Education Officer (Examinations and Assessments), Shamin Ally, speaking to parents at the Barbados Secondary Schools’ Entrance Examination town hall meeting at the Lester Vaughan School, in St. Thomas, on Saturday. Looking on is School Liaison Officer, Kenneth Turton. (GP)

Parents and guardians have been urged to communicate with each other and consult with teachers and their children before filling out the online Choice of School registration form for the Barbados Secondary Schools’ Entrance Examination (BSSEE) 2022.

The appeal came on Saturday, March 5, from Education Officer (Examinations and Assessments), Shamin Ally, as she addressed the town hall meeting at the Lester Vaughan School, in St. Thomas, to familiarise them about the processes involved in the exam.

Ms. Ally, who pointed out that this was to ensure realistic choices were made about the exam, also touched on several issues, including the known trend of parent’s changing the child’s address to fit into a particular zone, outside of the zone within which they fall.

Stressing that the address to be inserted was the one which the school was provided with when the child was first registered, or if it was changed along the way and re-submitted to the school, Ms. Ally said: “You will notice, through his school life, through six years of schooling, you registered; you got your child admitted to a school and originally you lived in St. James.

“We would ask that they make realistic choices based on the discussion with the class teacher and the child. But you know children can get very upset if you put down schools that they are not interested in. So, you must involve your child in that discussion as well.”

Education Officer (Examinations and Assessments), Shamin Ally.

“[But] during the course of that period of time you would have relocated to Christ Church, [then] you should update your records at the school where the child is residing. We are aware that sometimes the child lives with both parents or the mother or the father….  You should be using the one that they have been admitted with or the address that it has been changed to over the years.”

While disclosing that problems occurred last year where some children “suddenly relocated with the other parent or the family moved to the desirable zone”, she encountered an uproar from parents attending the meeting.

However, continuing on, Ms. Ally said: “Seriously, those are things that happen. Or, the child lives with the mom in Zone 2; dad lives in Zone 3, but Zone 3 has the school that I really want the child to go to.  So, all of a sudden the dad is going to fill out the form and send it in.”

She also pointed out that last year there were a lot of issues because parents were not communicating with each other, resulting in the Ministry having about three or four entries where some children had about two addresses.

Ms. Ally, who also noted that the Ministry was using emails as much as possible, however, drew to the meeting’s attention that physical mail to parents did not always end up where it was intended to go.  

Pointing out that this occurred because an incorrect address was often given, she recounted when a grant of $100 was provided over the years, some of them were not delivered by the post because there was no one at the specific address. Parents were therefore urged to update their contact information.

A parent making a suggestion during Saturday’s meeting at the Lester Vaughan School. (GP)

Speaking afterwards to media representatives, Ms. Ally elaborated on the need to consult with teachers.  She noted that usually schools held parents’ conferences and with the children present this allowed for discussion on a child’s performance and then it was left up to parents or family to make the decision.

“We would ask that they make realistic choices based on the discussion with the class teacher and the child.  But you know children can get very upset if you put down schools that they are not interested in. So, you must involve your child in that discussion as well.”

The Education Officer, while stating that the July 5 date for the exam was tentative, stressed the country was still in the pandemic and care had to be taken with our activities. 

“I know that in the school environment we are doing everything to keep our children safe, but then they leave us or they leave the schools to go home, so a number of factors can play in the changing of that date.  But right now we are settled for July 5, but it is all dependent on what happens between now and then,” she explained.

“We took the challenges we noticed parents had in the previous year and worked on them. The layout of the form was changed, so it is easier for the parents to understand. We realised persons left off information but we made sure this time that the form cannot be submitted without the information we require.”

Education Officer (Examinations and Assessments), Shamin Ally.

She also registered her satisfaction with the turnout, noting that parents were able to glean much from the town hall, as the team, made up of School Liaison Officer, Kenneth Turton and herself had aptly addressed the questions posed to the Ministry.

Meanwhile, Mr. Turton, in outlining steps to complete the form, which is online for the second year running, gave the commitment that this year it would prove more user friendly.  However, he urged parents to be careful in how they filled it out.

“We took the challenges we noticed parents had in the previous year and worked on them. The layout of the form was changed, so it is easier for the parents to understand. We realised persons left off information but we made sure this time that the form cannot be submitted without the information we require,” explained Mr. Turton.

However, recognising that parents/guardians were searching online for the document, he told them the system was not yet up or live. And, he remarked: “The opening of the form and the deadline for the form haven’t been set as yet, but those would be happening after the last town hall meeting.”

The town hall meetings, an annual undertaking of the Ministry are expected to conclude on Saturday, April 2, at two venues, the Alleyne School, Belleplaine, St. Andrew, and St. John Parish Church, St. John.  

joy-ann.gill@barbados.gov.bb

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