$4-m late fee or no exams for 980 Hutton’s students
NEARLY 1,000 students of the privately-run Huttons Educational Unit may not be able to sit the May/June Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) exams, after the school failed to pay over their fees to the Overseas Examinations Commission on time.
Hutton’s, which operates schools at four locations in St Andrew and St Catherine, has until March 15 to sign an agreement with the examination office that it will hand over $4 million in fees and penalties to complete registration of the students.
After weeks of discussions involving several parties, the CXC denied a request for a waiver of the late registration fee, and the Ministry of Education said yesterday that it was not in a position to foot the bill on behalf of the 980 affected students.
“We have to be mindful of the precedence that we will be setting as other schools from time to time have said they have been having problems and we have been unable to help,” Permanent Secretary Audrey Sewell told reporters at a press conference yesterday.
Executive Director of the Overseas Examinations Commission Hector Stephenson said Hutton’s had missed the CXC’s original payment deadline of December 31 last year, as well as the first late payment deadline of January 31 this year. He said the school has paid over $6.4 million, but had over $4 million in late fees to pay.
Stephenson said lawyers for both the examination commission and Hutton’s were in discussion on the matter. “We do not know what resolution will come out of those discussions, so questions of refunds and so on will be discussed later,” he said.
Stephenson said he received a letter from Hutton’s on February 25 stating that funds were stolen from the institution. He said a request from the examination commission to the CXC for a fee waiver was denied.
“We have made at least four interventions since January for those fees to be waived,” Stephenson said. The appeals, he added, involved the CXC chairman, Prof E Nigel Harris, CXC registrar Dr Didacus Jones and the education minister, Andrew Holness.
Policy changes, said Sewell,
would be made by the education ministry to prevent a recurrence in the future.
An upset Nickesha Williams, a student of Hutton’s Portmore branch, claimed that the school was beset with a myriad of other problems, including water and electricity.
However, Williams said she decided to attend Hutton’s since last September because she heard it was a good school. “People attend the school and pass their exams”, she said.
Efforts to speak with the head of the school, Neville Hutton, were unsuccessful yesterday, but when the Observer visited the school’s Sylvan Avenue branch in Cross Roads yesterday, both teachers and students said classes were continuing as usual.
“Classes are still going on and I am sure Mr Hutton will work out something so we can sit our exams,” one student said.
Meanwhile, registrar of independent schools at the education ministry Yvonne Campbell said Hutton’s was only registered to operate at one location. The school, she said, had several outstanding documents for the ministry.