Teachers and counsellors, overwhelmed by a growing school security crisis, have demanded resources to help them cope with the challenges their students face at home and in their communities, Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw has said.
As she met with teachers of Frederick Smith Secondary today at Erdiston Teachers’ Training College to discuss last Friday’s fatal stabbing of 16-year-old Temario Holder, Bradshaw said she was told the current levels of indiscipline in schools make it difficult for them to teach effectively and efficiently.
Although the ministry had partnered with private psychologists and counsellors who go into the schools and work with students, in the past few years, there was an increase in the challenges children were facing at home, including struggling to deal with the tragic loss of loved ones, she said.
Guidance counsellors were also severely stretched dealing with heavy workloads due to large student numbers, and no additional resources to help them, she added.
Bradshaw said: “We therefore want to revisit the role of a counsellor going into the school, but with different roles and responsibilities than what have been initially envisaged.
“We are hoping to roll out that very soon. In the interim we are looking at additional support for a number of the schools that have presented with these challenges.
“Many of our children are dealing with not just socio and economic issues, but in a lot of cases, the statistics will show as well that they are encountering issues of abuse whether physical, mental or emotional abuse in the household and that is negatively impacting on their ability to function in the school environment.
“And this is something as a society we must confront.”
During a press conference at the Training College this evening, Bradshaw said teachers were also concerned that crime and deviant behaviour in communities is creeping into schools.
She said: “They are encountering things that are sometimes not even related to teaching.
“They have to deal with issues of gang related activities unfolding in front of their eyes in the school environment.
“They are having to deal with, as happens in communities, the recruitment of young students within the school population being inducted into gang activities.
“These are some of the realities that we must confront as a society because this is what is taking place not just in our communities, but this is what is taking place in our schools.”
Curriculum reform was also one of the needs the minister said must be addressed as soon as possible to ensure that students feel as though school was relevant and provided avenues and opportunities for them when they leave.
Bradshaw said: “Right now I feel that in many cases the system has been failing our students in this respect.
“That is the view that has been expressed by the teaching profession that sometimes the classes are not relevant to the students or the students are not equipped with the tools necessary to be able to appreciate fully with the type of tuition that is being administered to them.
“And these are things that is not unique to Frederick Smith Secondary School, but these are things that have pushed this administration in the direction of removing the 11-Plus Exam, but also being able to look at specialist institutions as the way forward for a number of our secondary schools.”