Tue | May 21, 2019

Rush on George Headley Primary - Parents scramble to get their children into champion school

Published:Sunday | April 29, 2018 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris
The entrance to the George Headley Primary School in Duhaney Park, St Andrew.
Members of the winning George Headley Primary Junior Schools' Challenge Quiz team pose with the trophy after beating Meadowbrook Prep in the final.

Last June, George Headley Primary was crowned champions of the 2017 Western Union Primary School Debate competition, and by December it emerged winner of the15th season of Television Jamaica's Junior Schools' Challenge Quiz competition.

Now the shining light from Duhaney Park, St Andrew, is being bombarded by parents wanting places for their children.

Administrators of the school, named after the 'Atlas' of West Indies cricket, the first of the great black batsmen to emerge from the region, have been forced to close registration even before the national registration period for primary schools officially starts.

Principal Aretha Willie says the school's performance in the nationally televised competitions is the primary reason for the higher than usual interest being shown by parents.

"I am oversubscribed," Willie told The Sunday Gleaner last week.

"For the last month, I think I was going out of my mind. We have persons here, sometimes 20, 30, 40 persons daily coming to beg spaces," added Willie.




She said that winning the quiz championship has given the institution even more prominence and has made it a school of choice for many parents.

"Once you have a good thing going, people want to be a part of it, and that's our dilemma this year. We used to have problems (with the high demand for places) in the past, don't get me wrong, but even more so this year," said Willie.

"May 1 is the national registration day, so we normally run it for about three days, but we take applications from the surrounding basic schools," she said, while noting that there are also walk-ins.

Willie has to also take into account the Ministry of Education's new 25:1 pupil to teacher policy which was launched this year.

"As it is now, we are overpopulated. Our capacity is 1,200 and we now have 1,363; that is going to be far less, because if it is 25:1, it means that our enrolment is going to be cut by maybe about 400 students," she told The Sunday Gleaner.

"For grade one, we normally would take about 270 students. This year, I might only be able to take 150, so that overflow of 120 will have to go somewhere else," said Willie.

The principal said that apart from the general logistics that need to be considered when taking in students, the health and well-being of the students need to be considered as well.

"We have three students to one bench. We had a problem, for example, two years ago where we had ringworm infestation, so when one child came down with ringworm, everybody else would have ringworm in short order, so apart from the learning aspect, there is also the health factor too," added Willie as she applauded her staff.

"Kudos to my teachers. No matter how I work them and fuss with them, they come on board," said Willie.