The Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training is sticking to its proposed date of Monday, February 21, for the phased return of students to the physical classroom.
Stating that the process might not be perfect, Minister Kay McConney, outlined the reasons behind the decision to push ahead with the February 21 start date and the steps taken to make the transition back to face-to-face learning, a smooth one.
She was speaking during an update on the return to face-to face classes this evening. Students have been learning solely online since September 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In all of this, the Ministry is mindful that some of our Barbadian students have to take the same external exams, including CSEC and CAPE, at the same time as others in the region; and their counterparts in the region are already (in significant part) back to face-to-face-school, benefitting and advancing in ways that our Barbadian students would also like to benefit and advance. My informal conversations with students bear out their concern. And, their perspective must also be taken into consideration,” Ms. McConney stated.
She continued: “We are also mindful that our students must get going sooner rather than later on subjects which require practical work submissions for them to demonstrate proficiency and excellence in various assessments and exams. Our children will not only be required to compete with others in Barbados and the region for opportunities in education (at all levels), they will be competing with peers from around the world, who will be seeking to land spots in universities, colleges and special schools and jobs for the future…. For these reasons, among others, the Ministry has determined that schools will reopen in a phased manner from February 21, 2022.”
After consulting with stakeholders, including teachers’ unions, the National Council of Parent-Teacher Associations, the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the Transport Board, Ms. McConney said the Ministry had taken into consideration those schools which would be ready to start from next Monday, as well as those which would need some more time before they reopened.
She further shared that the Ministry had augmented its effort to strengthen its Student Support Services Unit. This includes:
- Engaging seven additional primary school social workers and seven school counsellors for secondary schools. These officers have started work with the students and teachers at several schools to prepare them for the return to face-to-face classes.
- Six primary school counsellors supported by the Sandy Lane Charitable Trust.
- Several sessions which were organised for teachers of schools that were used as isolation centres and for other teachers.
- A Mental Health & Wellness Committee set up in July 2021, which has developed a plan to support the psycho-social needs of school personnel.
Ms. McConney pointed out that some of the minor repairs being carried out at school plants could be done safely without disrupting classes while students were in school, noting that other repairs would have to be conducted when students were not at school.
She added that as the country started the process of opening fully for business, the Ministry was seeking to do the same with schools.