Tue | Apr 25, 2017

Eltham High says goodbye to shift system

Published:Sunday | September 14, 2014 | 9:00 AM
Outside the Eltham High School in St Catherine.-Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer

The administration, teachers and students of the St Catherine-based Eltham High School are beaming with pride following the successful implementation of a single-shift system.

Board chairman, Lenford Salmon, says the decision to end the shift system was among the best things to have happened at the institution.

"We saw what it was doing to our students. They were being exposed to four hours of contact time, compared to the five hours provided to their colleagues in the traditional high schools, many of whom entered with better Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) grades than the students who were entering Eltham," explained Salmon.

He said studies showed that students' level of attention decreased throughout the day and, therefore, it was hard to be asking them to remain in class until 4 and 5 p.m.

According to Salmon, the decision to abolish the shift system was internally driven and was quickly embraced by staff, parents and students.

"I was listening to the radio one evening on my way home and heard Mr Radley Reid talking about how he used the extended-day model to end the shift system at Campion College back in the 1970s. I was moved by his story, so I got in touch with him," recounted Salmon.

Two periods added

The extended-day model involves lengthening the school day by two periods of 40 minutes each. Half of the students in each grade level begin school at 7:30 a.m. and end the school day at 2:10 p.m., while the second half begins school at 8:30 a.m. and end at 3:30 p.m.

Salmon said after discussing the idea with Reid, who is now a senior adviser to Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites, he was referred to the current principal of Campion College, Grace Baston, who also engaged him in dialogue on how to effect the change at Eltham.

The board chairman disclosed that the transition from the shift system took place with the same staff complement and without any expenditure on the construction of additional buildings; even though more spaces will have to be provided in the medium to long term.

However, the school, which has a population of 1,500 students, needed additional furniture to make the transition and this was supplied by the education ministry.

"There is more contact time; our teachers no longer have to meet during class time and even our sport programme will improve as there will be additional time for training after school," boasted Salmon.

In the meantime, Thwaites has commended the administration of the school on its decision to adopt the extended-day model and is encouraging other schools to consider it as a method to replace the double-shift system as well as to address overcrowding in single-shift schools.

'They were being exposed to four hours of contact time, compared to the five hours provided to their colleagues in the traditional high schools ... .'