Prime Minister Mia Mottley has blamed education management and school leadership for a deficit that allows teenaged boys and girls to fall through the cracks.
Mottley said: “We cannot abandon these children by just putting them out there . . . . If we have a school that is not functioning or a leader that is not leading to keep them there for two years, three years, four years . . . . How many children’s lives have been sacrificed in the interim?
“We will continue to spin top in mud if we do not recognise that it begins with leadership and it ends with leadership. Leadership at the level of schools, at the level of Ministry is what is needed.”
Speaking in the House of Assembly during the Appropriation Bill and Estimates hearings today, Mottley revealed that plans to introduce a new leadership position within the teaching faculty has been shelved owing to budget constraints.
“We continue to believe that a good teacher becomes a good principal,” she said. “My one regret is not being able at this stage fiscally to introduce the Master Teacher. Good teachers must be paid well without being promoted into leadership where they become managers.”
The Prime Minister, a former Minister of Education, posed a direct question to Chief Education Officer Karen Best seeking recommendations on how best to weed out “bad” and non-functioning principals.
In responding, Best reminded Mottley who spent seven years in the education ministry, that there is process in place that they are forced to follow.
Best told the premier: “There are some schools where we have challenges with the leadership. We have been providing the assistance for them.”
When pressed further, the Chief Education Officer said a “contractual arrangement” in hiring principals would allow the Ministry the power to act when a principal is not doing their job.
Best declared: “The system that we have does not allow for principals, teachers or anybody for that matter on contracts. They are there, they are appointed. If we have principals who are placed on contract and they are not performing they would then have to move on. I believe we should move to a system where we have persons being placed on contract.”
The Prime Minister said while the Edna Nicholls School was Government’s first point for deviant youth, she is mindful that another institution to handle chronic delinquents is needed.
Mottley had made similar comments on Monday in the House when she made the link between deviant behaviour and the current surge in violence. At the time, the Attorney-General and his team were before the Standing Committee.
She said then: “There has to be an institution that allows those children who literally are too difficult to be managed in the secondary school setting to be taken into another setting and to be able to be given the dedicated time, attention and discipline to stop them from literally falling off the edge and entering into a world of crime from which they may never return.”