Success at Townhead Primary
Townhead Primary and Infant School (Photo: Rosalee Wood Condell)

BURNT SAVANNAH, Westmoreland – Determined to get students back on track after the COVID-19 pandemic, principal of Townhead Primary & Infant School Keisha Brown Ruddock and her team offered extra classes before and after school, and even on Saturdays. Some parents were initially slow to take up their offer but after seeing how well other children did, most of them are now huge fans of the educational institution.

Last year, 79 per cent of Townhead Primary students who did Primary Exit Examinations [PEP] achieved mastery and near mastery in numeracy. The numbers for literacy were 87.5 per cent. Overall, 40 per cent of the students were placed in traditional high schools.

They have come a long way.

"The children did not learn anything during the pandemic. There were complaints of no [Internet] connectivity and no devices, and they had to be preparing for PEP," recalled Brown Ruddock who became principal in October 2020 at the height of COVID-19.

BROWN RUDDOCK… team work, that's a strength for me (Photo: Rosalee Wood Condell)

The gains made by students are being credited to the holistic approach taken to their overall development.

According to the proud principal, teachers and parents are involved in Professional Development Sessions that are frequently done at the school. Sessions include classroom management, customer service and literacy. She added that the Child Protection and Family Services Agency makes frequent presentations during Parent Teachers' Association meetings, providing useful tips on how to keep youngsters safe.

Student development has seen the revitalisation of some clubs and the establishment of new ones. Participation has helped shape student behaviour as they implement values, some they were never taught before. In addition, there is a values and attitude programme that focuses on deportment. There is also a Health and Wellness Club, Culture Club, Cub Scouts, Brownies, 4H Club, Boys Rock Mentorship Programme, Literacy Club, Sports Club and more, offering students a range of options. The school also participates in the Westmoreland Municipality's Junior Council, and Head Boy Dennis Reid represents it on that body.

There are former students who, along with other generous well-wishers, support the school's welfare programme that provides lunch for needy students.

JCDC parish and national awards earned by Townhead Primary and Infant School for the 2022/2023 season. (Photo: Rosalee Wood Condell)

With all this support, students have also done well outside the classroom. They recently racked up 22 awards in the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission's (JCDC) Performing Arts Speech and Dance competition, including six gold medals at the national level. They ended the season with the best overall performance for Class 3 Dub Poetry at the national level.

Machel Hewling, who transferred his children to Townhead Primary School, is among the satisfied parents. He said he made the change because the institution is located next door to his house — and Brown Ruddock was put in charge. He pinned his hopes on the institution being able to have greater influence on his young ones than the negative forces within their community. He believes it did.

Hewling said he was pleased that students largely speak standard English and he has noticed positive changes in their behaviour.

"There is regular devotion, she is consistent and she is very involved as a principal," he said of Brown Ruddock.

Machel Hewling points to a photo of his daughter Delayne who is now a Grade 5 student at Townhead Primary. She was the winner of the JCDC Westmoreland Miss Lou Bandana competition in September 2022. (Photo: Rosalee Wood Condell)

However, the principal stressed that she has not done it alone.

"Team work, that's a strength for me," Brown Ruddock told the Observer. "I believe that everybody can be a leader, I believe that persons should be given the opportunity to shine. When I step in, is when I don't have any other choice."

It appears she is doing something right. A recently completed report from the National Education Inspectorate highlighted the transparent and inclusive approach of the school's leadership.


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