SECONDARY school principals are contending that examination deferrals are not a gateway to repeating grade 11.

Therefore, thousands of students who have deferred their Caribbean Secondary School Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) sitting might be left out in the cold.

Two such principals have explained that the 6,000 CSEC and 300 CAPE students who opted to defer sitting their examinations until January or June 2022 will likely have to engage in independent studies, void of the direction or supervision which is customary for the CSEC and CAPE preparations.

Meadowbrook High School Principal Kevin Facey told the Jamaica Observer that accommodating repeat students is based on space,, and the deferrals should not be viewed as a step to repeating the grade.

“What we have done at Meadowbrook is try to separate the issue of deferrals and repeating. We believe that repeats are always based on space and they’re based on case-by-case consideration. No school is allowed to give a repeat for a student if there’s no space. I cannot displace a current grade 10 student to facilitate a grade 11 student who wants to repeat. What can happen is, if there is a [grade] 10 [pupil] that drops out, there’s a space. In most schools there is some degree of attrition as you go up the line, [and] you can get one and two persons in. But what we cannot do is displace a lower-grade student so a student currently in fifth form can repeat,” Facey said.

He added that during the deferral selection period it was made clear to parents that the two are not connected.

“When they signed up we sent a document to say that a deferral does not mean it’s the first step to a repeat. The two are not connected, because we didn’t want to open the floodgates where parents think, ‘My child is not prepared for an exam so what I am going to do is hedge my bets; I am going to ask for a deferral,’ and then say you have to make him or her repeat. No.

“The school will, however, act as a default exam centre for the deferral children. If a child defers, let’s say, physics and chemistry to next year, then Meadowbrook will allow them to do the Paper I and Paper II at Meadowbrook. They are not asking us to let them get classes — that wasn’t what they said to us originally — they just want us to allow our school to be an exam centre. Schools were given leeway to approve requests for deferrals and notify the exam centre and Ministry of Education, but we ensured to say a deferral is not a repeat,” Facey said.

He added: “The idea is a good one — do the SBAs and take time to prepare for the exams next year — but the problem is, parents or guardians may think a school approving a deferral is a repeat. Unless your current grade 10 is below the max number, your chances of repeat is limited.”

But last week Tuesday, Education Minister Fayval Williams, in an address to Parliament, said the Ministry of Education will be working with each school to ensure students who deferred are accommodated at the school that they attend currently.

“For the students who would have deferred to January, obviously they’re gonna need a more accelerated case than the students who would have deferred to May, and the ministry would have given its commitment — not just in terms of physical space, but in terms of other types of resources to those students who indicate — [that] 7,000 is manageable in the system,” Williams said, adding that the details of how the schools will accommodate the students would be announced soon.

Further, Facey said depending on how many subjects had been deferred, some students’ ability to matriculate to sixth form might be jeopardised.

“If you are doing eight subjects and defer four and we successfully give you the four, that means that you can’t progress to sixth form this current year. You need six subjects to do so, and if you deferred four, you can’t progress to sixth form with us. But, it doesn’t mean it’s over. You may go elsewhere. But, we made this clear,” he said.

Kingston College (KC) Principal Dave Myrie also weighed in, adding that when there is a full cohort coming from grade 10 there is little room to facilitate the repeaters. He, however, said there are teachers who will still provide guidance to those who have deferred.

“Some who deferred are going to be sitting the exam in January. The school, in the way it’s set up, is not set up for January sittings of exams — even though I am sure teachers will reach out and try and help youngsters, whether it’s going to be within an after-school context or whatever it might be, we will be helping youngsters as much as possible,” Myrie said.

The KC principal added that the schools will likely come up with creative ways to try to help those youngsters who have deferred.

“All might not be back in the regular school. That may not work, and we may have to look at other creative ways, whether helping them after school to run an after-school programme for them in terms of getting them ready or including some in online classes as well. But, we are going to have to use a whole range of approaches to help them,” Myrie said.

He, however, maintained that deferrals do not equate repeating grade 11.

“However we can help them to ensure they can achieve their goals, then we have to do so. But we’re going to have to be creative about it, though. It can’t just be hard and fast to say it means a place in fifth form next academic year. It doesn’t work like that, and it’s going to be difficult to work like that. We’re going to find creative ways to deal with our youngsters who have deferred, [and] we will work with them and help them to ensure they finish up school whenever,” Myrie said.

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