ECCE centres have three years to register under MoE new policy

Independent Senator Paul Richards, chairman of the Parliament's Joint Select Committee on Social Services and Public Administration.
Independent Senator Paul Richards, chairman of the Parliament's Joint Select Committee on Social Services and Public Administration.

Private early childhood care and education centres will now have a three-year period to adhere to registration guidelines laid out in a recently approved policy for the registration of private schools in TT. The policy was approved by Cabinet in early June 2023.

Education Ministry deputy permanent secretary Simone Williams made the statement during a joint select committee on social services and public administration, which was examining the regulation and administration of public and private early childhood education.

She said the policy laid out the need to acquire statutory approvals before being registered with the Education Ministry. Other details to be supplied would include details on location, curriculum, timetables, school layout, and evaluation of student performance, which are necessary for the ministry’s monitoring and evaluation of the school.

Williams said site visits will be done and the ministry would be strengthening its monitoring and evaluation unit of the ECCE division.

“If a certificate of registration has been issued to a school and they are not compliant, they can be deregistered. A moratorium of three years will be given to ensure that the schools become compliant. Teachers at these schools are also part of the three-year moratorium in order to obtain the necessary qualifications to ensure they are compliant with all of the requirements of the ministry to ensure their registration stands.”

JSC chairman Paul Richards said some of the registered private centres might also not be compliant and asked what would happen if they did not have the resources to become compliant.

ECCE director Carol Bhagwandin said the ministry would continue to provide technical support to the centres.

“We did an exercise in October where centres had to provide us with information on the resources they would need to become compliant once the policy document was implemented. We have that information and we will go out and begin providing the necessary technical support needed for this private provider to come up to the standard.”

She said when the ministry increases its human resource capacity, it would be able to send out family community support officers, health and safety officers, and curriculum facilitators to give support. She said they would also work with centres which had been set up in people’s homes.

Bhagwandin said there are 143 government-assisted ECCE centres, 57 Servol centres, 12 centres in Tobago, and approximately 631 private centres.

Richards asked why ECCE teachers had to re-apply and re-interview for positions they were holding at the end of their contract periods.

Williams said because the positions were under contract, this was the process the Chief Personnel Officer had advised the ministry to follow. She said the amendments of the first draft of the education act had been received by the ministry, were currently being reviewed and were expected to provide greater governance of the ECCE subsector, including the issues of worker permanence and pensions rather than gratuities.

In response to a question from committee member Vandana Mohit, Bhagwandin said teacher training was open to all ECCE providers, and both private and government ECCE staff were invited to training sessions.

Richards asked support for differently-abled students, and the process through which they were identified.

Student support services division (SSSD) manager Ayinka Nurse-Carrington said as of June 27, the special education needs assessment from the ECCE centres showed there were 93 suspected cases of students presenting with different abilities and disabilities, and 31 students with diagnoses.

“We also have ten students receiving various types of intervention, five from the special education services, and five from speech and language therapy. The other interventions may or may not include social work services, home visits, occupational therapy and behaviour therapy. The students have been referred to the SSSD.”

She outlined the nine-step education pathway for students with special needs: the teacher monitors; engages the parent; discusses with the parents and experts in the process; and if there is no improvement, the approval form with supporting documentation is sent to the ministry.

The case is then assigned to the school social worker, the special education officer or the guidance officer as needed; recommendations are implemented and the student monitored.

If required, the student is referred to the developmental assessment intervention unit for further evaluation or referral or to an external agency. Students who have been diagnosed are provided with an individual education plan, which is a developed recommendation of plans that are then implemented and monitored by parents, teachers, and guardians.

She said in cases where the IEPs were not working, supervisors, teachers and parents could reach out to the ministry for student aides to be assigned. She said the ministry has been consulting with OJT to provide student aides.

Williams said there was a definite need for increased staff in the student support services division (SSSD).

Officials of the Health Ministry said random checks of all ECCE centres are carried out twice yearly, once during the third term, and once before the first term.

They said principals were asked to accompany inspectors during site visits, with reports being presented at the end of the visit and then via email to the principal and the ministry. They said if parents or the public had issues to report, they could do so on the ministry’s website or at the public health inspectorates.

Representatives from the Tobago House of Assembly said their centres experienced similar problems to those in Trinidad.

ECCE manager Loraine George-Edoo said there were 12 government-assisted centres, and at least 43 private centres.

She noted that Tobago had not been included in the consultations on the policy. She said they had asked the ministry for information about the registered centres but had not received a response. They said the private centres did not receive funding from the THA but they were included in educational activities and workshops, and the registered ones were part of the school feeding programme.

Students with special needs were referred to the Child and Adolescent Centre, as well as the clinic at the Scarborough Hospital clinic, as there were no specially trained staff assigned to ECCE centres.

The National Maintenance Training and Security Company Limited (MTS) representatives said it had received 59 requests for assistance from the Education Ministry, with approvals being granted for 38. Of these, 32 had been completed and six were outstanding.

They said a major challenge was receivables, as they were owed $20 million by the ministry. Williams said the receivables would be paid once the funds were released, based on invoices submitted by MTS. Asked if they had exhausted their allocation or were waiting on funds to be released, the ministry said it would provide the information in writing.

They said they tend to keep security tighter at ECCE centres, including with ingress and egress.


"ECCE centres have three years to register under MoE new policy"

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