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Scholars Dinner reaping success at Effortville Primary

Published:Saturday | July 26, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Horace Fisher, Gleaner Writer

Three years ago, in 2011, Otis James, the founder of the James and Friends Education Programme, conceptualised and implemented a scholars dinner to motivate students attending Effortville Primary School in May Pen, Clarendon, to up the ante in their otherwise poor behaviour and academic performance.

Within the first year of implementation, the programme began to bear fruit with a marked improvement in passes at both the grade four and GSAT levels. The students' behaviour and overall attendance, which are key components of qualifying for the lavish dinner, also improved.

The year 2012 was a major turning point in all focus areas for the tough inner-city institution, and the qualifying standards were subsequently raised from an average of 60 per cent to 70 per cent. However, 140 students made the cut for the sumptuous end-of-year dinner, up from the less than 100 who qualified at the programme's inaugural roll-out.

This year, the programme's third anniversary, the bar was again raised to 80 per cent, and again the results have been simply phenomenal, with 180 students showing improvement, according to the school guidance counsellor, Christine Lewin.

"We sent up 47 students for this year's GSAT examination, and to their credit, given their background, they return extremely good results," declared Christine Lewin in a post-dinner interview with Rural Xpress.

"This (Scholar Dinner) is the best thing to happen to Effortville Primary. It has significantly changed the image of the school, and parents are more motivated to send their children to school here," the guidance counsellor said.

Lewin said the successes of the dinner is manifesting itself not only in the quantity of the passes, but also in the quality of the grades with both head boy and girl heading to Glenmuir High, their first choice. There were a number of other students whose GSAT average was in the 90s.

Natalie Faulknor, science and social studies teacher at Effortville Primary, said the students used to have a challenge with the sciences, but have overcome that hurdle after the school instituted a pilot project in subject specialisation.

"We used to have some issues with the science. However, after implementing the subjects-specialisation initiative, the dinner, and, of course, our motivated teachers, we have turned that around significantly," Faulknor asserted.

Bankers, Garfield Morgan (Sagicor, May Pen), Marvia Evangelist-Roach (Victoria Mutual Building Society, May Pen) and other members of the Clarendon business community, in lauding the vision of James, the hard work of the teachers and students, said that James' initiative is a game changer in education and will have a far-reaching impact on the students' development.