Minister of Education Ronald Jones has revealed that Government chose to shut down Alma Parris Memorial School to end the isolation of the 60 students attending the 22-year-old institution.
The Speightstown-based remedial school, which catered to students who did not do well in the Barbados Secondary Schools Entrance Examination (BSSEE) – otherwise called the Common Entrance Exam or 11-plus – closed for good at the end of the last school year. According to Jones 25 students between the ages of 12 and 16 were relocated to Daryl Jordan Secondary School, 23 or 24 to Grantley Adams Secondary School, and an undisclosed number to St George Secondary School. Those over the age of 16 were being placed in vocational training programmes.
Although resigned to the fact that the school would be no more, several parents had complained about the manner in which the closure was handled, while some were worried that their children would not be able to keep up with their new curricula.
However, Jones said the Alma Parris students would stand a better chance of learning alongside students with stronger academic skills.
“We have been talking for a long time about inclusive education. Inclusive means that you don’t isolate your children from a given space, you don’t send one group here and send one group there, even though some of that happens with the 11-plus because of marks. We’re talking about children who suffer from deficits, learning challenges and need strong remediation. They too can be educated within the given schools that we currently have,” the minister told Barbados TODAY.
“There are some schools that have been doing an excellent job in the remediation area and what I call alternative curriculum . . . a school like Darryl Jordan has been able to refine, with the assistance of the ministry, how they meet the needs of their students across the spectrum of grade or marks that those students will get and still come out after five or six years with the level of success that they do.”
As for the old school plant, Jones suggested the Barbados Vocational Training Board would likely utilize it.
“We know that there is need for some space to carry out their programme in the north and therefore I’ve said to persons in the ministry that that plant, rather than it just become old, that there be some refurbishment and we use it for technical and vocational education as done by the Barbados Vocational Training Board,” he said.
Meantime, Jones announced that come the new school year in September, there would be a new education management informational system in place in all primary and secondary schools here.
It will replace the abusSTAR system, which was designed to make it easier for ministries of education across the region to provide accurate and timely reports on school and student performances.
The revelation came in the wake of the failure of several schools to issue end of term reports to students at the end of the school year on July 6 because the technology failed.
“Technology can sometimes play the fool and this one, abusSTAR, which is the student management information system which generates registers, punctuality times, with reports – the whole gamut – that actually crashed in the last week or the week before that.
“Even though we’ve created a template that [schools] can use, I guess one or two schools have not been able to, as quickly as we would have want, adjust to that template. But by September we will have a new system deployed across the schools,” Jones told Barbados TODAY.
The minister said the new system would be “more sophisticated and advanced, yet user friendly”.
While the AbusSTAR system was designed for Caribbean schools, Jones said the Ministry of Education was considering “and we will know shortly, a customized system built by Barbadians”.