The Cayman Islands has a new high school. Clever Fish has received approval from the Ministry of Education to be a full-time school for 25 students in Years 7-11 — although, at first, they are only accepting new students in Years 7 and 8.
“We are accepting applications for any child who will do well in the British curriculum, leading to IGCSEs and A Levels, but who needs a smaller learning environment to succeed,” Clever Fish owner Nicola Sowerby said.
Sowerby opened the Clever Fish facility on Walkers Road in July 2016, following 16 years of teaching at Cayman Prep and High School, including 8 years as head of middle school.
With a staff of 2 primary school teachers and 6 high school teachers, Clever Fish operates an after-school programme Monday-Thursday for children in Years 4-11.
“There seems to be a real need for an after-school programme where kids could come get all their homework done, all their studying done, and then their parents pick them up after work,” she said.
In 2017, Sowerby said she was approached by some parents who felt that mainstream schools weren’t working for their children, and who asked if she could ‘homeschool’ them.
For 2 years, Clever Fish operated as a homeschool for a maximum of 5 students. In 2019, Clever Fish was approved by the ministry as an ‘alternative education placement programme’ and could accept students who were better suited to a small learning environment — for example children with anxiety, depression or other mental health issues.
“Children who wanted to attend had to apply to the Ministry. They were not funded by the Ministry, but the Ministry decided who could attend,” Sowerby said. “From 2019, we had some children attend under that provision, but what we always wanted is to be a full school.”
As opposed to student applications going through government panels for vetting, Clever Fish can now accept and approve applications itself on an individual basis. Sowerby said that will greatly speed up the application process, but also will allow the school to diversify the mixture of students.
“We will continue to work particularly with kids who perhaps have issues attending mainstream schools because of anxiety, depression or mental health,” she said.
Sowerby said, “Another group may be kids who are going off to boarding school but may not have a school place yet. We will work with the boarding school to make sure they are prepared and make sure they are accepted.”
Clever Fish, which will continue to operate its after-school programme, had been seeking accreditation as a full-time school for several years.
“From 2017 onward we applied to become a school but were turned down because we didn’t have outdoor space,” Sowerby said.
“Over [the COVID-19] lockdown, we created some outdoor space at the back of our plaza. We applied again, and they approved us — which is fantastic,” she said.