ROBERT Lightbourne High in Trinityville, St Thomas, which previously struggled with underperformance is reaping great success under its new leadership as it now boasts a 43 per cent increase in maths, up from zero ,and a 35 per cent hike in English in the 2014 Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC).
The school which was also severely under-populated has since received approximately 100 transfers from other institutions in the parish.
Interim Principal Alfred Thomas said the improvements in maths and English came as a result of the keen focus on literacy and numeracy as the school struggled with children reading below their grade level, some as low as the pre-primer stage.
“Seventy-four per cent of students were reading below the grade four level. We had students who were struggling to identify letters; therefore, we decided that it made no sense to have students struggling to identify letters; and, you are asking them to do 13 subjects,” the principal said.
Against that background, the number of subjects carried by some students were reduced to eight; and, higher priority given to improving their literacy and numeracy competencies.
The school which is a participant in the JN Foundation iLead educational leadership programme is steadily pulling itself up from the bottom rung of the secondary education ladder since it was ranked at the bottom of secondary schools by Educate Jamaica and flagged as being in need of critical support by the National Education Inspectorate.
Acknowledging the challenges faced, at a recent town hall meeting held at the institution, Thomas explained that the school has managed to strategically use the difficulties it has been facing as opportunities for growth.
“We have turned some of our negatives into a positive; and, used our challenges as opportunities to tell others about Robert Lightbourne; our issues, and to ask for help,” he revealed to residents from the surrounding Trinityville community.
With the support of the Ministry of Education and the JN Foundation, through the iLead Programme, other institutions and individual benefactors, the high school is now recording improvements in its performance, as the expectations of students have also increased.
“We want to become a school of choice with a positive image, where students succeed through perseverance…and we all know the history of our image,” Thomas said, pointing to the consistent disciplinary challenges the school had with students, in the past.
“We had to raise the expectations of our students, because if we expect nothing from them, then that is what we are going to get,” he said.
And, raising their expectations have come from implementing simple measures the school leadership discovered, such as: changing the school uniform from a dull purple tunic for girls and plain khakis for boys, to white blouses coordinated with energetic purple skirts for girls, accentuated by matching purple ties, diagonally striped with white, which both girls and boys wear..
In addition, a fresh coat of paint and general spruce up of the physical plant has helped to bring a sense of pride to students and administrators.
Student Clinton Prendergast who once struggled with reading now has six CSEC subjects and is getting ready to sit some more.
“I never knew I had this strength to be this student that I am now,” Prendergast said. “When I left Trinityville Primary and came to Robert Lightbourne… with the negative things people said about this school, I said to myself: “I won’t reach anywhere; but, I am a better person now because of my teachers and the work the school has been doing,” the eleventh grader said.