New Horizons Academy, aimed at building the self-esteem of children, has been officially opened at the site of the now defunct Erdiston Primary School on Pine Hill, St. Michael.

Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ronald Jones, speaking after he unveiled the plaque, said the facility sought to build the self-esteem of young people in our schools.

???For a long time, we have had so many complaints of students who are unable to settle down and to work within existing secondary schools, and to some extent, some children in primary schools. So, this school can really start with students [of age] nine or 10, and go as far as 16,??? Mr. Jones explained.

Explaining that it could be regarded as a ???staging ground??? since it was not the intention to keep students there, he said: ???But if they have to they will. But they still have to be prepared for assessment procedures in the country.??? And, he noted that what his Ministry was trying to do was to change the young people by making a difference in their lives where they could return to the existing [school] structure.

With respect to the type of child who would be sent to New Horizon Academy, the Education Minister noted that any breaches must be ???over a period of time??? and not just one-off.

???You realise that they are not working well within the given educational institution that they are at; then you bring them here ???There is a lot of space; the numbers are not big and they really can find their own purpose,??? he said.

He also pointed out that teachers and support personnel helped to guide them towards changed behaviours that would allow them to settle down and return to another learning institution and do CSEC or CCSLC [Caribbean Certificate of Secondary Level Competence], Caribbean Vocational Qualifications or other assessments that the Ministry deemed suitable for the student.

According to Director of the Academy, Coleen Gilkes-Collymore, the school, which first threw open its doors last year, has the capacity to enroll 60 students but currently has a roll of 18. She said the shortest stay may be a term ??? that is three months – and the longest stay would be ???whenever the child is ready to go???.

Noting that it was a partnership that involved working with the Student Support Services of the Education Ministry and parents, she said there were ???Partnership Saturdays??? and a social worker also undertook home visits. She added that the curriculum was similar to the secondary schools where students undertook Maths, English, Physical Education, Art and Music, among other subjects.

???We do everything that the other schools do and that???s simply because the students are going back into the mainstream classroom???We work closely with the schools that they come from so that we know what they are doing in that curriculum so that we too can work along and then we assess or we allow the schools to send an assessment,??? Mrs. Gilkes-Collymore explained.

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