After seven years of unsuccessfully seeking compensation for marking the Caribbean Examinations Council’s (CXC) School Based Assessments (SBA), the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) has implemented an immediate boycott of the SBA’s with backing from the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT).
The BUT this afternoon joined forces with the BSTU at a meeting at the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) Solidary House Headquarters and pledged its support as both unions demand payment from CXC for marking the SBAs.
President of the BSTU Mary Redman, whose union has been leading the fight for compensation for nearly a decade now, told a combined force of teachers that the message must go out to CXC that enough is enough.
Redman said both CXC and the Ministry of Education had ignored their pleas for all those years and it was now time to take action and stick to their guns by not correcting any more SBAs.
In fact, she has put the Ministry and CXC on notice that if a resolution was not reached this year, things could get worse next academic year.
She said the ball was now in CXC’s court to meet with the union.
“Let us talk. They determine that. We are on our course of action and next year, we may not supervise anything. I am saying if we don’t get the matter resolved between this year and next academic year, we may have to step up the ante in a way that we determine,” the BSTU leader warned.
The meeting also rejected the position of the Ministry of Education as reflected in a circular addressed to principals of public secondary schools and signed by Acting Chief Education Officer Karen Best, a former president of the BUT.
That circular, dated March 24, 2015, today’s date, read: “Please be advised that the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation and the Caribbean Examinations Council have NOT entered into any agreement recently for payment of the correcting of the School Based Assessment component of the CSEC or CAPE examinations.”
The letter continued: “The position of the Ministry is that the correcting of the School Based Assessments forms part of the duties for the teachers.”
Best said in her circular that all teachers involved in the preparation of the SBAs were therefore expected to grade and submit the same grades as was the custom and practice.
“This information is extremely important and the Ministry is requesting that this circular be drawn to the attention of all teachers who are involved in the marking of the School Based Assessments and be placed on the notice board,” the Acting Chief Education Officer wrote.
However, Redman made it clear that dealing with this component of the CXC was not part of teachers’ normal duties because it was an externally set exam.
But while the unions will refuse to mark the SBAs, Redman has given the assurance that nothing would be done to jeopardize the children.
“There is nothing that we are doing this year that will jeopardize the success of any student at the CXC. You, the teacher, have worked with and supervised the students to produce their final SBA. What we are saying is that is where our work this year will stop,” she stressed.
“When those SBAs are handed in, you will collect them. You will make a list of all the persons that have handed in their SBAs. You will keep a copy of that list and you will hand in all of the SBAs and that list to your heads of department to be passed on to the principals of the schools. The principals will do what they have to do, as they normally do. When they get samples, they send those samples to CXC for moderation.”
This year, the union head added, the sample will consist of a full sample, which comprises all of the students. “That is the only difference,” she declared.
Redman complained bitterly that it had become a big problem to get responses from the Ministry of Education and when a reply was forthcoming there was little to hold on to.
“You can’t get a meeting. You don’t get a response, or you are getting a letter saying, ‘we are in receipt of your letter and we will revert to you’. That is now a standard response and it is a strange response,” the BSTU president noted.
At today’s meeting, teachers and their leaders reported that CXC had been piling on the work which was forcing them to work before school, afterwards, during breaks, holidays and even weekends. They said an additional load was planned in the coming months.