Minister of Education, Ronald Jones (FP)

Saturday classes for fourth and fifth formers at the Alexandra School may be an option the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development could pursue if industrial action at the school continues.

This was stated today by Minister of Education, Ronald Jones, at a press conference following the failure of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) to turn up at a meeting with the special Ministerial Committee chaired by Mr. Jones and directed by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart.

Minister Jones stressed: "At the heart of whatever we do is that our students must be engaged in some level of education. And, that means that we would have to arrive at a solution to this [impasse]."

Noting that fourth and fifth form students were the ones who undertook external/examinations, at most of our secondary schools, he said: "At fourth form, students do English Language and some do English and Maths. I believe at Alexandra, most of the students, if not all, at fourth form do English.

"There is also the question of the School-based Assessment which usually commences in fourth form, and is submitted at the conclusion of their fifth form year. And, all of the other subjects that they take at fifth form would be caught up in this very difficult and entrenched saga."

While stressing that the Ministry was discussing the likelihood of instituting Saturday classes, he noted that it was not finalised as yet, he said, however, that the Ministry would approach the matter in a formal way, where through the Chief Education Officer, it would "invite qualified, trained, individuals to respond to our requests for teaching to take place on Saturdays, in other words, to boost classes for those students".

Minister Jones added: "…We are constantly searching for methods of reaching the students who are most likely affected by this current saga. It is not an easy one to resolve; we have been trying."

Asked whether parents were expected to keep sending their children to school, even though they were not being taught, Minister Jones said that there were still teachers at the Alexandra School. He observed: "You have not had, as far as I am aware, any of the remaining twenty-odd teachers not going to school. Our records would indicate that, in fact, they are going to school. We would know that it would be a stressful environment, but, by and large, some students are being taught."

The Education Minister appealed to the BSTU to rethink their position and return to the negotiating table, "not as they singularly want to dictate, but to come to the table, as they have had in the past, to work through these issues. But, as a consequence of seeking to work through these issues, let the teachers return to the classroom and the process will not be abandoned".


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