiety.

“That is why I am here, because I can't get on. The school can't get on either [but] they are still trying. Other parents got through but they are not here,” she said.

Only one parent from the group gathered at the school was able to view his child's results at the time when the Observer visited yesterday, and he was busy trying to help the other parents to log into the portal.

Beaming with pride, he said his daughter had passed for Wolmer's but he had not yet informed her or her mother as he was trying to help the other parents access the portal first.

“It's a new process, so the teething pains in terms of trying to get on there [caused some] anxiety. And then today again you hear you have to wait so there is that anxiety[as well], but while I was in Cross Roads I called a parent and she assisted me and I was able to log on. For the PEP that was done she got 96 per cent, for the grade 5 she got 96.6, at grade 4 she got 97 per cent,” he told the Observer, noting that she was anxiously awaiting his call.

The scream that emitted from his handset when he informed his daughter Kianna that she had been placed at the school of her choice drowned every other conversation.

Over at the neighbouring Clan Carthy Primary no parents were in sight, however. Nicola Francis, coordinator for grade 6 at that institution, said the school's principal was at that time still reviewing the results and had not yet ascertained the averages.

“Parents have been calling, we have been sending results via WhatsApp to them, and it's good,” she told the Observer. Asked whether parents had gotten their desires, she said “yes, for the most part”, adding that the placements were “more or less what we expected”. She said a number of students had been placed at traditional high schools, including Campion, Wolmer's, Calabar, St George's, Kingston College and Excelsior. A total 144 students sat the exams she said.

At Franklin Town Primary, Principal Rohan Treleven was no less pleased.

“We have been able to access our results. So far we are pleased about the student placements; a number of them have been placed at traditional high schools, others have been placed at other schools in the area such as Clan Carthy, Dunoon and Camperdown,” he told the Observer.

“Parents have been calling, some parents have been able to access the website. It is our view that if students were given the opportunity to do the other component, some of them would have done much better,” Treleven opined, and said school officials had not yet done any analysis of the passes as at that time.

In the meantime he laid the credit at the feet of the teachers.

“I have been here since January, I can't take any credit; it's the teachers, those who were with them longer [who are credited for the] good results. We are very pleased,” he noted.

Yesterday, the school's Chairman Beverley Shirley radiated with pride at the results.

“We have more than one student going to Calabar, Wolmer's, Excelsior – multiple placements. We have students going to Campion, we are pleased with our results. We are very pleased. I am proud of what the children have done, I am very elated,” she said.

Shirley said of the 57 students who had sat the exams, the majority had been placed at traditional high schools.

In the meantime, she said preparations were in high gear for September when schools reopen officially.

“We have put in extra wash stations, our computer room was smaller than the library so we have switched [the rooms] so we have more space. We have our thermometers already. We had our graduation ceremony staggering and so we did our trial run where we had people coming in wearing their masks, we took temperatures, we had them washing their hands before coming in and because our school is small, we will be able to have regular school. We will have our seating six feet apart; we will conform to what the government asked,” she told this newspaper.

The atmosphere was no less at Windward Road Primary. An exultant security guard made his own announcement upon being told the Observer's reason for visiting, “whole heap a things; nuff Immaculate, Campion”, he said.

Principal Noel A Pennant was elated.

“We got six passes for Campion. Two is the maximum we usually get, a mix of boys and girls. Not surprised about them really but still kinda surprised. We know our students and we have seen the performance. I was just congratulating my team and I was saying to them that they were always kind of fearful that they [students] don't understand certain concepts, but I have always said to them I think you are underestimating our kids, so just give them time and they will prove themselves. The results are here and I am good,” he beamed.

“Campion, Ardenne, Wolmer's, Queen's, Immaculate, Merl Grove, Calabar , Kingston College, Jamaica College, St George's,” he stated. “I haven't done the stats to say the percentage but, looking at it superficially, it's going to be good. It's going to beat last year's percentage, which I think was about 68 somewhere thereabouts, so I am really happy.”

He said of the 174 students who sat the exams only two had not been placed because they migrated.

“It looks good. I really do appreciate the work that my teachers have put in, given the whole novelty of PEP and the tragedy of corona and the fact that reaching some of them was a task. I am really, really happy to see what the results are,” he said.

He, however, admitted that it was not smiles all around.

“I know some parents might not be fully satisfied because I have gotten feedback from a few who want to seek transfers already, but I always say to parents that where your child is placed, that is where he or she should be – divine intervention – and wherever you are planted, grow there,” he said.

At Alpha Primary on South Camp Road, the Observer was told that school officials were unable to speak to the newspaper at that time. At St Aloyishus in downtown Kingston the caretaker, who was in the process of padlocking the gates to the institution, informed the Observer that school officials had already left for the day.

Yesterday Education Minister Karl Samuda said 39,689 students were registered to sit the PEP 6 examination (20,157 males and 19,532 females). Of the total, he said 38,918 were deemed to be eligible to move on to high school and were placed accordingly. Samuda said 80 per cent (31,017) of students were placed in one of their preferred schools while 16 per cent (6,148) of students were placed in secondary level schools that are in proximity to the schools they currently attend. He said a further four per cent (1,606) of students were placed manually in secondary level schools in proximity to the address they submitted at registration.

The basis of the assessment comprised the Grade Four Numeracy and Literacy Tests done in 2018, the Grade Five Performance Tasks done in 2019, and the Grade 6 Ability Test that was done in February 2020.

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