Baptist Academy Principal hits out at Director of Education’s comments

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Director of Education Clare Browne
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Baptist Academy Principal Dr Hensworth Jonas has staunchly rejected assertions that the private school’s academic success is linked to its exclusion of poor performers from the faith-based learning institution.

On Wednesday, Director of Education Clare Browne made the point that public schools could not adopt all of the practices that private schools, like high achieving Baptist Academy, employ in order to improve on their success rates.

He was speaking in the aftermath of the release of Grade Six National Assessment results.

“People must understand that in the public education system we run an inclusive system. We say that in order for you to enter primary school you come with two things, your birth certificate and your immunisation card, and you gain acceptance. That is what the law says,” Browne had said.

“We cannot, in the public school system, say to students ‘come write an entrance exam and if you don’t make it then you have to find an alternative’.

“We are in the public education system so when schools exclude other people through those kinds of practices, the public education system is the alternative. There is where they come, they come to us and we have to do the best we can,” Browne explained.

Browne explained that he was in “no way knocking the schools for catering for high flyers”, but reiterated that government schools could not function in that manner.

However, Dr Jonas did not take too kindly to Browne’s comments and, during an appearance on Observer Amon Friday, he blasted the education official for comments that “misrepresent the policies and practices of the school”.

Dr Jonas even went a step further by threatening legal action against the top official.

“Now, I am deeply offended by this characterisation. It not only misrepresents the policies and practices of our school but it is also malicious, for I have personally explained our policies to Mr Browne and he knows better,” the principal said.

“I have had enough of Mr Browne’s petty, small-minded and careless statements concerning our school for this has been done repeatedly.

“We have already consulted with our lawyers about this malicious misrepresentation of our policies and they are reviewing [Browne’s] comments. We are giving him notice to speak carefully about the Baptist Academy in the future, for any further tarnishing of our brand will be litigated,” Dr Jonas warned.

He also sought to address the issue of admitting students based on testing.

“Only eight percent of our primary school population was admitted via testing. It means that only 92 percent of the primary school students were admitted otherwise. To be specific, they were admitted via our early childhood programme.

“Obviously, our babies are not tested. What’s going to be on the test – ‘say Dada’? Our secondary school has admitted 10 percent of the student body via testing. The remaining 90 percent come through the lower school,” Dr Jonas explained.

He sought to dispel the notion that students have been expelled from the learning institution solely due to poor academic performance, saying that in those circumstances, other factors like home life and unacceptable behaviour are also considered.

He did, however, concede that there are occasions where a student who is repeating a class may no longer have a place due to the size of the incoming class.

“Listen to me, all students have to make promotion requirements. Every school has promotion requirements and all students have to meet promotion requirements. Students may have to repeat a class; it has happened.

“Now we are a small school with one class for every grade and so it has happened in the past where the incoming class takes up every space so a repeater doesn’t have a space,” Dr Jonas added.

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