School officials from some institutions in the Corporate Area are concerned about the social and emotional welfare of students who have been placed in non-traditional high schools, following yesterday's release of the results of the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT).
Principal of Sts Peter and Paul Preparatory School in St Andrew, Karen Siyanbola, told The Gleaner that despite the fact that the results were excellent, with most of the overall grades averaging in the very high 90s, she was surprised that some of her students were being sent to Kingston Technical High, Pembroke Hall High, Tarrant High, and Dunoon Technical High, which are all outside of their geographical area.
Siyanbola noted that in the past, in addition to high percentage placements in the traditional high schools, she would have a few students placed at Papine High and Mona High. But this year, some students were being placed in schools that were outside the norm.
"I know the Ministry [of Education] is trying and they will say all our schools are viable, but we have to be realistic," she said.
"The concern for parents is not so much the academic standard of those schools, but the social fabric, because the cultures of the children are very different."
She said, for example, she had two non-Jamaican, second-language students placed at Tarrant High.
"One is from mainland China and the parents are not even sure what to do at this stage. My concern is, will they be able to manage socially and emotionally?" the principal lamented.
She said another concern was that students were being placed in technical and vocational schools, which required a specific line of study that they were not prepared for.
"The children are crying. They feel as if they have failed," she said.
Siyanbola also noted that the reality was that parents with children in private preparatory schools paid to ensure that their children could matriculate into a school that was going to help them succeed.
"So they see it as almost a lack of fairness and injustice that their children are being used to elevate a system," she said.
On Tuesday, Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites announced that students with good grades would be placed across all schools.
She said while she applauded the move as a noble idea, it could only work when the proper infrastructure has been put in place.
Siyanbola was among a number of principals who expressed surprise and disappointment with the placements.
Irene Foster, vice-principal at Rousseau Primary in St Andrew, said she was also happy with the results, but very disappointed with where some of her students were being sent.
"With passes in the 90s, we got places in schools like Jamaica College, Kingston College and Meadowbrook High. But we also have students being sent to some schools that we have never gone before like Edith Dalton James High, Tarrant High and Pembroke Hall High," Foster stated.
"The students are crying; they are very disappointed. The worst they think could have happened to them is Norman Manley High and they are not even placed there."
Parents were also visibly upset, openly declaring the placements were unfair.
Of the 43,300 students who took the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), 28,315 were given places in schools they selected. Another 13,343 have been placed based on proximity of their homes to schools, and 1,642 were manually placed.
Education Minister Ronald Thwaites said owing to the improved performance of students across all subject areas, many students who received high averages were not placed in preferred schools.