31 Jan. 2021
Weekly Current (archived version)
Assessing the number of Special Education Needs students in Cayman schools. Interview with Principal of Cayman Academy. UCCI shifts to Spring graduation ceremony. Applications open for Enterprise City internship programme. And more!
Welcome to this week’s newsletter on education in the Cayman Islands.
Week In Review
In the final instalment of our series on Office of Education Standards inspection reports, we examined the data available on students with Special Education Needs or Disabilities (SEN), and took note of the data that isn’t available (at least publicly).
The percentage of Cayman Island students as having SEN varies widely from school to school, even among public schools — which are subject to SEN regulations that private schools are not.
Among public schools, John Gray High School had the lowest percentage of SEN students (10%), while Red Bay Primary School had the highest among mainstream public schools (58%), and the specialised Lighthouse School, of course, had 100% SEN student enrolment.
Even generalised observations on SEN in Cayman come with a major caveat: Public schools follow a SEN Code of Practice to identify and report information on students with special needs. Private schools, however, are not bound by those rules.
OES reports include SEN information for about 95% of the public school population, but only for about 33% of the private school population.
The upshot is, it is difficult to assess how meaningful comparisons on SEN between public and private schools may be.
However, it can be stated with some confidence that the percentage of SEN students in Cayman (about 25% of the student population) is greater than the average in the UK and US (about 15%). Additionally, the percentage of public school students in Cayman whose needs are so significant that they require intervention using resources from beyond their individual school — called ‘Phase 3’ — is also far greater than in the UK and US. In Cayman, 11% of public school students are Phase 3 SEN students, whereas in the UK and US that group accounts for 3-6% of all students.
The Auditor General’s 2019 report on education also contains salient observations on SEN in public schools:
- The number of Phase 3 SEN students in mainstream public schools increased 24% from 2013-2017.
- “There is no national strategy for SEN that sets out how the overarching objectives for SEN will be achieved, or that can help allocate resources to focus on the right areas.”
- The number of ‘SEN-specific’ staff increased significantly from 2013-2017.
- “It is not clear if the additional investment in SEN has delivered value for money.”
Also this week, we updated a previous story we published on per-student costs in Cayman schools. We added a graphic with numbers for Early Childhood Care & Education Centres. (Check it out here.)
Editor’s Note: In total, we published 7 stories on the first complete cycle of school inspections, as a foundation to our Schools Explorer project. (You can find our reporting on the topic here.) Now that we’ve wrapped up this series, we are going to aggregate the data (and other information) into a comprehensive guide. We will highlight the first entries in the next edition of the Weekly Current.
We sat down with Cayman Academy Principal O’Neil Duncan and discussed the private Seventh-day Adventist school, whose more than 300 students range in age from 3 to 17. Tracing its history in Cayman back more than 100 years, the school recently received a ‘Good’ rating from OES inspectors.
Here are some highlights from the first part of the interview:
- “We have a holistic approach to education, so it’s not just academics, but we look at the whole student.”
- “This total learning environment really is a careful attention to the balance between study, worship, labour, recreation and industry, as well.”
- “Our strength is our student-centred learning, which supports a sense of autonomy for the students and a learning climate that is safe. It’s not only safe physically, but also safe to make mistakes, for adults and students.”
- The school only serves vegetarian food, as part of its focus on healthful living.
- “We are service-oriented, and we are teaching [students] how to serve others, and to serve selflessly. That’s what we’re about.”
- Constrained by space considerations, Cayman Academy has a waiting list of more than 100 students.
- “We also have a challenge in terms of the attrition of our teachers. Since government has made changes to their salaries, our salaries are no longer competitive, so many of our great teachers have left us. But we are surviving.”
- Since 2017, students have been using Microsoft Teams to keep up with learning whenever they are out of school for an extended period of time.
- “So COVID didn’t have that knee-jerk effect for us. Our students were using Teams from before, so it was a seamless transition for our students to use it when they need to.”
We’ll be publishing the second half of the interview this week.
Save the date: UCCI’s commencement ceremony is set for 24 April. Historically, UCCI has held its graduation in November, but has made the move to Spring this year to align with common practice in other countries, and in response to students’ feedback.
Also at UCCI, the university opened a ‘One-Stop Centre’ to act as a hub for all student services. UCCI President and CEO Stacy McAfee said, “The idea is to make it easy for students to access the resources and services they need.”
More from the Current:
- Cayman Enterprise City has opened the application period for its Enterprise Cayman Internship Programme. The deadline is 1 April.
- LIFE and Walkers have donated 781 English textbooks to Cayman’s public high schools.
- A new Proud of Them billboard recognises 2 honourees from Cayman Brac.
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.)
- Cayman Compass ($): Enterprise Cayman offering internships
- Jamaica Gleaner: Let the education system enable Jamaica’s gig economy
- Jamaica Observer: COVID forces halt in face-to-face classes at 8 schools
- The Guardian (UK): Boris Johnson hopes schools in England will reopen from 8 March
- The Guardian (UK): EDITORIAL | Calls to reopen schools: a dangerous distraction
- The Guardian (UK): Record one in three UK students gained first-class degree in 2020
- Eye Witness News (Bahamas): Min. of Education pushes back return to in-person learning for public schools
The Week Ahead
- Part 2 of 2, An interview with O’Neil Duncan, Principal, Cayman Academy
- Schools Explorer, launching our comprehensive guide to Cayman’s schools