13 Dec. 2020
Weekly Current (archived version)
Interview with the leaders of the only ‘Excellent’ school in Cayman. Inspection reports published on 2 government primary schools and a private school. The Current’s editor makes a radio appearance. CUC donates laptops to public schools. And more news!
Welcome to this week’s newsletter on education news in the Cayman Islands.
Week In Review
We sat down with Josie Doran and Lesley Maddock of Little Trotters Farm and Nursery School, which is the only school in the Cayman Islands to receive the highest rating of ‘Excellent’ from the Office of Education Standards (with reports out on 48 of the country’s 53 schools).
In the first half of the interview, Doran (the principal) and Maddock (school manager) talk about the defining characteristics of Little Trotters, and how the school responded to the COVID-19 lockdown that began in March.
Here are some highlights from the interview:
- “The inspiration for the school was very much to be emphatically child-centred, at every juncture. To create an environment that adults envy and marvel at, and wish they could return to. To inspire the wonder of childhood. To be safe. And above all to a place of nurturing, loving and kindness.”
- “Again and again I’ll say to the teachers: All you need is 4 posts and a corrugated roof, and with the right teachers you can create magic.”
- “It’s easy, especially over time, for the priority of any school, from early years to university, to shift to support the needs of the parents or the staff. I believe emphatically that we remain child-centred in all of our decisions.”
- Little Trotters integrates Montessori and Steiner approaches to education, incorporated within the British national curriculum.
- Characteristics of the Montessori approach include a child-centred environment, opportunities for independence, practical life skills, and literacy based on phonics.
- Characteristics of the Steiner approach include encouraging confidence, building memory, using the imagination, roleplay and freedom of movement.
- “There are qualities about Montessori that I really liked. There are some that we have chosen not to adopt. We create a more social environment than a Montessori classroom would encourage.”
- When schools closed in mid-March, Little Trotters created and distributed at-home activity plans for the parents and supported them through the lockdown with videos from teachers.
- However, it was difficult for some parents who were expected to continue working from home, while having one or more very young children in the house.
- “Primarily what we found challenging was meeting the needs of the parents because we’re not peer education partners; we’re their caregivers. That’s untransferrable.”
- The school reopened in July, with staff wearing masks, and other protection measures in place, until the full reopening took place in September.
- “But the children bombed through, raced in, with a joie de vivre, just delighted to be back.”
(Read the interview here.) The second half of the interview will be published this week.
Inspection reports were published on 2 of Cayman’s biggest public primary schools. Sir John A Cumber Primary School in West Bay, and George Town Primary School, each were rated as ‘Satisfactory’, which is the minimum level of quality required for Cayman schools.
There were similarities between the reports, in that inspectors noted significant improvements since the last time the schools were inspected in 2014, and were found to be ‘Unsatisfactory’.
Inspectors also praised the principals and other leaders in both schools, and found there to be ‘Satisfactory’ progress in students’ learning.
However, in terms of bottom-line results, at both John A Cumber and George Town, students received the lowest rating of ‘Weak’ according to their assessments in English, Mathematics and Science. That means they performed below national and international standards.
On the other hand, the OES also published a report on Cayman Academy, a private school managed by the Cayman Islands Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, that caters to students from 3-17 years old.
Cayman Academy earned a ‘Good’ rating, which is the second-highest, next only to ‘Excellent’. The school was rated as ‘Good’ in almost all areas, including student performance and progress, school leadership and community links. Cayman Academy students performed better than their peers on assessments, both nationally and regionally.
(This is an aside — but one we believe to be important, and something that we will be watching more closely in the coming months. For now we will just observe that about one-half of George Town Primary students were identified as having special education needs, compared to 30% of students at John A Cumber, and 5% at Cayman Academy.)
The OES has completed inspections of all 53 schools in Cayman, wrapping up the first cycle of inspections that began in September 2018. There are 5 reports that are yet to be published, but it’s expected they will be out before Christmas.
Here are the 5 schools whose reports haven’t yet been published:
- Theoline McCoy Primary School (Bodden Town)
- St. Ignatius Catholic School
- Cayman Learning Centre
- Hope Academy
- Footsteps Cayman
In an email, OES Director Peter Carpenter said, “I am very proud of the achievements of OES. I trust that the inspections will provide the direction, support and challenge to all of our educational institutions in order to help drive forward further improvements to our educational provision.”
Carpenter is departing his post at the end of the year, following 3.5 years in charge of Cayman school inspections. His successor has yet to be announced. The second cycle of inspections begins in January 2021.
Last Tuesday, Cayman Current editor Patrick Brendel joined host Anita Khan on Radio Cayman’s Business Buzz programme. During the 45-minute interview, Brendel talked about the formation of the Current, challenges facing traditional for-profit media, the role that non-profit media can play, and other subjects, including the importance of education in the Cayman Islands.
More from the Current:
- CUC donates 50 laptops to Cayman government schools, with an estimated value of $25,000
- The Ministry of Education sent out information about activities and programmes available to students during the extended Christmas break.
- Truman Bodden Law School hosted a virtual law clinic.
Around The Web
The Current is a central resource for education journalism by others, including regional and international news relevant to Cayman education. (Find our running collection of links here.)
- The Royal Gazette (Bermuda): Closure of eight primary schools proposed for 2022
- Miami Herald ($): COVID cases in Miami-Dade and Broward schools spiked right before Thanksgiving
- The Guardian (UK): Covid: heads call for all lessons to go online for schools in mass testing areas
- Trinidad Express: Sex education in schools long overdue
- Stabroek News (Guyana) ($): Stigmatization of sex education
- Jamaica Gleaner: The Anglican Church and 150 years of education
- Jamaica Gleaner: The fine art of imparting education
- Cayman Compass ($): Confusion and concern over school holiday extension
The Week Ahead
- Part 2 of 2, An interview with the leaders of Little Trotters Farm and Nursery School
- New school inspection reports expected from the Office of Education Standards