Regional

Look outside the box, says school board chairman

Monday, February 10, 2014    

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — It has long been the premise of the Ministry of Education that "every child can learn, every child must learn".

However, one school board chairman in Manchester is advocating for this statement to be more than a "wish list" in order for real progress to be made in the education system.

Chairman of the Belair High School board in Manchester Lyden 'Trevor' Heaven said that educators of public and private institutions, school administrators, government officials, technocrats, and other stakeholders in education should provide the guidance, environment, conditions and tools to make learning easy.

"I submit that if we can't do that we need to discontinue with the use of the adage 'every child can learn and every child must learn'," he said.

Heaven was speaking at a recent official opening ceremony for Belair High School as a grant-aided institution. Belair, for years one of the leading private schools in Mandeville, transitioned to public school status last year.

According to Heaven: "Rather than a wish list we must possess the vision. We need to look outside of the box and balance our needs with our resources and make it right for education."

Principal of Belair High June McCatty told the Jamaica Observer Central that over the years the institution has worked to help students with varying levels of academic status.

She said that even though there will not be an immediate influx of students now that Belair High is a public school, in time the numbers will increase.

However, she maintains that even when the class size moves from the 25 that existed as a private institution, the school will still try to maintain some of its special programmes, which included teacher's assistants to work with weak students, homework assistance for students who required the service, a resource teacher to assist those with challenges such as reading, and exemptions from foreign languages.

With the current batch of grade seven students, she said some are exempted from French in order to be more focused on subjects such as mathematics and reading.

She said that the Ministry of Education has been working well with Belair High as it comes into its own as a public school.

"So far they have walked with us," said McCatty.

Member of Parliament for Central Manchester Peter Bunting said that he and councillors in the constituency were at first disappointed

and frustrated when they heard that a new high school which was slated to be built in Mandeville would not be possible because of financial constraints.

"I think we all very quickly transitioned to accept the logic and the opportunity that we had a tremendous infrastructure here already... From so many perspectives it made more sense for us to partner with the school board in bringing Belair into the fold of grant-aided schools and available to the public in Manchester and the catchment area to provide school spaces," he said.

He added: "A new school, no matter how well intentioned and how well staffed and led, takes some time to develop... Here in a sense we are able to short-circuit that."

Bunting said that the Government's partnership with Belair has helped in setting the foundation for a knowledge-based industry, an alternative to bauxite/ alumina, which previously supported the economy in Central Jamaica.

Heaven said that the 46-year-old Belair High School was given a "lifeline" and lauded members of the Ministry of Education as "good people".

The school board chairman said that he is encouraged by the "commitment ...passion and fearless resolve" of Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites to "raise the bar in our schools".

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