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Layou Government School, producing outstanding citizens

Layou Government School, producing  outstanding citizens


Located only a stone’s throw from Jackson Bay, on the leeward coast of St Vincent, is the Layou Government School, which prides itself on producing outstanding citizens of this country.{{more}}

Sporting activities have played a pivotal role for the institution; the school has produced great athletes, both locally and internationally, in various disciplines, including netball, basketball and football.

When SEARCHLIGHT visited the school recently, headteacher Purnell McDowall pointed to the many shiny trophies in his office and referred to the school’s recent achievement of winning the Primary School Athletics championship.

“We’ve been always doing well in sports,” he said proudly.

“Students from this school have gone on to do very well…”

McDowall noted that Sophia Young, Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) star and Shandell Samuel, present national football captain, are past students of the institution.

Also a school that produces exceptional talent, music is a focal point of the school’s curriculum.

Having produced two past Junior Calypso Monarchs, McDowall expressed happiness that the title currently belongs to a Grade 6 student, Kristianna “Singing Kristy” Christopher.

Students of the school also have the opportunity to learn how to play the steel pan.

“The pan is more for the community, which was donated by Sir Louis…Because it [the facility] is located close to us, we occupy it most of the time and we have a trainer,” McDowall explained.

With a mission to nurture the development of its students academically, physically and mentally, the Layou Government School has several clubs that are very active in community service.

The Girl Guide Company has officially been part of the school since 2000, and 12 girls are currently enrolled. Susan Thomas, the guider, noted some activities that are undertaken as a group.

“We normally take fruit baskets to persons at Christmas time, the needy persons,” she said, adding that they also participate in age appropriate and fun activities.

The 4H Club, although rare among schools across the country, is also prominent in the rural school. Under the Hs – Head, Heart, Hands and Health, this club stands to develop the youths of the community through various community service initiatives.

A 2008-2010 book was also created, documenting the various things the club took part in during that time period.

“There is a lot of community participation within the school,” McDowall noted. “They go out and administer to people in the community”.

Grade 6 teacher Allan Straker highlighted yet another milestone, when he mentioned that the school received more Common Entrance Examination passes in 2012, than it ever did in previous years, breathing new life into the motto; “Steady Work Brings Success”.

Straker, who has also been the physical education teacher for approximately 20 years, said that he “thinks it was a really great achievement.

“Although people in the area send their children to other schools, I say that we are most likely on par with the other primary schools”.

The headteacher proudly attested to this achievement.

“We had 55 students…we had 27 passes. Our pass rate last year (2012) was just a little below 50 per cent…we are trying to go pass the 50 per cent mark as a stepping stone to improving and going further,” McDowall said.

Demonstrating a high level of faith in his students, McDowall said that this year, he hopes to have his students excelling over the 50 per cent mark and being on par with the country’s pass average, which was about 53 per cent last year.

McDowall achieved his target of 50 per cent this year, as 27 of the 54 students entered for the exam achieved the required standard. He was short of the national pass average of 55.74 per cent however.

Many outstanding citizens have graduated from this melting pot of talent and academia, including Governor General Sir Frederick Ballantyne.

Ballantyne is seen as the school’s godfather, having adopted the institution and given both technical and material assistance.

“He offers scholarships to outstanding performances in the Common Entrance…we have an intercom system that was donated by him as well…he lends that kind of support,” the headteacher of three years said.

Other notable past students include former Deputy Prime Minister Sir Louis Straker, who also had a tenure at the institution as a teacher; calypsonian Alston “Becket” Cyrus and outstanding medical practitioner Dr A. Cecil Cyrus.

Established in the 1930s, the Layou Government School was nomadic before firmly planting its roots in the current location between 1967 and 1968. Presently, 249 students are enrolled: 129 boys and 120 girls. There are 18 members of staff.