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Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly.

The Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) is again barring any COVID-19-infected student or those in quarantine from sitting this year’s exam. This was also the regional examination body’s position in 2020.

However, both the T&T Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) and National Council of Parent Teachers’ Association (NCPTA) yesterday urged the regional examination body to reconsider the position.

Not joining that chorus for a policy change at this time, however, is the Ministry of Education.

Confirmation of CXC’s policy came yesterday from Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly.

“If students are on quarantine before they enter the exam room then the next re-sit will be January or the following June. If students are placed on quarantine as primary or secondary contacts, once they have a notice, they will not be allowed to sit the exam,” Gadsby-Dolly said in text message responses to Guardian Media yesterday. The minister added, however, that if students begin displaying symptoms during the exam, they will be moved to a separate room to finish the paper.

Asked if the main decision to debar students from sitting the exam was a bit harsh considering the current circumstances, or if the ministry had made any request for CXC to review the policy, Gadsby-Dolly said, “CXC is a regional exam and the issue of children falling sick on the day of their exam is not new nor exclusive to COVID-19 cases. As obtained in 2020, then exams were held under COVID conditions, students unable to write due to illness can be accommodated at the next sitting of the exam, without extra cost, and their SBA grades are retained to facilitate this. No issue has arisen up to this time which suggests that this policy requires review.”

But TTUTA believes it does.

Second vice-president Kyrla Robertson-Thomas told Guardian Media that the association is hoping CXC reviews the policy in the near future.

“This has always been the policy CXC adopted so it means we have to give some thought and have CXC review its policy on that, given what we are treating with in terms of COVID,” Robertson-Thomas said yesterday.

Robertson-Thomas believes it is too late to do anything about this year and says this why TTUTA has been urging secondary school principals to discourage exam students from attending physical school.

“This is one of the concerns we had when we realised a number of schools were attempting to use the opportunity to have mock exams, which we felt was unnecessary and a greater risk to the students probably contracting COVID and missing the opportunity to write the exams they have been working towards.”

TTUTA believes it is imperative parents monitor their children to ensure they are not infected or run the risk of being quarantined before the examinations.

“You know what it is to see the end of the rope and realise you have to wait another year to move to the next step?” Robertson-Thomas asked.

Meanwhile, National Council of Parent Teachers’ Association (NCPTA) acting president Clarence Mendoza says the association made a recommendation last year for there to be a reserve date for students who missed exams due to illness, similar to the policy adopted by the Secondary Entrance Assessment exam. However, Mendoza said it seems as if that had fallen on deaf ears. He sought to remind the regional examination body where its funding comes from.

“Our parents are the backbone of paying this money to CXC, it’s taxpayers money, not a special loan from China or anywhere else, it is our hard-earned money for our children to sit these exams so we are asking that things be put in place.”