Despite receiving ‘Good’ or ‘Excellent’ marks in almost all areas of assessment — including for student attainment, behaviour and teaching — St. Ignatius has been rated as ‘Satisfactory’ by the Office of Education Standards. That is the minimum level of quality required for Cayman Islands schools.
The school’s rating was dinged by what inspectors described as “fundamental weaknesses in leadership and governance”, according to the OES report.
Inspectors said, “There were weaknesses in governance which did not follow the requirements of best practice, and decision-making arrangements were not fit for purpose. A significant number of parents who wished to support the school felt unhappy with important aspects of St Ignatius.”
“Staff were also unhappy and the lack of effective governance was destabilising the school’s operation and continuing effectiveness. The high turnover of staff risked compromising the maintenance of high-quality teaching and learning.”
In the report, inspectors noted the recent resignation of the Head of School, the replacement of the School Advisory Board with a more-limited School Advisory Committee, and concerns raised publicly by parents and teachers. (The Cayman Current has reported extensively on these topics.)
“The recent resignation of the Head of School had affected staff morale and staff turnover had caused many parents to be concerned about the school. There was also controversy about funding and governance that had been widely reported in local media,” according to the report.
Inspectors said that, without a single Head of School, St. Ignatius is effectively operating as two separate schools. The Head of Primary is James Hickey, and the Head of Secondary is Peter Embleton.
The school is managed by the Catholic Archidoecese of Detroit. The head of St. Ignatius Church and School is Parish Administrator Naveen D’Souza.
Inspectors said St. Ignatius should integrate the 2 schools by hiring 1 overall educationalist leader (a position that has been advertised, and according to a recent letter sent by D’Souza, for which 16 people have applied.)
Inspectors also said St. Ignatius should improve school governance by “ensuring wider representation of parents on a school governing body through elections”.
St. Ignatius has a total enrolment of 698 students in Nursery through Year 13. About 20% of students have special education needs.
The school has 80 teachers and 5 support staff.
In addition to ‘Weak’ grades in ‘leadership’ and ‘self-evaluation and improvement planning’, the school received a ‘Satisfactory’ mark in ‘staff and the learning environment’, with inspectors citing recent staff turnover, old laptops, and some limited facilities. A planned $6 million Sports Hall would alleviate issues with the facilities.
Apart from those blemishes, St. Ignatius received ‘Good’ or ‘Excellent’ ratings in every other area of evaluation, including students’ performance in English, Mathematics and Science. Generally, the early years and primary school received ‘Good’ marks for student attainment, progress, teaching, learning and curriculum, while the secondary and post-16 school received ‘Excellent’ marks.
Among parents surveyed, 58% said the school was ‘well led’, with 30% disagreeing. Staff were split, with 47% agreeing and 47% disagreeing. Among students, 60% said the school was well led, and 32% said it was not.
Inspectors rate schools in individual categories, using a scale of Weak/Satisfactory/Good/Excellent. The overall grade is determined according to the individual scores.
St. Ignatius’s last inspection was in November 2007.
Although St. Ignatius received an overall ‘Satisfactory’ grade, inspectors plan to conduct a follow-through inspection in 6 months.
“Although the overall performance of the school was judged to be satisfactory, inspectors identified a number of important weaknesses in the performance of the school and its governance,” according to the report.