Unlike some of its neighbours that have been concealing their dismal performance in the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), Lluidas Vale Primary School in St Catherine North West has much to celebrate – not only in academics.
Principal Uvelyn Barrett-Rose, however, is not sure if more area residents will now change their long held view that the school is not good enough for their children to attend.
“When I came here [about 10 years ago], people told me that parents in the community would say that nothing good can come out of Lluidas Vale school,” said the principal, a St Ann native.
She told Jamaica Beacon that her decade at the school has involved a fight to change the mindset of students and that of the people who live in the farming community of Lluidas Vale.
Barrett-Rose admitted that, at the start of her tenure, the school indeed was not doing well academically.
“When I came here, the school was only receiving like one or two passes in the 70s or above average,” she said, while noting that her plan for growth started in her second year.
“The plan was to change the perception of how teachers see the children, how the children see themselves, and how the community see the school. We drilled it into the students that they can achieve,” the principal explained.
“Once we started changing the mindset, the students started to act accordingly.”
Barrett-Rose, who also noted the improved performance of teachers, emphasized that the core staff now at the school is virtually the same one she found there a decade ago.
Of the 24 students who sat the GSAT this year, 13 have been placed into traditional high schools with averages ranging from 60 percent to 94 percent.
Those traditional high schools are Ardenne High (1 student), St Jago High (3 students), Dinthill Technical High (3 students), and Charlemont High (6 students).
One student, who easily could have qualified for a traditional high school, has been placed at a non-traditional (Ewarton High), which was selected as the student’s first choice.
The top student at Lluidas Vale Primary is Rihanna Eastwood, the head girl who averages 94 percent.
The other top performers are all boys – Brandon Bell, Devaun James, and Ashauny Gordon who also is the Head Boy.
“Our boys have done well this year compared to the other years, with three of them getting averages in the 90s. The school never had so many boys getting that all at once,” said the school’s principal.
Despite dominating the group of top performers, however, the boys overall did not outperform girls.
There are 16 boys and 11 girls in Grade Six. Four of the boys didn’t sit the GSAT because they did not pass the education ministry’s literacy and numeracy tests. If fact, only five boys read at the Grade Six level.
The principal, however, is pleasantly surprised by the overall performance.
“We were kinda unprepared for the results that we got because we didn’t see the students doing as well as they did. They weren’t as settled as the previous years,” she told Jamaica Beacon.
Reaped what they sowed
Meanwhile, Kadie Sinclair, the teacher who prepared the children for GSAT this year, said the students ‘reaped what they sowed’.
She further explained: “For those who did extremely well, they deserved it, because they did put in the work. Parental support wasn’t always there for the students; that was a problem I had. But some of them were well motivated, and they did well.”
Sinclair further told Jamaica Beacon that she is ‘very happy’ with he overall performance, especially considering the many challenges, which includes a shortage of resources.
“We have to look at where the students are coming from, the lack of parental support, and lack of resources. We did well, compared to other schools,” she posited.
Sinclair also noted that the school’s principal allows the teacher who teaches the students in Grade five to move with them into Grade Six.
“That way, we are familiar with the students. We know how they are performing and how to take them to the next level,” she added.
Lluidas Vale Primary School, in the meantime, has a student population of 150.
“About three years ago, the student population was 225. I think the fall in numbers has to do with a population decline in the community. I think, for the next two years, we are also going to see that decline because there are not many students coming from the basic school this year either,” the school’s principal explained.
She is hoping that, regardless of the population size, Lluidas Vale Primary will continue to play its part in preparing students for a better Jamaica.
By Horace Mills