THERE is a negative perception among many persons about the Brown’s Town High School in St Ann.
This is something that principal Alfred Thomas and staff are determined to change. That was one of the aims of a stakeholders meeting held at the school recently.
Thomas and staff shared some of the many successes of the school with parents, members of the business community, past students and others who attended.
The Brown’s Town High School may not be on top of the CSEC rankings, but great things are happening at the institution, Thomas suggested.
“We have been doing well when we look at the students that we do get. Last academic year we had two of our students getting 10 CSEC subjects,” Thomas said.
Also, in 2016, a student placed third in the island in music.
Students have not only been successful at CSEC at grade 11 level, but some have been passing subjects from the 10th grade. Last year, three grade 10 students passed three subjects each, while for 2017, one grade 10 student passed three subjects. Several others have passed one or two subjects while in grade 10.
Last year, 51 per cent of the students in grade 11 passed more than one CSEC subject. In addition to the CSEC feats, some students passed City and Guild subjects as well as earned NTVET certificates. The students have also been doing well in the City and Guild exams with over 80 per cent of those who sat both Mathematics and English passing the exams.
This is a major accomplishment for the school which gets a large percentage of students with an average below 50 per cent in the GSAT.
“For this year, of the 352 students we had, 29 per cent of them averaged in pathway one which means only 29 per cent of the students that we received averaged over 50 per cent in GSAT,” Thomas said.
“So you are talking about 71 per cent of the students averaging less than 50 per cent,” he explained. He said that that has been the trend over the years.
The school also gets a number of students through the Grade Nine Achievement Test and others through the ASTEP programme (many of whom are averaging below 30 per cent.)
“When you compare when the students would come in, for us to have 215 students out of the cohort passing a CSEC subject, I think we would have moved them forward,” Thomas said.
He, however, stated that the school aims to achieve even better passes. It is for that reason the school is now trying to put in numeracy and literacy labs. Thomas said that the aim is to also improve the school’s reading room, retrofitting it with modern technology to make it attractive to students.
Thomas said that while the CSEC rankings are unfair to schools like Brown’s Town High, the staff is not daunted and will continue to work to improve performance at the institution. He said that CSEC is the recognised benchmark and the school aims to improve the performance of students.
“It’s unfair, but as a principal you know what you get into and as an administration we know what we get into. We know it is unfair because you would be comparing a school that gets 70 per cent of the GSAT students averaging less than 50 being compared to another school which gets 100 per cent of their students averaging over 90 per cent,” he said.
“We are not daunted when we see some of these reports coming out and we see where the students fall … we bank ourselves on adding value to the students,” he added.
Thomas said that if a child comes in reading at the below level and at the end of his or her time of the institution they pass external exams and are certified in a skill area, then the school would have achieved in moving the child from one level to the next.
He said that while the success of the students may not get the school on top in the CSEC rankings, the school works to ensure that students leaving the institution are poised to achieve.
The success of the school goes beyond its performance in external exams. The school won the 2017 ICWI essay competition, edging out students from other schools in St Ann and Trelawny for the top prize. The school also won the Area Two Police Debating Competition, beating schools from St Ann, St Mary and Portland.
Brown’s Town High also boasts the title of having the top 4H club in the parish. This has seen a number of students being awarded scholarships at the institution. The school also holds the title of the top culture club in the parish for the last academic year and also holds recognition for having the best CAP programme and top CAP coordinator in Region Three.
Brown’s Town High has also been doing well in sports and performance arts. It was the only school in the region to have both senior and junior netball teams advancing to the second round of the competition. The school has also been making a name in football in the parish, and also got three gold medals at the national JCDC competition last school year.
At the stakeholders meeting held in Brown’s Town, principal Alfred Thomas and staff members encouraged all to partner with the school to ensure that it can further improve on the positives coming out of the institution.
The school presented plans for this academic year. Thomas said that the school has major plans for improvement which includes plans in that the school’s board of governors has set out for this academic year. These include safety and security, behaviour modification, student performance, grade seven integration and values and attitudes strategy, building collaboration and partnership with stakeholders, infrastructural upgrade and redesign, improvement in ICT, management of resources, motivation of students and staff and financial profitability.
With a population of 1996 students, Brown’s Town High is seking as much help as possible to attend to the many needs of the institution. Thomas said that the school also seeks financial assistance for some of its students who struggle daily. For persons who may not be able to pay for subjects, the school seeks assistance to pay. It currently has a welfare programme which has been beneficial for students especially those who are not on the Programme for Advancement through Health and Education (PATH).
“Although they are going through serious challenges when the checks are done, they are not at the level to be on the PATH programme. Those students we have to help,” Thomas said.
In the meantime, Thomas said that the school has also seen major improvements in the behaviour of children. He said that he and the staff at the institution were not pleased with recent reports in the media labeling the school as one of the most feared places of learning. According to the principal, much progress has been made with behavioural challenges at the institution.
He said the fact that the school is to receive a metal detector is not an indication that indiscipline is on the rise there. According to Thomas, “the metal detector was actually requested about four to five years ago because the students are searched and it takes a very long time to search the students individually because of the number of the students.”
He said the school is dedicated to ensuring discipline.
“We are putting in a lot of efforts; all the data have shown that the critical incidents have reduced over the years,” Thomas said
“We are hell bent on changing the perspective of the Brown’s Town High School. For the next two school years we are using a theme “Creating a positive impact; improving Performance,” he added.
He said the staff and board are working to ensure that this happens.
“We do have a challenge with our students because of the homes they are coming from but the majority of our students are well-behaved,” Thomas said, adding that while a small percentatge may have maladaptive behaviour, the school will appear to have a bigger group of students with indiscipline than other institutions because of the large number of students which attend it.
He encouraged persons to come on board to mentor students. Thomas is also calling for an active past students association so that more past students will be able to give back to the institution.