Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Santia Bradshaw, said she has every confidence that the Ministry and its stakeholders would find “common ground” as it relates to the reopening of schools next month.
Speaking at a press briefing to announce the results of the Barbados Secondary Schools’ Entrance Examination yesterday, Ms. Bradshaw said the Ministry had been in consultation with the unions and the Ministry of Health, to determine the safest way for teachers and students to start the new school year.
Ms. Bradshaw said school is expected to begin on Monday, September 21, and the Ministry and unions are still to decide on what format teaching and learning would take.
“And I have that confidence because, as I said before, I saw what took place in relation to the reopening of schools for the 11-Plus and preparing our students. We were in disagreement on other aspects, in terms of whether students should go back for three weeks or four weeks of face to face interaction, but there was consensus in terms of how that interaction would take place with teachers and students.
“… As I said, we’re preparing to have discussions with our teachers as well because they are the ones who are interfacing with our students on a daily basis. And we also have a framework policy which has been guided by PAHO and UNICEF in relation to the safe opening of schools, and the way in which instruction should be delivered during a COVID-19 environment,” Ms. Bradshaw stated.
She disclosed that Acting Chief Education Officer, Joy Adamson, had met with stakeholders as recently as Monday, this week, and the upcoming meetings with teachers would address several concerns, including students wearing masks in classrooms.
The Education Minister noted that while having full capacity at schools was the ideal situation, that was not an option, because of physical distancing and sanitising protocols.
“So, there are some very real issues that we have to work around the mechanics of how we can get back into school. But I am confident that by sitting down as we did before with all of the stakeholders that we can come to a common understanding as to what we need to do,” she explained.
Ms. Bradshaw acknowledged that when schools reopen, it would not be a perfect situation, “but we are going to try to come as close to perfect as we possibly can”.
She pointed out that the Ministry would continue to be flexible as it relates to online learning, going into the new school year.
She noted, for example, that the Ministry was not rigid when it came to students wearing school uniforms last term while attending online classes.
“In some cases, children being home means they put on a little bit of weight. I am of the view that what you are wearing is not going to affect how you learn, and therefore, we made certain accommodations in this environment to allow children to settle down and do what is important, which is to learn. Those accommodations will continue so long as we have the necessary representations on the table and we will find the compromises as best as we can, but there’s no perfect solution for this situation,” she said.