Sixth form pressure - High fees rock parents but schools argue it’s worth it
Several parents who celebrated the success of their children who copped passes in the required number of Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) to gain places in sixth form (grades 12 and 13), are now facing the stark reality of higher than expected school fees to take up these places.
Checks by The Sunday Gleaner showed the basic fee for sixth form, ranges from $25,000 for Holy Trinity High School up to $80,000 for Campion College.
Some schools, including the Corporate Area based Ardenne High, charge an additional $6,000 for lab fees for each science subject.
But principal of St Andrew High School for Girls, Sharon Reid argued that the fees are set based on the costs facing schools to deliver the sixth form programme.
“When you take the whole thing into perspective, the cost of running the sixth form is quite high, so we must charge. The Government gives us $17,000 per child per year and then they do help us in paying part-time staff but it is assistance, it is not covering the total cost,” said Reid.
Her school charges $63,000 plus $3,000 for PTA fees, for its sixth form and Reid argued that her programme is not just based on exam passes but takes on a holistic approach.
“It’s a leadership development programme that takes on a more intense component. One of our objectives is training leaders. We get assistance from other professionals to train these girls (and) all of that costs,” said Reid.
“For sixth form, even in term of labs its additional resources. What it takes to produce excellence at grades 12 and 13 is far more than grade seven to 11. This is pre-university you know, its costly,” said Reid.
Over in Westmoreland at the Manning’s School vice principal for upper school, Jennifer Brown, agreed that its expensive to run a successful sixth from programme.
Brown told The Sunday Gleaner that at $40,000, her school is among those at the lower end of the sixth form price list and argued that this cost is not a reflection of the type of work the school produces.
“Our programme is excellent ... and our standard really speaks for itself. At our school, the money for sixth form is used to give teachers an incentive and a certain percentage goes to the development of the sixth form programme,” said Brown.
She added that Manning’s has never denied a student entry because they cannot afford the cost for sixth form.
“As a matter of fact, at the end of the term, there are several students who have not paid but we try to work something out with the parents, we don’t turn them away,” said Brown.
President of the National Parent-Teacher Association, Lennon Richards has sided with the schools. He argued that parents always have to bear in mind that sixth form is not compulsory, but a choice and in making that choice, the cost will be greater.
‘It is a fact that parents have challenges, but I believe in these cases, they will sacrifice for the greater good of their children. It is an opportunity for parents to now sit down with their children and discuss the various career choices because a lot of these choices are being heavily subsidise by the Government,” said Richards.
But Education Minister Ruel Reid told The Sunday Gleaner that the ministry is now paying all the cost of the teachers for sixth form including part-time teachers.
According to Reid, the sixth form programme is costing the ministry $887 million and parents who are having challenges finding the sixth form fee can access options from the ministry where they will not be required to pay.
“All students who are on PATH (Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education), or are wards of the state, you will be funded by the Government. In fact all students can pursue their sixth form programme through the CAP (Career Advancement Programme) where they are no fees. My advice is for them to register under the CAP programme and therefore they will be funded freely,” said Reid.
Cost for selected sixth forms across Jamaica
Kingston College $54,000
Wolmer’s Girl’s School $67,500
Ardenne High School $54,000 + $6,000 for lab fees for each science subject
Cornwall College $51,000
Clarendon College $27,500 + $500 insurance
DeCarteret College $44,300
Tarrant High School $45,000
Holy Trinity High School $25,000
Immaculate Conception High $45,000
St. Andrew High School for Girls $63,000 + $3,000 PTA
Campion College $80,000
Edwin Allen High School $25,500
Holy Childhood High $63,000
The Manning's School $40,000