Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Minister of Education's Remarks at the Restoration Launch

The Minister of Education, Senator the Honourable Hazel Manning, also spoke at the Launch Ceremony for the Restoration of the Main Block. While Minister Imbert was able to share significant details on the work to be completed on the current project, Minister Manning in her capacity was able to share more of the general plan for the College as a whole.

Even as she acknowledged QRC's contribution to the country and wider community, she emphasised the Ministry's commitment to enhancing and preserving the school's legacy and heritage. In doing so, plans for further upgrade, modernisation addition to the facilities were outlined. Of particular interest was her indication of the Ministry's intention to vacate their own premises and return these to the school.

Much more than the précis provided above though, the Minister's speech follows.

Wednesday 10th January 2007

Today marks a significant milestone in the journey towards the restoration to former splendour of one of Trinidad and Tobago’s historic buildings – Queen’s Royal College.
Queen’s Royal College is the only building of the Magnificent Seven which is also a school. The history and the alumni of the school is legend. It has produced:-
  • World class literary, musical and theatrical minds as well as
  • Scientists
  • Professors and Teachers
  • Mathematicians
  • Politicians
  • Businessmen and
  • Olympic sportsmen.
The time has come when its legacy must be preserved and enhanced, not only through physical restoration of its heritage buildings, but also through the creation of a modern 21st century teaching and learning environment.

The Ministry of Education is committed to doing both!!!.

The Ministry of Education recognises the tremendous achievements of this Government Secondary School. QRC demonstrates the attributes of Quality and Excellence for which we want all schools to strive.

We admit that there have been difficult times for the College - that the lean years for QRC have been really too long, but we are committed to turning that around and so the upgrade has begun.

In preparation for vacating the main building to allow the contractors to carry out the necessary works, the Ministry of Education provided a significant quantity of temporary facilities since all the activities that formerly took place in the main building had to be accommodated elsewhere.

Therefore, the Ministry of Education constructed 12 temporary pre-engineered buildings, through the project management efforts of the National Maintenance Training and Security Company Limited (MTS). These pre-engineered buildings house:-
  • The principal’s office and secretariat
  • Teaching staff accommodation
  • The music room and several classrooms.
Temporary structures have also been erected to provide students’ washrooms since those in the main building are now inaccessible.

Since 2004, the Ministry of Education completed the construction of these pre-engineered classrooms.

By 2005, the floors in the pre-engineered rooms were changed and in 2006 they were finally retrofitted in a manner that allowed full scale occupation to take place, paving the way for the activity we launch today - the physical restoration of QRC’s main and historical building.

In addition, the Ministry of Education has been working in parallel to upgrade the science block which was built in 1939.

Already, one chemistry laboratory has been completely refurbished. These works include:-
  • The replacement of the original timber flooring with a suspended concrete slab
  • The refitting of gas and water lines and
  • The installation of modern laboratory work benches and storage facilities.
Similar works have also commenced on the physics and biology laboratory in which:-
  • The main flooring structure and tiled floor finishes have been completed
  • Ducting services have been prepared for the installation of workbenches during the upcoming school vacation.
I am confident that the Honourable Minister of Works and Transport and his team will share with us some of the specifics of the restoration work on the main building.
However, the Ministry of Education’s role is much wider as refurbishment and upgrade works in schools are part of a massive planned school construction, maintenance and upgrade programme that supports the overall reform taking place in our education system.

Over the last five years, the Ministry of Education has implemented several widespread reforms:-
  • From school based management to deshifting of schools
  • From new curricula to new accreditation procedures
  • From establishing Early Childhood Centres to establishing Quality Standards for all schools
  • From new ways of teacher development to new ways of managing school construction to name a few.
These reforms have one aim and that is the holistic development of the children of our Nation.

Queen’s Royal College, QRC, is well known for providing its students with the opportunity for all-round development that releases their special talents and potential.

The Ministry of Education is committed to ensuring that QRC moves from strength to strength in this regard. And so the big picture for QRC entails much more than upgrading and repair of existing buildings.

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago has given the Ministry of Education a mandate to prepare young citizens to drive and sustain development in this country as we move towards 2020 and beyond.

This calls for improved opportunities for educational equity and quality through a modernised education system with a modernised curriculum and modernised facilities to deliver this curriculum.

The implication for this modernisation of the education system is that all secondary schools in Trinidad and Tobago, including QRC, must be upgraded to meet the needs of the new curriculum - a curriculum, which include:-
  • Eight core subject areas and
  • A range of elective subjects, some of which were not offered before.
The vision, and indeed the plans for QRC are in keeping with our vision of Quality and Excellence in education, which find resonance in QRC’s fine tradition of providing opportunities for students to develop through programmes such as:-
  • Music
  • Sports and
  • Cadet training, which take a prominent place in the school life of the young men.
Some time ago I read a very clever article in QRC’s newsletter. It was written by an observant young man who noticed the new signage in English and Spanish outside our office building.

In the article he noted that he had Spanish speaking neighbours to the West, for clearly they did not seem to understand that QRC needed them to relocate!!!

I would like this morning to reassure the QRC community that we are relocating southwards to the city…as soon as the Education Tower in downtown Port of Spain is completed in another year.

I want to assure the QRC community that:-
  • The User’s Brief for an expanded Queen’s Royal College has been prepared by the Educational Planning Division of the Ministry of Education and that
  • The User’s Brief has been passed on to the Design Architects.
  • The User’s Brief contains a proposed enhanced school campus, which when complete will include the following:
  • Multi-Purpose Hall
  • Pan Theatre
  • A Visual and Performing Arts Block
  • Additional Science Laboratories
  • A Multi-media Centre
  • Classrooms for the teaching of Technical Education
  • Additional Classrooms
I also want the QRC community to know that the prime architectural consultants engaged for this project are Bynoe, Rowe Wiltshire, who are supported by the firm Robert Blanche-Fraser- Architects.

Mr. Blanche-Fraser, as some of you may know, is a past student of QRC and is assiduously influencing the development of the school plans.

I am told that there are regular meetings between the architects and the school team which includes:-
  • The Principal
  • Vice Principal
  • A representative of the PTA, the Local School Board and Old Boys’ Association and that the process is moving towards implementation.
Work is expected to start by the end of the year on a new three-storey technology block earmarked for construction on the compound parallel to Hayes Street. This new block will house the following:
  • A Multi-Media Centre
  • Science Laboratories
  • Classrooms and
  • Computer Room
The school cafeteria will be expanded and refurbished and other facilities, including:-
  • The Visual and Performing Arts Block
  • The Pan Theatre and
  • The long awaited large Multi-Purpose Hall, are to be provided in the following phase of works when the site, currently occupied by the Ministry of Education Offices, is cleared as the Ministry of Education moves southwards to the city.
Our vision therefore is that at the end of this construction period, QRC would truly be a space that binds memory while pointing to our future possibilities.

Within this space will rise:-
  • A fully restored heritage building
  • Refurbished and modern Science Laboratories
  • A new Technology wing and
  • Modern facilities for the Visual and Performing Arts
  • A Pan Theatre and
  • A Multi-Purpose Hall
Staff and Students, Ladies and gentlemen, The Ministry of Education applauds you for your devotion and patience under difficult circumstances.

But the future looks bright, as we work together to create a modern teaching and learning environment of which we can all be justly proud - one that pays tribute to past, present and future productive and innovative citizens of Trinidad and Tobago nurtured in the QRC tradition.

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