FLASHBACK: Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly addresses SEA candidates on exam day back in August 2020

Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly is confident there will no hindrances impeding the smooth administration of the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam on July 1.

And she is assuring teachers, parents and students that all measures will be in place including the requisite number of invigilators that are needed.

Responding to questions via WhatsApp yesterday, Gadsby-Dolly said, “Over 3,500 people are involved at different levels of SEA administration.”

Even though the SEA exam was postponed for three weeks from June 10 because of the spike in COVID-19 cases – prompting concerns by teachers who have not yet been vaccinated as to the risk of exposure – the minister said 3,535 people involved in the administration of the exam have so far been vaccinated.

She said, “The MoE completed its vaccination last week as scheduled. All teachers confirmed at that time to be working for SEA and CXC exams were given the opportunity to be vaccinated.”

The invitation to be vaccinated was also extended to other categories of persons which included principals; vice principals; heads of departments; deans; clerical staff; health and safety officers; and additional staff who were deemed to be essential.

Saying “not everyone took up the offer,” the minister added: “If persons did not indicate that they are willing to volunteer to work for SEA or CXC exam administration at the time of the offer, they would not have been included in the count.”

A total 4,125 names were submitted to health officials by the Ministry of Education (MoE) – which exceeded the ascribed number of 4,000 vaccines allocated by that ministry

Gadsby-Dolly explained this was done to allow for contingencies and, “If further doses are made available to the MOE, we will engage more staff in the exercise.”

Not bothered by the lack of volunteers for the SEA exam but conceding that both 2020 and 2021 have been unusual years, she said there is not usually a glut of teachers volunteering to administer the SEA.

Earlier this week, the call for volunteers was extended to secondary school teachers, as many of those at the primary level had failed to respond due to fear of contracting the virus.

Saying yesterday that they only needed a small fraction of secondary school teachers to round out of the final number, the minister said, “We expect to meet the targets.”

On the issue of whether or not the ministry will have to consider offering a stipend as they did in 2020 or recruit external invigilators, she added, “There is no anticipation of the need for stipends and external invigilators.”

Just after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in T&T in 2020, Cabinet offered a stipend to the different categories of invigilators which included Assessment Supervisors who received $500 per day; Assistant Assessment Supervisors who received $450 per day; and Testers who received $400 per day.

These persons would have received the payments to off-set the loss of two vacation days.

So far, a total of 178 requests for deferrals have been received and 160 have been granted.