The island’s second oldest trade union believes not only is it a good idea to reopen the Alma Parris Memorial School in St Peter, but Government should consider building a similar learning institution in the south of the island.
The Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) maintains the then Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration should never have closed the school in the first place, arguing that the decision was counterproductive.
BSTU President Mary Redman told Barbados TODAY the evidence suggested there was need for more than one school here which caters to the specific needs of students with learning disabilities.
“I don’t know why they would have closed the school in the first place because there is a recognized need for the school. As a matter of fact, I would think that we have a need for more than one school of that nature because it is what the Common Entrance results is showing us,” Redman contended.
“There is a significant enough a percentage of our students that would need that remedial work and they can’t get that assistance currently,” she stressed.
Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw revealed two weeks ago that as part of the plan to minimize the number of underachieving students who fall through the cracks, Government was seriously considering the re-opening of Alma Parris.
Bradshaw, who was at time delivering the report on the Barbados Secondary Schools Entrance Examination (BSSEE) results, said there currently were no options for children who did not show an aptitude for academics.
The DLP administration closed Alma Parris last year, with then Minister of Education Ronald Jones stating at the time that the school was dying.
In rationalizing his decision Jones explained that the learning institution had a population of only 60 students at the time and that no student who sat the BSSEE in the two preceding years had fallen far enough below the mean to qualify for Alma Parris.
The then minister explained that the school was opened in 1996 out of an experiment to create an ideal teaching and learning environment to meet the needs of students who were scoring low marks in the BSSEE, but it had never truly met its mandate, particularly in the last 15 years.
However, this morning Redman argued that the decision to relocate the students from the sole remedial secondary institution to various secondary schools around the island had only led to frustration for that group of children.
“With the intake of those children many of them have been associated with violence and I do believe that a contributing factor is the frustration that these children are feeling having to pursue a course of learning that is not suited to their particular capabilities. When we were having the problems at St George Secondary [in early 2017] and we did our research, we discovered that several children had a reading level of five-year-olds. At the time the school was not pursuing the type of remedial programme necessary but after we agitated for it, the ministry instituted such a programme,” she explained
The outspoken teachers’ advocate pointed out while investment in such institutions was needed, Government needed to also ensure that the teachers working there were given the requisite specialized training.
“The persons in those schools must be equipped to realistically and effectively handle the needs of such students. Therefore, the training and qualification must be appropriate to the needs of those students as must be qualifications of those who lead the school,” Redman stressed.