Education Minister Fayval Williams (right), in this May 16 file photo, speaks with Dunoon Park Technical High School student Collettia Christian during a visit to the schoolyesterday as face-to-face classes for exit exam students resumed. Looking on is Principal Shawn Aaron. The minister yesterday announced in Parliament that Governmentwas pushing ahead with plans for summer school, starting on July 5. (Photo: Joseph Wellington)
Gov't pushes ahead despite objections from teachers

THE education ministry is pressing ahead with plans to hold summer classes, notwithstanding clear indication from the island's teachers that they are not in favour of the move.

Yesterday, portfolio minister Fayval Williams announced that summer school will start on Monday, July 5, and continue through August, with the assistance of available trained teachers and retired teachers as tutors, as well as final-year teachers' college students as assistant tutors.

The plan is for face-to-face learning to run for the first four weeks, and virtual classes to continue throughout August.

When the plan for mandatory summer school was first announced the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) had come out in opposition, positing that teachers had become burnt out and needed time to recoup for the start of the new school year in September. The teachers said the summer break should, instead, be used to strategise and plan for the term ahead.

Williams later advised that summer school would be voluntary, but that the ministry would roll out a structured programme.

In a statement to the House of Representatives yesterday, she said the ministry would begin the summer school programme using existing performance data on the students to guide its initial engagement.

"When the diagnostic test data become available this will be used to guide further support for summer school and beyond. We sent out the analysis report for our grade nine students today [yesterday], and the schools now have this data to begin planning learning for these students,” she advised.

A tiered system is to be used to prioritise students for face-to-face learning, supplemented by online instruction, the minister said, with tier-two students being facilitated virtually only, guided by their classroom teachers “who may volunteer to assist” or by tutors recruited by the ministry.

Meanwhile, Minister Williams said the previously announced national extra lessons/homework programme commissioned by the ministry will be delivered primarily online, and that tutors/teachers would be required to manage both face-to-face and online classes.

“The national summer school and national homework and national extra lesson intervention or programme is for every student who want to avail themselves of it. We would love for those who are below the line to participate, but it is for every single student,” she stressed.

The ministry has also promised to track down and bring into the loop the 120,000 students reported to have not been in contact with the education system since last March.

To secure public buy-in for the programmes the ministry has scheduled a virtual town hall for 6:00 pm today to which parents, guardians, and other stakeholders are invited.

Regarding diagnostics, all students from grades one to nine will be required to sit the standardised ministry diagnostic test to help schools assess their learning.

Schools will receive information, such as an analysis of individual student responses, indicating both the level of response provided to each item for each student and a summary of the total number of responses at each level for each student.

The diagnostic tests will be used to determine whether students are ready to move on to their next academic stage and/or the levels of intervention needed, the minister said.

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS Senior staff reporter

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