Sanctions loom - Reid warns Penwood, OEC of penalty for SBA fiasco
Officials at the Overseas Examinations Commission (OEC) and the Penwood High School could be sanctioned for not reporting to Jamaica's education ministry that about 40 students did not receive grades in six subjects sat in this year's Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC).
Education Minister Ruel Reid made the disclosure to The Gleaner after stating that he was "not pleased" to find out via this newspaper that the school did not submit samples of the school-based assessments (SBAs), which are, in part, used to determine students' grades.
The OEC is the arm of the Jamaican Government that administers exams locally on behalf of overseas-based institutions like the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), which offers CSEC.
OEC's deputy director, Sharon Burnett, told The Gleaner that: "The OEC became aware of the problem experienced by the school (Penwood) in August."
Reid, however, said he could not understand why it took The Gleaner's August 25 report for him to have learnt of the situation, and stressed that the commission would have to explain.
"What needs to happen is a seamless flow of information. If a breach or breakdown occurs, then these matters should be reported to the ministry instantly. Before the final awards were done, the matter should have been brought to [the] fore."
He continued: "Both at the level of the OEC, as well as CXC itself, there has been this communication breach. The customers - the Ministry of Education - should have been apprised of this information long ago. We'll be having those discussions".
SCHOOL BOARD TO TAKE NECESSARY ACTION
Meanwhile, Reid said he expected the school's board, which has been meeting on the matter, to take "the necessary actions", noting that his ministry cannot impose discipline on guilty personnel.
The school's principal, Donna McLaren, told The Gleaner that CXC called her on August 8, breaking news to her that the samples were not received and the students would be ungraded.
She said she contacted the OEC the same day and a meeting took place two days later, after which a letter of appeal was sent to CXC.
She said action would be taken against the school's SBA coordinator, who goes on eight months' leave in September.
McLaren said her school had problems with the electronic portal supplied by CXC for the submission of the samples but, unknown to her, the coordinator did not follow other schools and submit physical copies before the July 31 deadline.
Reid said he was "hopeful", after preliminary discussions with CXC, to have the decision not to award the grades overturned.
However, Cleveland Sam, CXC spokesman, said that would be difficult as the exam body could be establishing a bad precedent.
Students cannot enter sixth-forms or tertiary-level institutions without the CSEC results.