Fourteen of the Territory’s Safe Schools were reassessed and recertified having met the minimum requirements for health and safety in accordance with the policy and assessment tools approved by the Ministry of Education and Culture.
These schools include: Agape Total Life Academy, Century House Montessori School, First Impressions School, Joyce Samuel Primary School, New Life Baptist Church Day Care and Preschool, New Testament Wendell Potter Learning Center, Alexandrina Maduro Primary School, Isabella Morris Primary School, Leonora Delville Primary School, H. Lavity Stoutt Community College, Visions Child Development Centre, Willows Nursery and Pre-School, Cedar International Primary and Secondary School and the Jost Van Dyke Primary School.
Director of the DDM, Ms. Sharleen DaBreo noted that the recertification process is an important aspect of the programme as it requires schools to make sustained and deliberate efforts towards disaster preparedness, health and safety.
She said, “We want to ensure that schools understand that health and safety and disaster risk reduction as a whole are not fostered by one-off activities but rather by incorporating safe practices and procedures as part of the daily functions of the institution.”
Ms. DaBreo added, “The recertification process therefore compels learning institutions to continuously make health and safety improvements. We were extremely pleased to see the level of improvements that have been made to the institutions that were reassessed. This is evidence that principals, teachers, parents and students are all working together to ensure that our children remain safe while at school”.
“It is also important for everyone to understand that being a Safe School does not mean the institution is perfect, but rather that they have made the necessary adjustments and improvements to attain the minimum score for certification,” she said.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Dr. Marcia Potter commended the schools, stating, “We congratulate these schools on their recertification which symbolises the value and significance they place on the Safe Schools Programme as it required dedication and great effort on their part to efficiently utilise available resources in order to meet the required standards. The Ministry of Education hopes to see more schools achieving ‘Safe’ certification and will continue to support schools, as best we can, in their bid to attain certification.”
Schools desirous of achieving ‘Safe’ certification or recertification are evaluated using an assessment tool formulated based on the minimum standards established in the Ministry of Education’s 2011 School Health and Safety Policy. The assessment tool takes into consideration the safety needs of schools at pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary levels as well as special needs institutions. The assessment requires a minimum score of 80-percent for certification and examines the functional aspects of school operations as well as structural and non-structural components of the physical structures in which the schools operate.
An additional five schools previously received ‘Safe’ schools certification and will be due for recertification in the near future.
Schools that have achieved the ‘Safe School’ certification are being encouraged to work towards achieving the SMART School certification. SMART refers to Sustained Mitigation, Adaptation and Resilient Techniques. This is awarded to schools that combine the ‘Safe Schools’ health and safety requirements with green practices aimed at reducing the effects of climate change.
The British Virgin Islands (BVI) Seventh-day Adventist School and the Little Litehouse Child Development Centre are the Territory’s first two SMART Schools. They both received the designation in March 2016.
The ‘Safe School’ recertification is valid for three years; therefore, the schools recently recertified will undergo another assessment before the end of November 2019 if they wish to maintain the certification.
The ‘Safe Schools’ programme is being implemented by the Department of Disaster Management (DDM), in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Culture, and it is in keeping with the United Nations Worldwide Initiative on Safe Schools.