Thursday 24 September, 2020

10 Takeaways for parents from Education presser about school restart

Students waiting for buses in Oistins (FILE)

Students waiting for buses in Oistins (FILE)

When school restarts in September for students across Barbados "it will not be business as usual".

Stressing this point as she spoke about the options, plans and intentions of the Ministry of Education, Education Minister Santia Bradshaw told parents to expect a new norm across many facets of the teaching and learning experience. 

Here are some of the main points made by the Minister during the 5.45 pm press conference on September 5:

1. 12-week Term 1

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The first term in the academic year 2020/21 will not run for 14 weeks as usual. It will only be 12 weeks running from September 21 to December 11.

2. Curriculum changes

In the first two to three weeks, parents should not be alarmed if their children are not being taught the traditional courses. Bradshaw said that it is the intention of the Ministry to assess deficits and challenges faced by students during the last term and over the summer holidays while away from school. She said the first two to three weeks will be used to orient. 

3. Separation and special attention

Students may be pulled from classes to engage in a modified curriculum as the learning and teaching is tailored to meet the needs of students who once assessed show that they need more attention.

4. Masks

Students will wear face coverings during class time if their desks are less than six-feet apart, however if the desks are at least six-feet apart masks can be removed. 

Bradshaw encouraged parents and guardians to provide their children and wards with masks, but said that the Ministry will provide staff and students with masks, having recived numerous donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) from UNICEF and other private sector donors.

She called on parents to "remind your children that we are still in a pandemic" and compliance is urged.

5.  Staggered breaks

Breaks and lunch will not be one time for all students at once. The Ministry will encourage "eating in class" and calls on parents to "pack lunches".

Breaks will see increased staff supervision especially to observe protocols while students are at the cafeteria and canteen. 

6. Active PTAs

Every school must have an active Parent-Teacher Association (PTA). The Minister was not compromising on this. She said that parents can no longer sit on the sidelines.

7. Parent volunteers and Teacher aids

Appeal to parents, retired teachers and guardians to assist teachers in the classrooms and on the playgrounds. Bradshaw said that in recent years parent volunteer numbers have declined. She pleaded for these persons to "provide assistance". She urged that we have to get back to being a village. 

8. Devices

She said the Ministry is working to grapple with trying to access devices for the students. She said that many of the donations of devices are still not on island yet. More than 20,000 devices have been sourced from Kenya and those are soon expected. Bradshaw reminded Kenya is not Trinidad "right nextdoor". 

9. Flexible timetabling

The blended approach does not equate to 50 per cent of schooling face-to-face and 50 per cent remote learning. "Every school  will be different". She said that arrangements will also be based on the availability of devices for students. Timetabling and scheduling will trade rigidity for flexibility and accommodation.

10. Public Transport 

The Ministry is working towards having a dedicated school bus system. The augmented programme with the Barbados Transport Board, the TAP programme which has allowed for coaches and ZMs to be included as trusted service providers will speed this process for school time along. However, she also said that systems mus be put in place for sanitisation and additional safety protocols to ensure students remain safe.

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