EduFocus # 13: Padmore's makeover: Principal leads the change to improve moral and performance

With a dwindling population and a location in a poor remote community, Padmore Primary, like many multigrade schools, is hard pressed to attract financial and human resouces. Low student performance on national examinations, coupled with the recent findings from the National Education Inspectorate (NEI), tell the story of a school that is struggling to achieve its mandate. As a result, many parents opt to enrol their child in the nearby Red Hills Primary School or other more distant schools despite the challenges of  transportation and limited funds.

In August 2011, the school weclomed Keisha Hayle, the new principal whose qualifications are matched by a spirit of determination. She hit the ground running by conducting home visits to the families of Padmore’s 43 students before the new school year began. She used the opportunity to get to know the families and their circumstances.
Having introduced herself, Hayle focused on re-branding the school as a learning institution of choice and improving the academic performance of students.


With 43 students and three teachers, people may ask why is the school not doing well? Hayle said that a part of Padmore’s challenge is to overcome resource constraints which affect the teaching and learning environment. As an extra small school, Padmore Primary does not have many of the personnel that larger schools have, but is still expected to perform the same functions. She explained that presently, Padmore Primary does not have a cook, P.E. teacher, or Vice Principal, and has only four hours of janitorial service per day. In order to accomplish the school’s mandate, Hayle and her team wear multiple hats, in addition to their central role as educators, and rotate parent volunteers.

Branding the School
Hayle found that the school needed a new identity. At the beginning of the 2011/2012 academic year, visitors were greeted with an outdated dated sign, Padmore All Age, and grounds that did not convey a vibrant and supportive learning environment. Today, her beautification campaign has resulted in a new sign with the  school’s current name,  freshly painted walls and gate, and ‘learning jems’ to the outer walls of the school to promote learning beyond the classroom. The school now has its own crest, P.E. uniforms and new school uniforms. However, due to parents’ economic contraints, most crests were given away and P.E. uniforms were only made available after parents submitted a down payment. In the future, Hayle hopes Padmore Primary School students will wear the new uniforms with pride as they strive for academic excellence.

Another challenge was improving the  quality of teaching. Hayle noted that the multi-grade system creates a challenge for teachers who must be good at time management and plan lessons well in order to teach all of the curriculum for each grade.

This was an area of difficiency Hayle observed and now she provides instructional leadership by modeling effective teaching through:

Bi-Weekly Workshops: Through these workshops, Hayle introduced new teaching strategies and how to teach reading. She modeled the strategies and approaches she would like to see the teachers implement in the classroom.

Daily Classroom Observations: Hayle observes a classroom for at least an hour each day. She makes notes and  provides feedack at the common planning session.

Common Planning: Every Thurday, Hayle and her team meet for common planning. During this meeting, teachers receive feedback from the principal based on her observations of their classes. They also plan lessons as a group and provide feedback for further improvement. ‘Team teaching’ for parts of the curriculum is also planned during this time.

In addition to these opportunities for support and skill refinement, teachers consult Hayle when challenges arise. She visits their classes and assists in teaching differrent topics.

Reinforce learning beyond the classroom: Hayle hopes that as students play, they have access to information that reinforces learning. To achieve this, a word wall with 100 of the most frequently found words and map of Jamaica has been painted on the walls outside of the classroom.

Weekend Supplementary Lessons: Hayle provides free extra lessons for students taking examinations.

With all of these changes, Hayle demonstrated that she is the school’s chief factotum and champion. She admits that school improvement is challenging, but, she is not daunted by this and continues to make plans so that one day the school will flourish.