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St. Ursula’s Girls’ Anglican School

St. Ursula’s Girls’ Anglican School is the oldest primary school in Port of Spain, and one of the oldest in the country. However, despite its long existence, it is still not that well known. Members of staff are always surprised that so many people have never heard of this school. Yet, during its 158 years of existence, St. Ursula’s has achieved many successes, overcoming many challenges in so doing. Established in 1852, one of its early triumphs was educating the children of former slaves. In the spirit of its patron, St. Ursula, the institution forged ahead and quietly dedicated itself to excellence in education – refocusing, overcoming challenges and reinventing itself when the need arose. For example, it changed to an all-girl school in 1952 and, when its catchment area disappeared in the late 1970s, embraced the children of the business community that sprang up all around. So much so that today, the demand for places well exceeds the number available, and we are forced to turn away hundreds of applicants every year.

Today, St. Ursula’s is one of the most successful schools in Port of Spain. One may ask, what does it mean to say that a school is successful? Certainly, one can point to our excellent results in standardized tests like the SEA and National Tests. In fact, on four occasions we have had SEA students place among the top hundred performers including 2010. Additionally, a large number attain the school of their first choice.

Well-rounded, self-confident students who are produced in collaboration with parents, community and other stakeholders and who can easily take their place in the national or global society. But, of course, successful education cannot be confined only to the academics. We offer our students extra-curricular activities such as music, swimming, gymnastics, chess and karate. They do very well in these areas – for example, we won the 2001 Pan in Schools competition, and our students excel in swimming and karate, representing us at national and international competitions. We also stage a Miss St. Ursula’s Pageant biennially, focusing on talent, intelligence and poise. Also, in June 2007, we presented the very successful Dancing With Our Daughters, a seminar and workshop for the fathers of our students. This is in addition to regular activities such as our Easter Parade and Emancipation and Republic Day observances.

Recognizing that our parents and guardians are vital to the education process, regular PTA meetings and class conferences are held. Also, regular monthly newsletters are sent home. We are fortunate that a high percentage of our parents are active, committed and involved.

Happily, St. Ursula’s was blessed with a staff that experienced minimal changes for a very long time. Then, from 2003, quite a large number of teachers retired, transferred to other schools or migrated. This number included one of our most dedicated and successful principals, Ms. Yvonne Ferrette, who was instrumental in substantially raising the school’s profile during the ten years that she served as Principal. The staff, therefore, is in the process of re-establishing and rebuilding its synergy. In addition, some of our teachers hold certificates or Bachelor’s degrees in education and, at the time of writing, many more are accessing tertiary education.

All of the above has been achieved even though we are constrained by antiquated facilities and a terrible lack of space as well as other vital resources. We very often feel that the authorities have forgotten about us. For example, we are one of just a few schools that do not have computers or a computer room. When it rains, our students and teachers cannot access the bathrooms. Our school building was constructed in 1952 for 300 students and is now extremely inadequate for the needs of our approximately 350 students and their teachers. The demand for places at this school is very high and with a new and larger structure, we would be able to accommodate more students.

Nonetheless, we can safely say that St. Ursula’s is on course – a successful, forward-looking institution with a proud history; a school that offers the academics, extra-curricular activities and pastoral care in a safe and uplifting environment – a haven for all.