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USE DISCRETION - ISSA urged to re-examine rules and standards for special students

Published:Saturday | March 21, 2015 | 3:00 AMErica Virtue
Shaunelle Wallace of Immaculate Conception High School leads the pack on Day Four of the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Championship last year.

The Ministry of Education, in its new policy on recruitment, has urged school principals not to use one size to measure all students' academic abilities as this could bar them from participating in the world's biggest junior athletics competition: the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA)/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Championship at the National Stadium.

Seventy-two hours before the start of the championship on Tuesday, the athletes gracing the stadium in track and field events can be reasonably expected to have met minimum standards of four internal subjects, with a 45 per cent average.

However, Education Minister Ronald Thwaites, in a recent presentation in Parliament, said if the students fall short of the minimum standards, they should not be ruled out of participation. He urged the ISSA - secondary schools sports governing body - to re-examine its rules and standards for entry in competitions.

"Consideration should be given to students who have proven learning disabilities and cannot attain the qualifying grades but have special talents in sporting activities," said the ministry in Item 3 of its proposal on the way forward on recruitment.

The ministry, in its policy document, laid down the gauntlet to schools as recruiting athletes - especially for sports - has been criticised for its emphasis on glory to schools but often, at a serious cost to athletes.

Tales have been told of athletes recruited by schools for sports programmes, some at significant financial expense, but who become injured during the course of the sports year.

Some of the children are recruited from deep rural Jamaica to Kingston.

 

antisocial behaviour

 

Grand promises made to families for the well-being of the children are discarded after the athletes' injuries become deleterious for the teams and themselves. Children are often ignored and left on their own, and many begin displaying new-found antisocial behaviour.

The ministry's position has been welcomed by those opposing recruitment but has been criticised by those who believe that parents should have the sole say in what is in the best interest of their children.

Maurice Wilson, former 10 times successful coach of Holmwood Technical High School winning Girls' Championship team, now lecturer at the G.C. Foster College of Physical Education, said as a parent, he believes he has the right to determine which schools his children should attend.

Corey Bennett, head coach of the Hydel Group of Schools, agrees with Wilson, saying he should have a say in the school or schools attended by his children.