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Children in Forms 4 to 6 ordered back to school in Trinidad

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Children in Forms 4 to 6 ordered back to school in Trinidad

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – All students in forms 4 to 6 have been instructed to return to the classroom next Monday, whether or not they are vaccinated against COVID-19, and all online classes for them will be discontinued, Minister of Education Nyan Gadsby-Dolly announced on Wednesday.

Other secondary school students, in forms 1 to 3, will continue online classes until the second term in January 2022 when they will also have to return to school, while primary school students continue remote learning.

The Education Minister said the decisions were based on feedback from stakeholders, the results of the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) exams, student vaccination and attendance trends as well as the national COVID-19 infection data over the past two weeks.

“Though we are forging ahead towards normalcy, we must be mindful that we are still operating in a pandemic, and all decisions must be contextualized by this reality. The Government will therefore continue this measured approach, allowing secondary students to return to school physically in phases,” Gadsby-Dolly said.

Data from the Ministry of Health as of Tuesday indicated that 49 853, or 54 per cent of pupils aged 12 to 18, had received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 36 540 or 40 per cent had received their second dose.

As at October 10, 30 per cent of Forms Four to Six were fully vaccinated, with 34 per cent of denominational schools reporting more than 50 per cent vaccinations for this cohort and one per cent of Government schools indicating the same.

“Attendance data collected over the past two weeks has shown that school attendance is consistently lower in the Government secondary schools, with an average of 50 per cent of the eligible cohort attending school physically. For the denominational and private schools, the attendance averaged 80 per cent of the eligible cohort and continued to increase. In some cases, the attendance was as high as 95 per cent at the end of the two-week period,” the Education Minister said.

She said the result of these trends in vaccination and attendance rates was that teaching of the Forms Four to Six cohort was taking place mainly online, though provisions were made by the Government for the safe return of pupils to the physical classroom.

Gadsby-Dolly also noted that analysis of the results of the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) and the CXC exams this year provided evidence of the globally predicted decrease in pupil performance, which can be partly attributed to pupils’ absence from the physical school environment during the pandemic.

“In SEA 2021, 1.5 per cent more students scored over 90 per cent when compared with 2020, however, 6.7 per cent more students scored under 30 per cent. In CXC examinations, the results of which were released on October 15, seven per cent less students obtained five CSEC passes or more in 2021 than in 2020 and 1.3 per cent less acceptable grades were achieved in CAPE 2021 when compared with 2020,” she said.

“One of the main factors in arresting any decline in student achievement during this pandemic is the safe return of all our students to the physical classroom for more effective teaching and learning.”

Minister Gadsby-Dolly said students at special schools, along with their support staff, are allowed to attend school physically according to suitable rotational schedules devised by principals. (CMC)

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