Post-Cabinet ministerial statement & press conference – March 25, 2021. (PMO)

Students across Barbados will be returning to the physical classroom at the start of the third term of the 2020-2021 academic year on April 20.

Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Santia Bradshaw, made the announcement while delivering a post-Cabinet Ministerial Statement, last evening.

“Effective on the 19th of April, all teachers and ancillary staff will be required to return in person to their respective schools. School will therefore start for all students on Tuesday, the 20th of April,” she said, assuring that no effort was being spared to allow for the safe return to the classroom.

Minister Bradshaw added that the resumption of in-person classes was critical, as many students had a difficult time adjusting to virtual learning over the past months.

She explained that under the phased approach, students preparing to sit the Barbados Secondary School Entrance Examination and the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) exams will return to the classroom first.

“Those students who must report on Tuesday, April 20, will be all Class Three and Class Four primary school students, as well as all Fifth and Sixth Form students….  It doesn’t mean that the other students don’t matter…. We have to pause and recognise that these students need to get back into a face-to-face environment so that our teachers are in a position to be able to assess exactly where they are in terms of the loss of instructional time in the classroom,” she stated.

Ms. Bradshaw also reminded secondary school students scheduled to write their CXC exams this year that they had the option to defer if they felt they needed more time to prepare.

As it relates to face-to-face instruction for the other students, the Education Minister said “the intention is that they will be able to come in at least three days on and two days off and they will be doing the two days in the online environment”.

A similar approach would be adopted for children enrolled in nursery schools, who would also be returning to the classroom on April 20, and according to Ms. Bradshaw, “the schedule of those classes will be determined by the Ministry in consultation with the respective principals at those schools”.

She also revealed that the Ministry had proposed that schools open from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., in light of concerns raised about the wearing of face masks for an entire day, especially for persons who may suffer from respiratory conditions such as asthma.

Ms. Bradshaw also dispelled any notion that teachers were opposed to going back to school, stating that they “want to, but they want the assurance that they can do so safely”.

The Education Minister also reassured that all health and safety protocols would be in place, noting that education officials had been consulting, and would continue to consult with their counterparts in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, teachers unions, students, parent-teacher associations and other stakeholders in the education sector on the way forward.

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