– NGSAs’ can opt out, be placed in nearest secondary, write adjustment exams after
– teachers with existing medical conditions can be exempted
– union urges rethink on exams, schools’ re-opening
The Education Ministry on Friday addressed concerns about teachers and students returning to school for the sitting of the NGSA, CSEC and CAPE examinations citing numerous sanitation and other measures to ensure the safety of everyone involved.
As students and teachers prepare to head back to school for a few weeks for major examinations, the ministry has reaffirmed that it is working in the best interest of students and teachers.
The school day has been reduced to a 4-hour day inclusive of a 30-minute lunch break. Students are only expected to attend on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays until the commencement of their respective exams. With some parents raising concerns about student safety, the Ministry of Education team explained the countless measures that will be implemented to ensure safety for all, including erecting hand-washing stations.
Assistant Chief Education Officer (ACEO) for the Primary level, Carol Benn said all students will be given a sanitization kit, inclusive of face masks, soaps and hand-sanitisers in the first week of re-entry into schools.
Schools will be cleaned thoroughly twice daily and teachers will be equipped with face shields. Physical distancing stickers and other signage will be employed at all schools. For parents who still have reservations about sending their children to sit the NGSA, there is another option.
Students may be placed in the nearest secondary school to their home and may be eligible to write a placement examination upon completion of their Grade 9 year once they satisfy the criteria to do so.
All primary and secondary school teachers are expected to return to school on Monday, June 8 while students will return from June 15. Director of the National Centre of Educational Resources Development (NCERD), Jennifer Cumberbatch said that the examination dates provided are the best, even amid the COVID-19 concerns.
‘The Ministry of Education has been working to get this right for our children. We want our learners to be safe,” Cumberbatch noted.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the closure of 352 nursery schools, 453 primary schools and 139 secondary schools and affected almost 190,000 students countrywide.
For students sitting the NGSA, English and Science will be held on July 1 while Mathematics and Social Studies will be written on July 2. The Paper 1 exams are expected to last for one hour each while the Paper 2 exams – except Mathematics – will have a 55-minute timeline.
Meanwhile, there are concerns over the issue of teachers who may have pre-existing medical conditions. The issue was raised during the webinar hosted by the Ministry of Education yesterday morning to address any concerns surrounding the 2020 examinations.
It was noted that persons with pre-existing medical conditions are more vulnerable to the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). Addressing the issue, Chief Education Officer (CEO) Ingrid Trotman stated that teachers with such conditions will not be required to be present during this period.
“Teachers with ailments will be exempted, once they can present evidence or proof of their illnesses […] and given other duties,” Trotman said.
She also noted the resilience of teachers during this time and thanked them for their continued hard work. Moreover, as it relates to students who may have health issues such as asthma, the Ministry of Education is working to put measures in place for their safety.
The Assistant Chief Education Officer (ACEO)-Secondary, June-Ann Gonsalves assured that if countermeasures are needed for students with asthma and medical conditions, including putting the students in special classrooms further away from other students, the Ministry is prepared to adjust.
“From the time we would have started our consultations we would have relied on the recommendations of the Ministry of Health,” Gonsalves stated.
The ACEO continued “if we need to consider relocating these children, giving them some additional space, we will ask the Ministry of Health for additional advice before we pronounce on this.”
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