With this year’s Barbados Secondary Schools’ Entrance Examination (BSSEE) slated for May 8, parents and guardians have already been provided with the Choice of School forms and are preparing to make their selections.

However, they are being encouraged to read the 2012 Guide on Government Secondary Schools, published by the Media Resource Department of the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development. This booklet was distributed to over 4,000 parents of students preparing to write the examination.

A message, contained in the document, from Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Ronald Jones, reinforces this point, urging parents to not only read, but consult with principals and their children’s teachers to ensure the best possible choices are made when completing the forms. "Your child/ward should be given every opportunity to gain a place in a public secondary school," states the Minister.

In many ways, the 2012 guide is most instructive. A quick glance shows that it reiterates information given by Senior Education Officer, Glyne Price, and Education Officer, Colin Cumberbatch, during the familiarisation sessions that were conducted from December 3, 2011 to January 8, 2012. These sessions sought to sensitise persons to the many processes involved and challenges encountered in the administration of the BSSEE, familiarly known as the Common Entrance or 11-Plus.

Those who were unable to attend the sessions should find comfort in the fact that the Guide details much of what was discussed by the Ministry’s officials. These include flexible transfer; partial zoning with details on the three zones into which the 22 secondary schools fall; and requirements for candidates with special needs; as well as non-national students.?? The document also offers information on individual secondary schools and provides templates of forms, including the Choice of School, associated with the 11-Plus. The actual forms are available at the primary schools.

While it is noted that the majority of students who write the ???Common Entrance’ must be 11 years old or under 12 at August 31 in the year of the examination, provision is made for children to sit at an even earlier age.?? According to the Guide, under the Flexible Transfer System, pupils who will be at least 10 years old but under 11 on August 31, 2012, may write the May 2012 examination.

However, the Ministry maintains that such pupils should have covered the syllabus and be considered "ready" by their principal and respective teachers. Additionally, they should have consistently scored 85% and over in both English and Mathematics, in the six consecutive terms preceding the academic year in which the student is seeking to write the examination.

Parents are, nonetheless, cautioned that "being in Class 4 does not mean that a pupil will be allowed to write the examination outside of the customary age".

With respect to the request for deferral, the Guide clearly states that pupils who will be 11 years old by August 31, 2012, may be recommended to defer writing the examination for one year, in this case until May 2013, if in the opinion of the principal, the pupil stands to benefit from the extra year. However, a certain combination of conditions must exist. These include pupils having consistently scored 20% or less in both English and Mathematics over six proceeding terms, and pupils having missed a significant portion of their tuition as a result of trauma or illness or those who have significant learning difficulties.

In addition, students who will be 11 years old, but under 12 years old at August 31 in the year of the examination, and are working in Class 3 with the nine-year old cohort, will be allowed to continue with their colleagues and write the examination the following year. Pupils in this category will, however, not be eligible for a deferral on reaching Class 4.

The Ministry has, however, advised that pupils, whether they write the examination under 11 years or defer writing it for one year, will be able to write it only once.??

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the 2012 Guide to parents is the Choice of School form. The Guide reminds parents that there are only two open choices where parents will be allowed to choose a maximum of two secondary schools from anywhere in the island, including the zone in which the child resides. Following this, a maximum of seven schools may be selected from the secondary schools within the zone in which the

Child resides. A school in the open choices cannot be an option from the child’s respective zone.

While the Ministry has set a deadline of Friday, January 27, for the return of this important form, it must be handed in to primary school principals by next Friday, January 20.??

With just a few days away before this deadline, Ministry officials are reminding parents of the significance of the 2012 Guide, and have urged them to choose schools wisely, since the possibility of a reallocation will be very unlikely.??


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