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GUEST COLUMN – All secondary schools not equal

Trevor Pilgrim

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In respect of the Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, I was not present when he spoke, so I don’t know what exactly he said about The Lodge School. However, I need to put in perspective a few statements attributed to him in the SATURDAY SUN of August 13.
He indicated that we need to do an analysis, since we had failed once again to land a Scholarship or an Exhibition winner. He expressed concern and talked about slippage. This misleads the public.
There is no real slippage. All secondary schools are not equal.
The four traditional sixth form schools, as well, do not operate on a level playing field.
There is a pecking order, which determines the intellectual capacity or quality of the students who are allocated to each of these schools after the Common Entrance or 11-Plus Exam.
The best students go to Harrison College, Queen’s College, Combermere and even The St Michael School. The Lodge School draws its first form intake at position number five or six in the pecking order (there is a toss-up with Foundation).
Up to the late 1970s The Lodge was on par with Harrison College.
At sixth form level The Lodge School has been drawing its intake at position number four. In other words, in the last place among the four traditional sixth form schools, up to last year.
Most [of our] sixth form students would not be accepted in other sixth form schools. We even take students from Harrison College, Queen’s College and Combermere who were rejected by their own schools because they weren’t Scholarship material.
We cannot insist on Grade 1 passes as a requirement into our sixth form, like the other sixth form schools. Queen’s College, as far as I know, insists on five Grade 1s for entry into their sixth form, Harrison College insists on three [for] the subjects that you’re doing.
We all know that the most important variable in school success is the intake that each school gets. High societal expectation accompanies acceptance into the schools at the top of the pecking order.
No reasonable person who understands our education system can therefore expect The Lodge School to produce Scholarship and Exhibition winners like the more favoured schools.
The system is not going to give us Scholarship material. We have to identify those few of our students who want to undertake this Herculean task and work with them especially. There is no guarantee of success.
Our last Barbados Exhibition occurred in 2007. Our philosophy speaks to creating the greatest good, for the greatest number of our students. A school must be judged by what it does for the vast majority of its students, not what it does for a privileged few who would excel any way.
By this yardstick, The Lodge is an extremely successful school. The vast majority of our students do extremely well in all external exams at CSEC and CAPE.
They move on to various universities and other tertiary centres and are heavily represented at the highest levels of all professions in this country and abroad. We punch above our weight, to use boxing terminology.
It is unfortunate that the statements attributed to the minister were made at this time when parents and students are choosing sixth form schools.
Trevor Pilgrim is principal of The Lodge School.

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