Ministry of Education, Technical and Vocational Training’s press conference – 30th December 2020. (PMO)

The Barbados Secondary Schools’ Entrance Examination, familiarly known as the Common Entrance Examination, will now be in June, and not May as traditionally scheduled.

This was disclosed on Wednesday by Minister of Education, Technical and Vocational Training, Santia Bradshaw, during a press conference at the Elsie Payne Complex, Constitution Road, St. Michael.

Noting that the exam, scheduled for June 22, was a priority area for the Ministry during this COVID-19 environment, Minister Bradshaw said: “We’re also prioritising our 11 plus students – all the students who are sitting in the Common Entrance Examination – because we recognise that in normal times students are very anxious about the examination. I think parents are anxious; teachers are anxious; the general public becomes very anxious about this examination. And in a pandemic, one of the things that was very clear from a number of the students who spoke to us was that they too are feeling additional anxiety, as a result of the uncertainties of when the exam is going to take place, and whether or not they’re going to be able to complete the syllabus in time.

“We did a pool of a number of our Class Four teachers … because we recognised that to move forward, we needed to be fully apprised of where they were in the syllabus, fully apprised of how they felt about the fact that perhaps about 80 per cent of the students were being able to do face-to-face in Term I…. We wanted to make sure that there was no child that felt, or parent that felt that the students would be at a particular disadvantage as a result of not being able to have full face-to-face. So, we have prioritised the 11-plus students, and they will make a gradual return to school, over the course of the next couple of weeks…. All principals, have been made aware that they will now be making the necessary accommodation to allow them to gradually return into the school environment.”

She explained why the new date was set. “It has arisen out of several representations by teachers, indicating a better level of comfort if they had the additional time to complete the syllabus, and also a preference that we didn’t move it until July, which is obviously in the high peak of their vacation, as would have happened last year. So, at this point, the Common Entrance Examination is now going to be scheduled for June 22, and I hope that parents, teachers and certainly our students will breathe a sigh of relief, over the course of the next few days and certainly the coming weeks and months, as it relates to their preparation for that particular examination,” she stressed.

Ms. Bradshaw also spoke about secondary school students doing CXC examinations. Noting that they would have had a rough year in 2020, she said her Ministry wanted to ensure students preparing for 2021 were not “particularly disadvantaged” by being out of school.

“So, we have also given priority to our secondary school students who are at the fifth form and sixth form level to ensure that they can return to the school environment, and then over the course of the next few weeks working with the COVID Monitoring Unit, we will likely see the resumption of other classes being entered into the timetable at our respective secondary schools,” she stated.

First formers have also been placed on the priority list. The Education Minister said many of them had expressed deep concern that making the transition from primary to secondary school had resulted in many of them not being able to meet and bond with other students.

She also noted that they had been unable to have that opportunity to really bond with their teachers, and this was particularly important as young people transition from adolescence into teenage years.   

“We want to make sure that we give them the best opportunity to at least have some degree of normalcy returning to what all of us, I believe, have become accustomed to over the years, when we go into a new environment in any type of institution. So, we’ve given priority to that class of students as well,” Ms. Bradshaw said.

She also pointed out that another area of priority was special needs education, and the Ministry would be working with the various special needs institutions and special units to ensure students could return to some normalcy in the school environment.

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