Campion College sixth form in full swing while others await CXC results
'We use our predictive grading system,' says principal Grace BastonSunday, September 12, 2021
KINGSTON, Jamaica – Classes have already started for sixth form students at Campion College, one of Jamaica's most prestigious high schools, despite the recent announcement by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) that results will not be available before early to mid-October.
But, while many Jamaican parents and students anxiously await the results of the external examinations, sixth form students at Campion College have already completed their first full week of classes.
“We actually started classes on September 6 (the first day of the new school year),” said the principal of Campion College Grace Baston when contacted by Observer Online on Friday morning.
All 160 spaces in the sixth form have been filled and classes are in full swing.
Baston explained that the decision to start sixth form classes early, which was first taken last year, was influenced in part by the COVID-19 pandemic, the delayed results from the CXC as well as the reduced preparation time for CAPE exams.
“What is driving it is the recognition that the preparation time for the CAPE exams is already limited because the exams have been brought forward,” Baston said.
She noted that, previously, the period for external exams started in June with only orals applied in May and with the exam period ending in July.
“Now these students start their exams at the start of May so it cuts back on the time that their teachers have for them. The impetus here is recognising that the children already have a limited time, we cannot afford to start the CAPE syllabus a month late; that is out of the question,” Baston explained.
“With that in mind we decided that we know our students and we let their parents know we're going to work with what we call our predictive grades for them,” the administrator added.
Baston said three factors are considered using the predictive grading system.
“We use the children's GPA (Grade Point Average) which is a reflection of their strength generally as a student coming through Campion. We consider the grades their teachers predict for them in the exams (every teacher is required to do that) and we also take into consideration their overall performance over fourth and fifth form,” Baston detailed. She noted that School-Based Assessments (SBAs) are also factored into the three-pronged approach.
“Those are the three things and we use that because we couldn't use any one thing. We were not going to go strictly with what a teacher says a child will get even though we figure the teachers do know their students,” Baston explained further.
Continuing, she said “With that we create the profile of what we expect them to get on the exam and it is really a profile about how strong a candidate they are for sixth form if we internally have to decide it".
The Campion College principal said the school then posts the results and there is an online application process after which students are assigned.
“Classes are in full swing,” she emphasised.
Baston highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic played a major role in the school going that route in 2020.
“What is driving it is the delay in the release of the CXC results”.
Apart from the delay, Baston cited that Campion did not have confidence in those results.
“In other words, the CXC had chosen a format of the exam which was only the multiple choice paper and we were concerned about the validity and the reliability of those results so we decided to go ahead with the school's internal predictive grades.
“A truer picture of a child's academic strength would've been what the school provided, not an exam based on a multiple choice paper…,” Baston insisted.
With Campion having perhaps the most competitive sixth form among high schools in Jamaica, just how is the administration able to fill the 160 available spaces?
“It's rough. First of all we have 220 students and normally we can only take 160 especially in the science programme which is always oversubscribed; everybody wants to do chemistry, physics and biology, those classes are jam packed,” Baston told Observer Online.
Additionally, Campion, like other traditional high schools in Jamaica, have candidates from outside who apply for sixth form. Baston described the outsiders as “strong candidates”.
She explained also that not all 220 students apply for sixth form as some move on to other tertiary level programmes, including overseas, “so it works out”.