Extended day for high schools
In a bid to eliminate the shift system, which has inherent inefficiencies for school administration and the delivery of the curriculum, the Ministry of Education is promoting the adoption of the extended-day model. At the start of the new school year, Eltham High in St Catherine, as well as Paul Bogle High in St Thomas, adopted the extended-day model and freed themselves from the shift system. This system has been in operation at the St Andrew-based Campion College for several decades.
The double-shift system was introduced in the 1970s in primary and secondary schools to help to alleviate the chronic shortage in school places which existed in the Jamaican education system. It gave greater access to education at both levels and was a great improvement on what existed then. However, the double shift system has had several problems, including:
Shorter instructional/contact time between teacher and student compared with what obtains in a regular one-shift school.
Students' inability to fully participate in regular co-curricular activities.
Students leaving home too early for the first shift and arriving home too late from the second shift.
Very little interaction between students and teachers on either shifts.
The concept of the extended day is the brainchild of John Mackay, retired principal of Campion College, who used it to expand the school's population by one-third without any increase in the infrastructure. This prevented the school from going on the double shift in the seventies.
The application of the extended day model involves:
The lengthening of the school day by two periods of 40 minutes each, with a total of 12 periods for the day (7:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.).
Group 1 - Half the number of students in each grade level (grades 7-11) would begin school at 7:30 a.m. and end school at 2:10 p.m.
Group 2 - The second half of the students in each grade would begin school at 8:50 a.m. and end at 3:30 p.m.
Each group would be in school for 10 periods; eight contact periods (five hours and 20 minutes) and two break periods appropriately placed.
The canteen would be open to serve meals formally from periods three to 10 when classes would be on rotating breaks.
Increasing Student Population
Applying the extended-day model to a single-shift school will increase student population by one third, hence avoiding the $20-million price tag to construct a minimum four-classroom facility from block and steel. By assigning classrooms and other rooms properly, and with minor additions, a four-stream school on single shift could move to a six-stream, or a six-stream school could increase to an eight-stream, if at present there are enough teaching spaces for each grade. With the addition of one or two classrooms at each grade level, an eight-stream school could accommodate 12 streams.
The adoption of the extended-day model in a double-shift school could result in four streams on each shift moving to eight streams on one shift by the addition of two classrooms at each grade level (seven to 11). A six-stream can move to 12 streams on one shift by the addition of two or three classrooms at each grade level and a few other facilities, which would be determined by a space audit.
Double-shift schools will not require any additional teachers outside of the staff/pupil ratio of 1:20 for schools with sixth forms and 1:25 for schools without sixth form. Present single-shift schools will require additional teachers based on the number of students added to maintain the staff/pupil ratio.
Schools with sixth forms (grades 12 and 13) would begin school at 7:30 a.m. and end at 3:30 p.m. Break for each student would depend on the choice of subjects and the timetable.
In addition, the timetable could be arranged in such a way that normally no teacher would begin at 7.30 a.m. and end at 3.30 p.m. Generally, by using the extended day, students would have more contact time than in most normal single- or double-shift schools.
The extended-day model, if adopted, will significantly reduce expenditure associated with the construction of a new school, which costs approximately $700 million. It could provide, in the short run, increased access to schools that are in high demand. This model will also rationalise and make more equitable the contact time for all students. It will also increase the safety levels of students who are now able to leave school and arrive home in good time.