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Shamila Raheem

Anna-Lisa Paul

Despite the continued increase in the nation’s COVID-19 cases, the Ministry of Education (MoE) has remained firm regarding the plan to administer the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam on June 10.

And while an offer for a deferral has been extended by the ministry to parents for their child to write the exam next year instead, it is not without strict conditions.

Meanwhile, the National Council of the Parent Teacher Association (NCPTA) has repeated the call for the SEA exam to be postponed to a later date.

NCPTA’s public relations officer of the Shamila Raheem said due consideration must be paid to the worsening health situation before any further decisions are taken.

She urged ministry officials to wait “until the numbers are under control and consider pushing the exam back to a later date.”

And to parents, she cautioned: “As much as we want this over and done with, we have to be mature and realistic. We are possibly facing more spikes and with our children being out there, it is a greater risk for them.”

Even though students will be socially distanced for the exam, Raheem said it requires supervisors and invigilators to be present in the same space; and there are associated risks for students who have to travel to and from school on that day.

Reserving comment until its’ General Council meets tomorrow, T&T Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) president Antonia Tekah-De Freitas told Guardian Media, “Suffice it to say that TTUTA is extremely concerned about the current situation.”

President of the the National Primary Schools Principals Association (NAPSPA) Carlene Hayes also withheld comment yesterday until discussions are held with other stakeholders.

In the internal memo titled “Option to Defer the Sitting of the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) Examination from 2021 to 2022” which was forwarded to all primary school principals and School Supervisors I, II and III on May 5 – acting chief education officer Lisa Henry-David outlined the attached conditions.

Advising that an application does not automatically mean that a student will be granted a deferral, she said, “The Ministry of Education, cognisant of the challenges experienced by students preparing to write the SEA 2021, and having consulted with key Educational Stakeholders, has decided to offer the option to apply for deferral of the sitting of the SEA from 2021 to 2022.”

Among the conditions highlighted are that students who will attain the age of 15 before September 1, 2021 are not eligible for deferral; while principals must consider possible re-sits and the projected class size for the SEA 2022 when determining the number of deferrals that can be accommodated.

Parents must submit a written request for the deferral to the school’s principal, and where medical reasons are cited, supporting documentation must be attached to the application.

Approval will only be granted following consultations between the class teacher and the school’s administrators – following which principals must submit a list for deferral and the reasons cited, along with their recommendation and a list of the projected class size for SEA 2022 – to the District Education Office by May 17.

School supervisors are expected to collate the information for their respective district and forward to Henry-David’s office no later than May 21.

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Promotion of students at teacher’s discretion

Regarding the promotion of pupils from First Year to Standard Four at the primary school level, Henry-David wrote: “It is recognised that some students may, based on the educational challenges of the last 14 months, be unable to successfully matriculate to an advanced class. Principals should therefore, seek from teachers, students who would most benefit from repeating their present class level. This course of action must be recommended by the principal and consented to by the parent. Spatial considerations also apply.”