Cacoon Primary overcomes challenges to reap rewards
The Cacoon Primary School in Hanover is still celebrating its best ever Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) successes, which came about in 2014 and, despite a myriad challenges, principal Carol Grant says the institution is hoping to continue on the same path this year.
"Last year, the averages improved immensely. We had averages in the 90s and 80s - that was historical - a major achievement for us. We are working hard on this group to see if they can maintain that. Prior to that, we would have 79 per cent maximum. It was rare when you would have scores in the 80s," Grant said.
"The multi-grade is a challenge where we have grades five and six, for example, with one teacher teaching the two classes... there are some things you can't change; you just have to work with it. Grades two and three are also multi-grade this year, as there have been problems with reappointments (of teachers)," she added.
The school, which also houses an infant department, has been very active in extra-curricular activities. Last year, Cacoon copped the Hanover 4-H Clubs top primary school award and medals in dance and speech at the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission's (JCDC) parish competition.
In February, the school, which has a population of just over 200, won the drum painting and poster competitions and copped second place in the essay competition at the recent World Wetlands Day celebrations in Negril.
Grant said a boosting of the school's GSAT Camp last year and the greater involvement of parents, also contributed to the successes in that examination.
"We got the children totally involved in just studying and focusing on their GSAT work, on the weekends from February, leading up to the exams. It is in no way easy, but we get the police to come on board to give us protection whie we are here in the night. It is a structured camp outside of regular school hours - from Friday until Sunday afternoon when we send them home," Grant explained.
"At home, they would not be doing all that, so it makes a difference. And the parents of the children who are doing GSAT, they usually give support. We would get food supplies from wherever we can beg, and whatever the school can afford and the parents would make their little contributions, like they bring snacks and they come and help cook and serve," she added.
Members of the Parent Teachers Association (PTA), she said, had also benefited from a parenting workshop, and this had resulted in a boost in their support for the school.
"Normally, it (PTA) was not the best of support groups, but in recent times, particularly last year, we have got better support from them. We have had parent training for them too, so they know the importance of supporting the school that the children attend, what is being done here and how they can help. (For) Those children who did very well (in GSAT), we had the support of their parents last year," she said.
The principal said the school is also placing its efforts on raising the reading level of students in the lower grades, as well as getting volunteers to provide staff support.
"Grade four literacy is improving. We have more children at mastery level. The almost-mastery is in the smaller percentage. We have the literacy coach, who comes in and she does pull-outs with them too, to help to move them up to mastery level and we have the evening lessons structured for them and Saturday lessons. If they don't move, then we can't say we never tried, but we have to do something to move them. When they come here, they have to leave better than they came," she said.