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Church takes steps to improve school performance

Teachers do fraction work at the ‘Mathematics Teaching for Empowerment and Enjoyment’ programme.

Story by Lara Pickford-Gordon
Twitter: @gordon_lp

Archbishop Jason Gordon met with the Catholic Education Board of Management (CEBM) and school managers, August 15 to discuss improving the performance of ten RC schools. The discussion focused on pastoral support, volunteerism, literacy redesign, homework clinics, mentorship and environment upgrade.

Chief Executive Officer of the CEBM Sharon Mangroo said, “The CEBM has been given a mandate by His Grace to improve the schools’ performance. In this context we asked His Grace to meet with the Managers of the schools that were selected for the first phase to provide a status report on the schools, an outline of our intervention plan and to seek their pastoral support for the principals, teachers, support staff and students as well as parents”.

The CEBM gave a presentation outlining concerns identified by vicariate managers including principals in need of leadership training, teachers with irregular attendance and poor attitudes and schools located in “hot spots”.

Other matters are: infrastructure issues, student absenteeism, low literacy, low parental involvement, children not ready to learn —hungry and tired and children with special learning needs. The challenges are being tackled under “readiness to learn”, “readiness to teach”, “readiness to act” and recommendations outlined at the meeting.

The CEBM is paying attention to programmes to assist teachers in getting results in the classrooms such as the Leadership for Literacy Now! conducted by The School Leadership Centre August 19–23 with nine chosen schools; other schools have participated.

The Mathematics Teaching for Empowerment and Enjoyment programme targets all teachers of Infants 2 and Standard 2 classes. The programme started last term and is expected to be fully completed by this November. The ANSA McAL Foundation is assisting with funding.

The introduction of the NOW! Foundations for Speech, Language, Reading and Spelling programme by Dr Tim Conway and the Morris Centre will be implemented at some schools. It aims to improve the skills of students with learning disabilities or learning difficulties, and ten schools are participating; United Way is sponsoring five.

Holistic development

Meanwhile, parishes have initiated programmes to boost the overall performance of their students. The Holy Cross RC Church tutorial programme began January with a pilot targeting 20 children from different classes mainly Third and Fourth standards.

The objectives are: to assist the principal to closed skills and knowledge gaps in Mathematics, English Language and Reading; to assist parents in identifying strategies for monitoring and enhancing their children’s success and help them develop study skills.

Fr Hasely King O Carm said the programme is about holistic development of the pupils. Tuition is done three times weekly from 3 p.m. at the Holy Cross RC Parish Hall, La Pastora Road.

There is also a focus on all-round development with etiquette training and enhancing pupils’ social skills through activities such as field trips. In July they visited the San Antonio Farm, Santa Cruz.

One of the requirements for the programme is buy-in from parents. They must sign a contract. Fr King explained that the involvement of parents is about “developing them in terms of their roles as parents and to collaborate with their children with what they are experiencing here”.

Parents are catered for through parenting and motivational talks, “how to exercise power”; they learn how to collaborate for implementation of the tutorial programme. Fr King said parents have been attending sessions.

Elphege Joseph, who leads the implementing team said parents have to commit to being an integral part of the team. They agree to provide support and encouragement to students, ensure punctual and regular attendance, inform when the child is unable to attend, and provide feedback at monthly meetings. Parents also agree to seek professional help if the child has any issues e.g. hearing or vision impacting on their ability to learn.

Joseph said there are four tutors and a “student facilitator” whose role is to “meet and greet” the children when they arrive for school before tuition begins. Funding has come mainly from the parishioners.

At Bourg Mulatresse RC a committee was formed which includes a present and former principal and a parent of the parish, to look at improving the school. Areas identified for attention were: personnel, resources and infrastructure.

Fr Gerard Tang Choon O Carm said work on the infrastructure had started with air-conditioning installed in the library, principal’s office and staff room. Painting was done in some rooms.

Fr Tang Choon said a “lunch area” will be prepared where the children will be encouraged to socialise instead of interacting with phones.

Different ideas are being explored to advance students, teachers and parents e.g. life skills instruction for teachers and students and retraining of staff. Fr Tang Choon said the parish will provide opportunities for parents to receive training.

The homework centre will be re-launched, regular Mass attendance will be promoted and a junior praesidium of the Legion of Mary established. “Co-curricular” activities such as cub scouts, girl guides, a music programme are suggestions to broaden the school experience.