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Push for Penwood - Public defender says Jamaica must use all its power to get CXC to reverse decision

Published:Wednesday | August 31, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Harrison Henry

All state power must be used to ensure that approximately 40 students of Penwood High in St Andrew get grades for six subjects sat in this year's Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams, Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry has said.

"The children, who have complied with the requirements of the examining body, should not suffer. I believe that the Ministry of Education has to use all its resources, including state power, to find a remedy. There has to be a solution," she said.

Her appeal comes as the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) announced yesterday that schools that did not meet a July 31 deadline for the submission of school-based assessments (SBAs) could make a case for "hardship".

The Gleaner broke the news on August 25 that students face not moving on to sixth-form or tertiary-level institutions next month after CXC gave them ungraded scores in six subjects because the school did not submit SBA samples.

Harrison Henry said that while all officials involved in the bungling must be held accountable, the Government must move urgently to get the grades as "the repercussions are way too great".

"The examination body has good grounds to be very concerned because, indeed, this ought not to happen. But what is very clear is that we need to explore all those avenues that can open for these children, while ensuring the preservation of the integrity of the examining body."

The CXC expressed concerns about setting "a dangerous precedent" if it were to make exceptions to deadline policies.

Nonetheless, the Barbados-based institution said it was giving territories between yesterday and next week Monday to resubmit SBAs that were submitted to its agents by the July 31 deadline.

Penwood's case cannot be considered under that provision, however, as their samples were not submitted in time to the Overseas Examinations Council, the Jamaican agent of the CXC.

They may, however, argue "hardship" as according to CXC, for SBAs received after July 31, "once the criteria for a case of hardship is established, these late submissions will be given a fair hearing".

On that note, Education Minister Ruel Reid said: "We intend to follow up on this procedure and make the case under the hardship provision so that the students can receive their exam grades shortly."

Details on Jamaica's approach have not been revealed.

Penwood's principal, Donna McLaren, said that she found out samples were not submitted when CXC called her school on August 8 - one week before CSEC results were released.

She said that the school had problems using the CXC's online submission system and the exam coordinator did not follow other schools with similar problems and submit physical copies to the OEC before the deadline.

Admitting to the glitch, CXC said it had extended deadlines that came before the final July 31 cut-off.

Meanwhile, chiding schools, CXC said "prior to the submission, due date, and after that date, comprehensive audits [should] be conducted by the school or centre to ensure compliance with the submission guidelines".