Sun | Feb 23, 2020

School grades up in inspection report - But unsatisfactory leadership dogs Portland institutions

Published:Saturday | January 25, 2020 | 12:14 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Chief inspector of the National Education Inspectorate, Maureen Dwyer, looks on as stand-in minister with responsibility for education, Karl Samuda, responds to questions from journalists at a briefing on the findings of the NEI report at Pembroke Hall High School on Friday.
Chief inspector of the National Education Inspectorate, Maureen Dwyer, looks on as stand-in minister with responsibility for education, Karl Samuda, responds to questions from journalists at a briefing on the findings of the NEI report at Pembroke Hall High School on Friday.

The National Education Inspectorate (NEI) 2019 report has revealed that Jamaican schools have scored improvements across all eight indicators when compared to the baseline performance established in 2015.

Of the 653 schools inspected by NEI personnel over the period September 2015 to June 2019, only one was found to be in need of immediate support.

The report is representative of 70 per cent of Jamaica’s schools – 554 primary and 99 secondary.

Chief Inspector Maureen Dwyer highlighted leadership as a critical area for improvement.

“When you get into the elements of leadership, our first area of concern is that of self-evaluation and improvement planning. That’s where we want our schools to continue to build capacity – to be able to plan for improvement in student outcome,” said Dwyer.

The highest level of unsatisfactory leadership was reported in 26 per cent of schools in Port Antonio, Portland, and the lowest, six per cent in Brown’s Town, St Ann.

Dwyer noted that the reasons vary, but the terrain and existence of a number of multi-grade schools in Port Antonio were possible contributors to the negative outcomes.

The inspections found fewer schools that were ineffective, but some classrooms remain inconducive to student-centred activities.

“When you walk into a school and all the chairs are pinned to the floor, you don’t get to move the classroom around at all ... . It makes it difficult for teachers to be able to enact the curriculum which asks of them to do collaboration and group work,” the chief inspector said.

While overall improvement was reported, there were deficiencies in some of the 25 sub-indicators.

“Teachers’ lesson evaluations and reflections are generally missing or inadequate,” a section of the report read.

For students, the greatest areas of concern were punctuality and attendance. The chief inspector outlined that overall performance in Caribbean Examinations Council exams continued to be below par, but more so in mathematics.

This was also reflected at the primary level, where 60 per cent of students were categorised as developing or below in the 2019 Primary Exit Profile.

Fire Safety

Seventy-seven per cent of the schools inspected were graded exceptionally high to satisfactory in the category of safety and security, while the remainder were deemed unsatisfactory.

The Gleaner enquired about the fire safety of the island’s educational institutions, at least five of which sustained damage in 2019.

Beecham Hill Primary and Infant School and Seaforth High sustained extensive damage to a classroom block and art department, respectively, while St Jago High’s canteen was scorched and Calabar High had a minor fire in its administrative building. Ardenne Prep and Extension High was also badly damaged by fire.

“The fire people would probably give you a different answer, but we look for the fact that the schools are aware – that if a fire occurs, they should have extinguishers, they should have escape routes, [and] they should have assembly areas,” Dwyer explained.

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com

Indicators of school effectiveness:

Progress – 23%

Leadership – 22%

Use of resources – 18%

Quality of teaching in support of students’ learning – 17%

Curriculum – 12%

Safety, security, health and well-being – 11%

Personal and social Development – 8%