Ready, Set — GSAT

BY DEANDRA MORRISON
Observer staff reporter
morrisond@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, March 19, 2018

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Despite the recent sick-out by teachers across the island, it was business as usual for most Grade Six Achievement (GSAT) students in St Mary, who will be sitting their exams on Thursday and Friday of this week.

The Jamaica Observer North and East visited the Annotto Bay, Port Maria, Long Road, Galina and Oracabessa Primary schools in the parish recently to assess the preparedness of students.

“Some students are excited, others are anxious and wondering whether or not they will make it but overall, I think most of the students here at Annotto Bay Primary are prepared,” said grade six teacher at the school, Cordella Beckford.

“I am very excited and I'm not going to be nervous because whenever you get nervous you will forget things,” said a beaming student of the school, Tamiann Ricketts.

The 12-year-old said she was optimistic she would earn passes for her school of choice, St Mary High School — which was a popular pick among primary school students in the parish.

“I want to make my parents proud and also my teacher ; he is teaching us very well,” said 11-year-old Renaldo Brown, who aspires to attend Titchfield High School in the neighbouring parish of Portland.

Another Grade Six teacher at the school, Wayne Taitam highlighted that the three-day sick-out by teachers which ended last week Thursday affected exam preparations for the students.

“All of them are not here, but I've prepared myself to be here for the children. I was at school on Monday and I'm here today to work with them,”

He noted that while he agreed with the reasons for the industrial action taken by the teachers, he was not prepared to let his students suffer as only a few other teachers showed up for classes at the primary school.

Beckford explained that students were unable to sit their mock exams because of the protest.

“We did not get to proceed with our mock exams that were scheduled yesterday (Monday) and today (Tuesday) because students have not turned up,” she said, while adding that only 25 of her 37 students turned up for classes last week Tuesday.

She noted that the mock exams were important because the teachers would be able to identify any weaknesses or errors prior to the official exams.

“Now we might have to use the two days before the examination to do that, and that's not very good because we won't get a chance to review the papers in full,” she added. Beckford further revealed that approximately 50 per cent of students gained over 80 per cent in the 2017 GSAT examinations and went on to their schools of choice.

She said she is currently expecting all GSAT students at Annotto Bay Primary School to do well.

Port Maria Primary school appeared to be in in full swing, as a number of students were playing in the schoolyard during lunch time.

“I wouldn't say the children are 100 per cent ready but they are getting there,” said grade six coordinator at Port Maria Primary School, Natalie Byfield.

She added that the 165 students grade six students scheduled to sit the exam have been preparing by doing past papers and extra lessons.

“Over the years we have noticed that the students have some difficulty with social studies, especially because it has a high content area.”

However, she noted there has been improvement in other difficult subjects such as mathematics and science.

“We are pushing and hoping that they will pass for their school of choice,” said the coordinator.

A stone's throw away, Oracabessa Primary School was mostly vacant except for a class filled with grade six students.

“We are in high gear and are presently going through mock exam papers and past papers, as well as utilising papers from the Carlong and Integrated series,” said grade coordinator Lynford Mitchell.

He also added that plans are in place to prepare the students mentally for the examination.

“Next week (today) they will be going through talks from the guidance counselling department, the chairman and principal, in order to calm their nerves,” he said.

“Anytime I go into the GSAT room my heart starts to race, but after a while it stops, because I know I always do well in my exams,” said grade six student Orenthia Boothe.

Only two students sitting the GSAT examinations showed up for classes at Long Road Primary School in the remote Long Road Community in St Mary.

Both girls, Jennicia Lattibeaudiere and Mikhalia Seymour, have aspirations of attending Immaculate Conception High School in Kingston.

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