Tue | Mar 20, 2018

The school of choice! Hampstead Primary transforming lives

Published:Thursday | September 8, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Principal of Hampstead Primary School, St Mary, Nicolette Dwyer.


During her first 16 months in charge at Hampstead Primary School in St Mary, Principal Nicolette Dwyer implemented a raft of new measures that have helped transform both the facility, and the lives of the children who attend.

Speaking on the first day of the new term, Dwyer insisted the changes came mostly after the introduction of new, experimental, and specialist teaching strategies that aim to ensure every one of the school's 137 students, irrespective of their academic abilities, is given enough time to learn.




She told Rural Xpress: "The past year has been wonderful because we have implemented things like differentiated instructions, a mathematics interactive outdoor environment, a wall where students can learn basic Spanish vocabularies, and all the recommendations made by the National Education Inspectorate.

"In addition to working on improving safety and security, and students' performance and discipline, we continuously record and analyse data which we use to inform instructions, so we are better able to address students who are in need of critical care or special intervention.

"As a result, whereas [local] parents would previously have sent their children to schools outside of the community, we are now becoming more a school of choice. They are coming in because we have 22 grade-one students, and we're still registering. This time last year, we started with just 16."

Over the past eight years, Dwyer has evolved from a high-school literacy specialist into a technology-focused educator dedicated to helping young people with special needs. She loves being a headmistress and enjoys working with children, but concedes that her original passion had little to do with education.

The unconventional principal explained: "Initially, I wanted to be a nurse and take care of sick people. So when I decided to go into education, I told myself I would specialise in literacy because that would allow me to take care of the students who could not read and write.

"When I got into education, I found that not only did students struggle to read, but there were also other underlying factors that sometimes prevented or restricted them from performing well."

Hampstead Primary receives assistance from a Christian outreach ministry committed to the restoration of the local parish, the American-Caribbean Experience, and a group of US-based Methodist who recently donated goods and services worth more than J$500,000 to help renovate the school building.