Performance Audit Report of the Montserrat Secondary School Tabled

The Office of the Auditor General on Tuesday morning presented its report entitled Performance Audit of the Montserrat Secondary School: Governance, Effectiveness & Sustainability to the Legislative Assembly. The report assessed public secondary education in Montserrat, including infrastructure, teaching & outcomes.
Background: The MSS was established long before the volcanic crisis of the mid-1990s. Historically, it was one of two secondary schools on Montserrat. In 1938, the MSS was formed from the amalgamation of a public secondary school for boys and a private secondary school for girls. A massive exodus of population during the period 1995 to 2005 reduced the number of students to less than half the pre-crisis levels. The pool of local teachers was also reduced, necessitating immigration and recruitment within the region.
Key Findings:
(1) The MSS’s performance framework has improved, but there were shortfalls in performance, recordkeeping, and reporting. The MSS has clear objectives that are relevant to the GOM’s Policy Agenda and to the Sustainable Development Plan. However, several goals were not achieved. Each year, formal assessments were completed for only a small percentage of teachers and other employees. Some records were not kept or were not available upon request from the Ministry of Education or from the MSS during this audit. Students’ outcomes tended to be low.
(2) The MSS depends almost entirely on public grants. The GOM is the biggest source of the MSS’s funding each year and the MSS earns little direct revenue from its activities. Public education is provided at no charge to students and fees below cost are charged for books, for school-meals, and for the school-bus service. Over the years, donations, corporate support, sale of produce, and fundraising activities have been helpful, but are small and ad hoc. The MSS operated a bank account for these activities, but without the authorisation of the Accountant General. Though it was well intentioned, this was a violation of the Public Finance (Management and Accountability) Act.
(3) The GOM has good oversight of the MSS’s budget and annual spending, but the MSS lacks resources in some areas. The MOEYAS reviews the MSS’s budgetary requests yearly and controls disbursements of the GOM’s grants for the MSS. Financial performance for the MSS has been relatively stable, with total spending kept within its budgets. However, in some areas, staffing, equipment, and other resources have been inadequate to meet the MSS’s requests for continuing and/or expanding various programmes and activities.
(4) The majority of surveyed parents and interviewed students and teachers have areas of dissatisfaction with/within the School.
(5) Adverse effects of vacancies/turnover/retirement of teachers/staff. Frequent changes of teachers have several negative impacts.
Veteran teachers’ retirement further reduces the local pool of available teachers and adds to the need for continual recruitment and training of new teachers.
Key Recommendations:
(1) Strengthen the assessment, development, and employability of students. The MOEYAS and the MSS should urgently review the existing
teaching practices and students’ performance to identify and to remove gaps/barriers to effective learning outcomes in each subject/programme. Address weaknesses in primary education. Much more needs to be done to track graduates, as well as to boost post-graduation employment. This will help to achieve the Policy Agenda items 2.4 & 2.8.
(2) Maintain and upgrade the MSS’s aging infrastructure. Improvements to the teaching and learning environment will contribute to better outcomes, addressing many of the students’, parents’, and teachers’ complaints, while boosting goodwill, health & safety, and improving the MSS’s public image.
(3) Improve communication and better address complaints. The MSS should improve its practices for handling stakeholders’ feedback, requests, & complaints. E.g., Document verbal queries/complaints; log all inquiries/complaints; give timely acknowledgement of all inquiries/complaints; assign responsibility for resolution of each matter; provide regular feedback to stakeholders on the status & the progress of their inquiries/complaints; track matters from receipt to conclusion. Communicate more frequently with parents and students; give earlier notice of events and changes; use digital channels more.
(4) Strengthen the assessment and development of teachers and other employees. The MOEYAS should urgently review the existing practices and performance at the MSS to improve compliance with the GOM’s Performance & Development framework and H.R. policies to ensure that best practices of governance and approved processes are consistently followed: e.g., [a] Reviewing the performance of all teachers & other employees at least once per School Term; [b] Assessing, documenting; reporting each employee’s performance; development at least once per year; [c] Developing and monitoring a personalised plan for each employee’s learning & growth.
The full audit report highlights several other findings and recommendations. Their implementation will bring significant improvements in the management and integration of both primary education and secondary education, and boost their long-term contributions to Montserrat’s public services, society, workforce, & economy.
The report in its entirety can be downloaded here or found at the Montserrat Public Library, on the Office of the Auditor General website and Facebook Pages or by requesting an electronic copy from the Office of the Auditor General, located upstairs Angelo’s Complex, Brades. E-mail: ; Telephone: (664) 491 – 3460 or 491 –4569.