Minister: Schools deserve increase

Education Minister Anthony Garcia yesterday admitted that principals of private secondary schools deserve an increase in students’ school fees, but he’s promising to have the matter ironed out by the end of next month.

“We have no fight with the principals of private schools. I am willing to work with them to see how best we can resolve this,” Garcia said when asked at yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing if there was an impasse between the ministry and the principals.

He was responding a comment T&T Association of Private Secondary Schools (TTAPSS) acting president Leslie Hislop that private secondary school would not accept the next intake of Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examination pupils if Government did not agree to increase the stipend they pay from $1200 to $5700 per child per term.

Asked how close to the suggested $5,700 fee the ministry was willing to get, Garcia said they have been meeting with the principals and could not disclose their position since it would be contrary to good industrial relations practices. But he is hoping the matter will be resolved before the end of July.

Garcia said the ministry had met the TTAPSS, form a joint committee to deal with the issue and some principals were asked to provide additional information on their cases.

“We got some information but not all the information that we required. However, they have come up with a position which we will make known to them. On the basis of continued discussions, then hopefully we will come up with a recommendation which we would have to take to Cabinet for its approval. That is the situation as it stands.”

Garcia said he was hoping to resolve the matter before the end of July, but admitted private secondary schools have been playing an important role by providing education to students. Admitting 2005 was the last time schools had received a fee increase, from $1,000 to $1,200 per term, he said: “We accept there is need for an increase. The quantum of the increase will be subject to discussions.”

Asked if the ministry owed private schools millions, Garcia admitted there has been some level of outstanding payments.

“Only six of the schools have submitted invoices for payments for terms three. We are asking that the other schools that have outstanding invoices to submit them so we can make payments.”

Garcia could not give a figure for the invoices. He also assured that all SEA students over 13 who scored below 30 per cent in the exam will secure a place at the private secondary schools.

Source: (Shaliza Hassanali)

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