Twenty-two years after it formally opened to provide an opportunity to perform “against the greatest odds” to students who did not do well in the Barbados Secondary Schools Entrance Examination (BSSEE) – otherwise called the Common Entrance Exam – the Alma Parris Memorial Secondary will bid its last goodbyes to students when the school year ends this week, the teachers’ union has said.
According to Barbados Union Of Teachers (BUT) President Pedro Shepherd, the Ministry of Education met with staff of the Speightstown, St Peter-based school on Monday where the it was announced that the school would not reopen come September.
“It is official that Alma Parris School will be closed. Within the last ten years Alma Parris featured highly on our agenda at the quarterly meetings at the Ministry of Education. There where definitely some challenges and I suspect that the ministry has not been able to grapple with those challenges, and so the decision was made to close the school, I believe in the short term, until they can find some strategy to deal with the challenges,” Shepherd said.
Attempts to reach Chief Education Officer Karen Best proved unsuccessful up until the time of publication, and a Ministry of Education official told Barbados TODAY information on the future of the school would be sent to the media in due course.
Minister of Education Ronald Jones, meantime, provided a terse comment when Barbados TODAY asked him about Shepherd’s revelation, stating that the BUT did not have all the facts, before adding rather tongue-in-cheek that whatever the union said was “gospel”.
The BUT president himself did not elaborate of the challenges facing the learning institution beyond stating that low academic performance by the students had led to behavioural and disciplinary challenges, and the school had experienced frequent staff changes.
Still, Shepherd told Barbados TODAY in a telephone interview he was confident the ministry would do all it could to accommodate the students.
“I believe that the ministry recognizes that there is a need for such a school in Barbados and I am sure that they would want to revive that school or another one with a similar type curriculum.
“The upper fifth [form] should be moving out of the school, but there should be [over 100] students left. I’m sure that the ministry would look at those children’s academic performance and reports from teachers and place those students according to their academic ability. They may also place some of them based on where they live. They have to be in school until 16, that’s the law. So they must be placed at other schools on the island,” the BUT head said.
The school opened on September 25, 1995 to provide alternative secondary education for students who score less than 30 per cent in the BSSEE.
However, Shepherd said it had become a “school of choice”, a suggestion that it had moved away from its purpose, making it difficult for the students to cope.
Shepherd revealed that the ministry had assured teachers at yesterday’s meeting that they would be assigned to other secondary schools across the island.