“The Alma Parris School I’d like to see”

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I was particularly pleased to hear Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw announce the reopening of the Alma Parris Memorial Secondary School.

Its closure clearly demonstrated the thinking that there are those in our society who continue to assess the abilities of our children on those who are fortunate to enter Harrison College or Queen’s College. Yet in multiple families across Barbados there are children who are so challenged cognitively that they are unable to cope with children of their own age within the average classroom. I believe that a facility like the Alma Parris was necessary to complement the educational institutions that cater to the normal child.

My recommendations for a reconstituted Alma Parris are:

1. The retention of the name Alma Parris but with some other creative words to replace “secondary”.

2. The appointment of a principal with a record of achievement in special education; one who understands the goals of such an institution within the broad framework of our educational system, and whose vision is the enhancement of the children’s varying abilities and not the salary of the post.

3. The provision of a skills-based curriculum.

4. That children be sent there (a) on the recommendation of teachers and parents who are aware that such children cannot pass the Common Entrance Examination or (b) who got between zero and 20 per cent in the Common Entrance Examination. (I have observed children who could not follow simple instructions on the paper taking this examination.)

5. The ability to transfer children whose development merits it (the late developers) to the normal secondary schools.

6. The recruitment of staff members who apply and show the aptitude to work in such an institution. Please, not difficult, stressed out, recalcitrant or psychologically troubled teachers in the system already who present problems in the normal school, whether primary or secondary.

7. The establishment of a board of management of committed, experienced and civic-minded Barbadians (not necessarily Barbados Labour Party faithful) whose motto would be service and not the paltry remuneration that comes after every meeting.

8. The increase in the payment of board members above that of the other secondary schools as a form of goodwill.

– DAN C. CARTER (Dr), educator and historian