What is most significant is that the ministry has indicated that it would encourage parents and guardians to send the children to schools in their catchment areas. It was pointed out that of the 522 pupils at St Paul’s, 228 were not in the school’s catchment area. This is more than one-third of the roll. The decision to send a child to a school far away can be influenced by a preference for a school with a reputation for doing well in the CEE. What is interesting, however, is that such reputations are seldom eternal. Parents will continue to seek out schools, far from home, that they believe or perceive as being able to provide the best results in the CEE.
BU must respond to this half baked editorial which appeared in the Nation newspaper yesterday morning. We have no doubt that parents seek entry for their children in schools outside their catchment area for many reasons. Some schools like Luther Thorne, St. Pauls, Wesley Hall, Erdiston Model, St. Davids, Charles F. Broome and others have developed a reputation over the years for producing top performers in the 11+ Common Entrance Exam (CEE). In the case of St. Paul’s, it is a top 10 school which as the editorial reported almost 50% of the students come from outside its catchment area. Minister Wood at a stormy meeting with parents of St. Paul’s last week kept making the point that the Ministry of Education is committed to allocating children to schools in their neighborhoods. The Ministry must tread cautiously when reacting to the St. Paul’s situation.
We heard the news report tonight that the 522 students at St. Paul’s will be redistributed in the school network between Bay Primary, Ebenezer and Breath of Life Adventist Churches. This is a departure from the original plan made public by Minister Anthony ‘too silent” Wood to assign children to schools in their districts. It is good that common sense prevailed because their is a very good reason why the primary schools in urban Barbados attract so many children out of their catchment area. Traffic patterns in Barbados clearly indicate that a healthy percent of the population is employed in Bridgetown or its environs. The non-existence of the extended family means that parents have no choice but to search-out schools within stones throw of their workplaces. For the ministry to try to insist on zoning in this instance would have created a social fall-out which we are not sure they are in a position to manage.
We are sure that the Ministry is aware of the predicament which faces parents, and we were surprise when the Minister and his staff upset parents at the meeting last week by indicating that children attending St. Paul’s from outside the catchment area maybe allocated to schools in their neighborhoods.
The Nation editorial failed to address this important point!