??Member of the Board of Management of the Garrison Secondary School, Deborah Byer, presenting Akeem Rudder??with his prizes??for??Good CXC Results in the 2010-2011 academic school year. Akeem received Grade Ones in Integrated Science and English and gained special prizes for Mathematics; Integrated Science and Hockey. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Ronald Jones is amenable to the call by one Secondary School Head for consideration to be given to "establishing a pool of relief teachers who would be on call, at short notice when teachers go on sick leave for short periods" without having ??replacements.

He was responding to a plea made last Friday by Principal of the Garrison Secondary School, Matthew Farley, during that school’s Speech Day and Prize-Giving Ceremony at Paddock Road, St. Michael.

Mr. Farley had earlier disclosed that a number of subject areas had been adversely affected in the last academic year because of prolonged teacher absence due to extended sick leave. He listed among the areas Geography, Economics, Mathematics, Social Studies and English and said: "It is fine for us to facilitate sick leave but to do so at the expense of valuable teaching time is like cutting your nose to fix your face."

As Mr. Farley urged the Education Ministry to undertake a survey addressing the impact of absenteeism on student outcomes, particularly that based on sick leave, he said to Minister Jones: "Like the Minister of Health, your colleague, who has a similar concern, you may need to do an audit of the state of attendance across schools in order to determine how serious the need is for relief teachers. We cannot be talking about

quality education, about free education, and not have an adequate complement of teachers on site on a daily basis to deliver that education.

"I am not saying that teachers at the Garrison School demonstrate recklessness in their attendance profile, I’m saying if you make provision for sick leave, as indeed, you should and we don’t know when we will be sick, adequate provision must also be made for students to be taught while teachers recuperate."

Minister Jones, in responding to the Principal noted that no school could achieve its true mandate "without the participation of all of its major stakeholders".?? He said, the coming together of these at the Garrison Secondary School was necessary so that the school could deliver quality education to its 923 students.

"It is my call for all of our schools to receive the optimum benefits from all of them," he said, adding: "First, I believe the school must obtain the optimum benefit from its teaching complement. I have listened to Mr. Farley, who has spoken of the challenges which confront the school from time to time from persons not being well."

While?? maintaining that no one could determine when he would be well, Mr. Jones stressed: "But, when we are well and when we encounter our students in our classroom, in our corridors and in our halls, whatever part of the school that they might be, you?? should give that 100 per cent to our young charges, to our young people."

He assured the Principal that the call would not "fall on deaf ears" and stated: "We have to maximise school time… and, therefore, none of those hours should be wasted. You have to have the full impact of teaching on those hours when students are here in our care and in our responsibility."

Pointing out that his Ministry would address the issue and "look to see how it could facilitate this notion of relief teachers" to help where there were absences in the school system, Mr. Jones said: "We cannot complain when students don’t get the full impact, not as a result of their own behaviour, but as a result of a bit of deficit within the school system. We can only complain if students, having been presented with everything to make it possible for them to learn, then don’t learn or don’t apply themselves; that responsibility is not mine…

"It is not the Principal’s or the teachers’ or the Ministry of Education’s [fault]. That responsibility is the students’… because students are not limited in their intellect [and] they are not limited in their capacity to have knowledge and to know what they want to achieve in their own lives."????????????

In providing the school’s academic record of the year, Principal Farley noted that the Garrison Secondary had achieved an overall pass rate of 48.3 per cent and while this represented a dip over the previous year’s figure, which saw the school’s performance spiraling to 57.5 per cent, it did not see a return to the 37.04 of five years ago, despite the challenges. Four students, he added, achieved six or more subjects at one sitting. These were Christina Dottin; Julisa Watson; Chadric Cumberbatch and Christina Fiedler.


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