We have yet to hear just how many days were lost during the past school year, but to help make up for “lost number of days”, the Department of Education will host a number of summer programmes during the vacation period.

Speaking in the House on Friday, the Minister of Education, Diallo Rabain, said one of the major impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic was “the loss of learning time”.

“Although we could not make up days lost during this school year, students will be given opportunities to engage in online learning programmes and activities; and in some cases, in-person summer programmes, ranging from the preschool to the senior school level,” he said.

Opportunities to make up for the learning time lost will be provided “starting with the Preschool I-Play Summer Boost Programme”, as a result of The Reading Clinic partnering with the Department of Education.

This programme will focus on the “preschoolers who are transitioning into primary school” in the new school year.

“Seven of our public school preschools signed up to work with The Reading Clinic to have I-PLAY this year,” said Mr Rabain.

“I-PLAY refers to Interactive Phonological Literacy Activities for Youngsters.

“Normally the I-PLAY tutors would come into the preschool and screen all the preschoolers on pre-literacy skills, especially in the area of phonological processing. Phonological processing skills are those that are all about listening and sounds. Can children hear the difference in sounds in words and sentences? Can they hear the separate words in sentences? Are they able to notice rhyming words or words that begin with the same sounds? Phonological processing skills are a strong predictor of later reading success and it is more important for children to first be able to hear sounds than to identify letters.

“Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the I-PLAY tutors had limited access into these seven preschools. As a result, the programme was delayed,” the Minister added.

As a result he said: “The Reading Clinic was only able to screen our preschoolers during the latter half of the school year, leaving no time for tutoring those children identified as needing help with gaining valuable pre-reading skills prior to entering primary school. Because of The Reading Clinic’s commitment to helping our preschoolers have the best start to primary school and learning to read, they have joined with the Department of Education in providing an in-person I-PLAY Summer Boost for our preschoolers.

The I-PLAY Summer Boost is offered to parents of those preschoolers who could benefit from a boost in literacy and extra support in phonological processing. The Summer Boost programme will be offered in four locations: Port Royal Primary, St. Paul’s Preschool, Lyceum Preschool and St. George’s Preschool, from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm during the month of July.

The programme is ,literacy-rich and play-based. All learning activities are centered around studying insects while being engaged in large group and small intensive tutoring groups to teach pre-literacy skills including those that target listening. The programme mirrors a typical preschool day. We thank Government Estates and Workforce Development for joining the Department of Education to provide this Summer Boost through the Reading Clinic to our preschoolers.

Primary and Middle School students will have access to online reading and math programmes throughout the summer, which are available 24/7 and can be accessed using most devices, the Minister added.

Parents of students “who do not have access to Literacy Footsteps, Raz-Kids, Achieve3000 and other online reading programmes offered by their schools”, were urged “to subscribe to the Epic online reading programme, a free online reading programme that will give students access to hundreds of e-books and opportunities to take quizzes after they have finished reading the books. Parents can also share their children’s results with their school”.

“We want our students to spend time reading during the summer, and to engage with these online reading programmes,” said the Minister. “The Department wants children to read every day.

“The minimum expectation is for all students to read e-books for at least thirty minutes twice per week; and once they finish their e-book, to take the quiz, taking time to think about the questions carefully; to give careful answers with the aim of scoring a 4 out 5 on the quiz. We also encourage our students to take advantage of books offered at our local libraries.”

“The Public School System is working to improve students, math knowledge and skills,” he added.

On that note, he said: “I am pleased to report that we will offer an eight-week online math tutoring programme during July and August for all primary and middle school students.

“The programme will run every Tuesday and Thursday from July 6th to August 24th with specific times allocated for year level groupings of students.

“This online programme is being developed and personalised for our primary and middle school students based on the end of year math assessment results which have been analysed to determine gaps in learning,” said Mr Rabain.

“Additionally, each teacher in the system will receive a gap analysis report for their class and every parent will also be provided with a report which indicates what their child has mastered, partially mastered or not mastered.”

The tutoring schedule will be sent out to parents for specific topics and students may sign-on for all tutoring sessions.