The Barbados Secondary Schools Entrance Examination (BSSEE) can only be written once, so parents should be sure that their children are ready academically to sit the exam.

Senior Education Officer Glyne Price stressed this last Thursday evening as he addressed one of the BSSEE familiarisation sessions at the St. Bartholomew Primary School in Parish Land, Christ Church.

Mr. Price said: ???If for the early sitter, he does not perform as you expect, then you cannot request another sitting???The first yardstick of readiness [for the exam] is your age. As long as you are 11 years old that is the yardstick of readiness, as determined by the Laws of Barbados.???

The senior educator pointed out that for children working ahead of their class and intending to write the exam at 10, they should score 85 per cent or above in both English and Mathematics, over six terms, that is, three in Class Three and three in Class Four. He, however, noted that the Ministry would, in some cases, ???be satisfied with at least scores for five terms and that these children should be within the top 200 on the island???.

Deferrals were also a big talking point at the meeting. It was revealed that for students to defer that they must score less than 20 per cent over the six terms, between Class Three and Four, and should have completed the syllabus. If it is the opinion of the teacher or parent that the child would benefit from another year, this too would be taken into consideration.

Maintaining that with the deferral they would not be looking for big jumps in scores, the Senior Education Officer said: ???It is designed that the child can move from, for example, 19 per cent to 29 per cent. He or she is supposed to take the year and improve their basic skills.???

Issuing a word of caution on deferrals, Mr. Price explained that in September when a child proceeds at 12 plus to secondary school, for the first time in his or her life, every stage at secondary school becomes competitive. He said although a child would be sitting down in first form, when it came to all the competitions in the school, he or she would have to compete with the 12-year olds or second formers, for instance, in the areas of sports, cricket and football.

???You have to compete with the ones in Form Two. Inevitably, what has happened then is that you have either deliberately or otherwise pushed back that child???s educational development for a whole year. He would take a year longer to get to secondary school; he would take a year longer to get to a sixth form school and a year longer to get to [Barbados] Community College and the University??????, Mr. Price explained.

The official stated that ultimately the decision on whether the child wrote or did not write the exam rested with the parents. ???The parent must always make the request. You, as the parent, have to fill out and sign the form,??? he stressed, adding that the professional could only recommend.

The meeting also discussed non-nationals and visa issues; special requests and Choice of School Forms (COSF), and how these should be approached.

With respect to the COSF, it was recommended that parents fill these out based on their zone; the preference of the child, parents and teachers; fill them out completely; and not lie about the child???s home address. Mr. Price also urged that they should refrain from selecting schools based on prestige or ???where somebody else???s child was going???, but give consideration to the ability of the child and the mode of transportation available for reaching the particular school.

Parents also heard that the guide on the 22 secondary schools would soon be distributed, along with all other forms related to the BSSEE to allow them to peruse and make wise choices.

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