National Primary Schools Principals’ Association president Lance Mottley believes the Ministry of Education and TT Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) must meet urgently to thrash out the decision to hold the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam on August 20.
This, despite the ministry’s firm position the exam will be held on that date.
“I think there needs to be a collaboration, a meeting between government officials and TTUTA because at the end of the day what is at stake is our students’ education and well-being,” Mottley told Sunday Newsday.
“There appears to be an impasse at this time and right now the best thing to do, as urgently as possible, is for the Government to hold and urgent meeting with TTUTA to see if there can be a way forward.”
TTUTA has proposed that the exam be in October and not in August.
Mottley reiterated the association supported TTUTA’s position.
“This would have come about because of the kinds of information we would have received during this whole pandemic.
“The information would have caused us to have the opinion that schools may most likely resume in September and based on that, we proposed the earliest time that we can do SEA should be October.”
Mottley said the association deliberately stayed away from proposing the exam be held during the vacation period.
“We understand the terms and conditions of teachers and principals and it would have been irresponsible of us to want to recommend that that be the period in which we do the exam.”
He said the Government’s plan to offer the teachers a stipend is in recognition of the fact that they, like students, are usually on vacation during the July-August period.
“In fact, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Education (Anthony Garcia) would have indicated that. So we see it as a recognition and that is important to us because for too long, we have seen attempts by ministry officials to override this fact by calling principals out during the July-August holiday to do official work, which is in contravention to the collective bargaining process and unit,” he added.
Meanwhile, the interim committee of the National Parent-Teacher Association supports the August 20 date for the SEA exam.
The committee’s interim chair Zena Ramatali said the well-being of the students must be put on the front burner.
“This to-ing and fro-ing is not good for the children’s psychological or mental well-being at this point in time,” she told Sunday Newsday.
Ramatali claimed parents, teachers and even some principals are pleased with the date of the exam.
She said a principal told her the “back and forth” between the ministry and TTUTA is not in the best interest of the students.
“Has anybody asked how children feel during this period?” she asked.
“We have to look at the prolonged anxiety and stress that these children have been through for these past few months when schools were closed because of covid19.”
Ramatali added: “One principal told me that children have been seeing doctors due to stress...we need to put the focus back on the children and what is in their best interest.”
Ramatali applauded Garcia for saying the ministry’s Student Support Services Division is ready to assist students to cope with stress and anxiety “to get them in the right frame of mind for the exam.”