Coleridge Minto | Guidelines set for school sport
In recent weeks, there have been heightened concerns and questions raised about the policies governing the staging of sporting events involving students. This was thrown into sharp focus by the death of Dominic James of St George's College and, more recently, that of Saymar Ramsay of Spot Valley High School.
The ministry wishes offer condolences to the family of Saymar Ramsay, and we continue to offer support to the family, as well as the school community. This matter is the subject of an investigation led by me.
Your editorial of November 8, while reiterating those concerns, suggested there was uncertainty on your part about any existing policy guidelines.
In fact, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information has established clear guidelines governing such events and a manual has been prepared and circulated to inform principals and administrators. The policy guideline on Contact Sport was first introduced in 2008 and revised in 2015 (2nd edition). This manual, as well as all other manuals relating to safety and security, was issued to all schools just prior to the start of the school year and have been on the ministry's website since September 2015.
In the manual, under the section headed Health and Safety of Participants, it is stated, inter ail:
1. Stakeholders must familiarise themselves with established guidelines and policies that outline procedures for accident prevention, management of injury situations, reporting, and notification of parents/guardians in the event of an emergency;
2. All activities should be structured to ensure that safety requirements are met, including consideration for each participant's readiness for the activity, based on age, skill, physical condition and level of supervision provided;
3. All participants should have medical clearance to participate;
4. Medical problems that may affect participation should be communicated to the programme leader. Medical clearance should be reaffirmed on a periodic basis;
5. Parents/guardians must provide informed consent for participants who are under 18 years old;
6. Immediate first aid must be available from trained providers whenever the programme is in progress. First-aid equipment must be available on-site, as part of the budgeted programme, and must be regularly maintained;
7. Communication channels to parents/guardians, health providers, and emergency caregivers, especially in emergency situations, must always be generally known and available.
Subsequent to the death of Dominic James, a sports advisory committee is being established to provide high-level advice and decision making with regards to the overall approach to sporting activities. This includes local activities at a school level, as well as for sporting activities which involves competition: The scope will include a:
- Review of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information's existing policy on contact sports.
- Review of other policies regarding sports to include those provided by ISSA, JISA and other polices.
- Review of any existing legislation and make recommendation as appropriate.
- Research into safety standards from a regional and international perspective and to determine whether the ministry's standards are aligned to best practices.
- Review of the medical forms for schools and determine standardisation or as appropriate.
- Review of all protocols relating to sporting events and determine appropriate standards.
- Maintaining at all times the focus of the partnership on the agreed scope, outcomes and benefits monitoring and managing the factors outside the partnership's control that are critical to its success.
The Jamaica Foundation for Community Development has launched an underserved school-screening initiative that will focus primarily on assisting underserved high schools in identifying at-risk students who are involved in sporting activities and who may require medical intervention and follow up treatment.
In addition, Team Jamaica Bickle, in partnership with the Jamaica Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, has donated defibrillators to 15 schools to assist in the checking of athletes before participation in contact sport.
The ministry has also committed the provision of $10 million to support the sport programme in schools for the new financial year.
From the foregoing, you can see that the ministry has not only been proactive but has been keen to work with all stakeholders to see to the general welfare of our students.
We trust this will help to clarify any misunderstanding about the ministry's policies.
- ASP Coleridge Minto is director of safety and security in schools in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.