The official launch of The Consultancy Services for the Development of a School Location Plan with School Mapping Model was today marked by support and praise from those collaborating on the effort.

Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Senator Harcourt Husbands, addressing the launch at Courtyard by Marriott, Garrison Historic Area, Hastings, Christ Church, acknowledged that the Ministry was ???excited at what the consultancy will offer???.

He noted that the procurement and execution of the consultancy would strengthen the decision-making capacity of the Ministry, primarily as it related to the provision of educational resources.

???Specifically, this consultancy provides the mechanism to support sector planning for effective allocation of educational infrastructure to meet the current and emerging demographic needs,??? Senator Husbands said.

He pointed out that the closure of Louis Lynch Secondary had added pressure on the education system and said the mapping system was being launched with the expectation of it being a significant factor in the location/placing of schools for increased efficiency.

The Parliamentary Secretary cautioned, however, that it would be unwise and a waste of money if we just developed a system that would accurately and efficiently tell us where we should put schools, taking in the demographics and history, and not consider that schools had to be adequately staffed and staff appropriately trained to a certain level of competency.

Pointing out that the consultancy represented Component III of the Education Sector Enhancement Programme (ESEP) II, being undertaken by the Ministry in collaboration with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), he said: ???ESEP II is timely as it focuses on Enhancing Education Planning and Management; the quality and effective use of resources to support current and future policies; and programmes implemented within the education sector.???

Portfolio Manager, Social Sector Division of the CDB, Dr. Idamay Denny, stressed that planning for the location and operation of schools was not a whimsical activity but one that should be subjected to informed and empirical information and sound demographic analysis.

She said school location planning was a tool to help not only Ministries of Education but wider Government officials plan for the development of infrastructure, and services which contribute to the effective and efficient delivery of education in a country.

Agreeing with the Parliamentary Secretary, Dr. Denny stated there were a number of reasons why school location planning was critical in Barbados, at this time.

???People are moving away from certain areas; they are moving into other areas; there is a decrease in the birth rate???leading to falling enrolment, and many of our schools are not now as full as they used to be. In fact, there is a lot of capacity available in some of our schools,??? she observed.

The CDB representative further noted there were changes in family structure and transportation issues and Governments, including Barbados were finding it difficult to place schools where there can be maximum return on the investment in the infrastructure and the services necessary for operating schools.

Stressing that there were schools with very small pupil-teacher ratios and it might not be economically sound to carry those ratios, she added that those with excessively large pupil-teacher ratios could have a negative impact on classrooms with diverse needs in existence.

???So therefore, school location planning is very critical to effective strategic planning for the development of education,??? Dr. Denny said, while outlining some factors that made this critical, such as the policy of universal access to early childhood development and its myriad questions, including the optimum locations for these early childhood centres.

???There???s also a policy on the size of secondary schools???many of our secondary schools are too large. Those sizes make them difficult to manage, and therefore we require additional secondary access,??? said Dr. Denny. She explained that other questions surrounded the number of schools needed and locations for these; the greatest demand at the primary level; and issues of overcrowding and under capacity.

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