Barrington Flemming, Gleaner Writer
THE THREE-YEAR-OLD Belmont Academy in Bluefields, Westmoreland, deemed the island's first centre of excellence, is awaiting word from the Ministry of Education on the promised six classrooms as school numbers continue to increase.
Principal Rayon Simpson said while the school has been chalking up a series of successes, the population continues to grow incrementally every year, so the need for additional classroom space is becoming urgent. The school's population now stands at 502 students with 34 teachers.
"We started with 25 students to one teacher in 2009. It was 200 students and eight classes. Now we have 31 to 32 students per class, which means that we have had to go above the ideal."
Simpson said, in 2011, the Ministry of Education had advertised for bidders to take on the additional classrooms, but no word is forthcoming on this promise, and the lack of a response could be as a result of the economic situation.
He said the institution has lived up to its designation by producing students who have achieved well academically, despite them having been accepted to the school with single-digit averages.
"In 2009, we received close to 50 per cent of students reading below expected levels. The cohort of grade-nine students came with an average grade of 30 per cent with some students having averages of seven, nine and 19. Suffice to say, at the end of two years, when the students would have got to grade 11, we managed a 45 per cent success rate at CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate) examinations," Simpson said.
Additionally, each student in grade 11 leaves with at least a level-one skill from HEART Trust /NTA.
The school has received a ringing endorsement from the Ministry of Education's National Education Inspectorate, scoring a high of four on a scale of five for overall general standards, ranking as highly as Campion College and St Andrew High for Girls that also received a designation of four.
Among the features of the school are a violence rate of almost zero, participation in clubs and societies are compulsory and so too is participation in community and charity-based activities. Teachers must teach at least three classes per month using information-communication technology for which awards are given.
"We choose a teacher of the term, student of the term and a non-teaching staff of the term for which incentives are given," Simpson told The Gleaner.
Acting head of the National College for Educational Leadership, Maurice Smith confirmed that the school was, indeed, on a path of success, highlighting what he said were some of the best practices, which are being observed at the Belmont Academy.
Smith said the school is doing extremely well and cited that, its operational structure is one that if replicated in all schools, would make a major difference.