55-y-o Hopefield Prep rises to GSAT glory
Jermaine Francis, Gleaner Writer
Tucked away on a garden-like property on Hillcrest Avenue in Kingston 6, Hopefield Preparatory is the island's top-performing school in the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) for 2014.
Celebrating its 55th anniversary this year, principal Doreen Clemetson said the results came as no surprise, as they have been steadily working towards excellence over the years.
"We ensure that all our students understand the GSAT curriculum and are comfortable to sit the exams when the time comes," Clemetson told The Gleaner.
Clemetson stressed that the school has always maintained an intimate environment in which all stakeholders are appraised of their roles and given a chance to play a critical part in the school's development.
She added that without the support of parents and their willingness to get involved in activities at the school, they would not have been able to maintain its tradition of distinction.
"It's a small school and we depend on a lot of parental support. We have sessions with the parents and we give them strategies that we ask them to employ at home to help the students. Believe me, the students doing GSAT need that extra help," she stated.
Clemetson explained that one of the strategies they encourage is the creation of a small space dedicated specifically for studying at home.
"Six months before GSAT, we suggested to parents to get a study area ... and we encourage them, just as much as we encourage the students, to help their children study and if they need our support at the school we are here for them," she noted.
Another tactic she said they employed was to have set times for extra lessons. They start delivering GSAT lessons to students during summer.
Of the 22 students who sat the exams in March, 21 got into the schools of their first or second choice, with the odd pupil being placed at a top traditional high school in the Corporate Area.
One of those students was awarded a government scholarship as one of two top-performing boys at GSAT.
Eleven-year-old Liam Datt scored a 99.4 per cent overall average in the exams and was awarded a place at Campion College.
Speaking with The Gleaner in July after the awards were announced, Datt credited the support of his parents and the school for his success.
With 186 students enrolled along with 12 full-time staff members, Clemetson said the school operates as a family, ensuring that each child gets the attention he or she deserves. As such, she said it was not uncommon for classes to be averaging in the high 90s.
"We are a family here. We strive to keep it family-oriented. We try to know each child by their name and establish a relationship with their parents," she noted.
Clemetson was quick to dispel the idea that the school was elitist, noting that "we have a wide cross section of students here and we encourage this diversity".