21 Feb. 2021
Weekly Current (archived version)
Official launch of the Cayman Islands Schools Explorer, significant increases in private security costs at public schools, Cayman Current reporting starts impacting the election campaign, interview with Current founder, and more!
Welcome to this week’s newsletter on education in the Cayman Islands.
Week In Review
From ground-breaking to ribbon-cutting, we’ve spent the last several weeks building the Cayman Islands Schools Explorer, which we hope will become the country’s go-to information resource on local schools.
The Schools Explorer contains information on 52 public and private schools in Cayman, representing all the schools that were visited by the Office of Education Standards during their first cycle of inspections from 2018-2020. (We didn’t include information on 1 preschool that has since closed — and we are aware of 2 brand-new schools that we need to create entries for.)
Each entry in the Schools Explorer contains the following: contact information, student demographics, staffing numbers, government inspection results, the cost to attend (either government spending or annual tuition), relevant news content from the Current, and more.
Please take a moment to visit the Schools Explorer and, well, explore! For us, this is more than just a directory — it’s a different way for us to organise our content, and an alternative entry point for readers to access the information we create, as opposed to the traditional ‘scrolling news feed’ that is the default for most digital journalism organisations.
The Schools Explorer is meant to grow and evolve, and so we don’t just welcome and appreciate your comments and suggestions; community feedback is absolutely essential. (And that goes for everything the Current does as an organisation.)
***Editor’s Note: Like all of our content, the Schools Explorer project is free to the public. However, it’s not free for us to create. We are seeking sponsors for the Schools Explorer and other products (such as this newsletter), and generally to enable our operations. We are grateful for our supporters, such as Founding Sponsor Broadhurst Law Firm. Without the backing of the community, including financial contributions, the Current cannot achieve its mission to improve education in Cayman. We need your help! Please visit our Donations Page for more information, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.***
The cost to provide private security at public schools has risen dramatically over the past decade.
Since the 2010/11 budget year, the monthly cost for private security at Cayman Islands government schools has increased by more than 150%. During that time, the number of guards has increased by about 56% while the number of students has grown 5%.
During the 2010/11 budget year, the government paid about $35,600 per month to deploy 45 private guards to public schools. At the time, public school enrolment was about 4,900 students. For the time period from July 2019-December 2020, the government paid about $89,700 per month to deploy 65 private guards to public schools. The current public school enrolment is about 5,100 students.
On an annual basis, those costs work out to be $427,200 per year back in 2010/11, compared to the present annual rate of $1.08 million.
The information on private security was released by the Department of Education Services in response to a Freedom of Information request from the Cayman Current. (Hat tip: We were looking for updated information from a 2015 FOI request from Cayman Compass reporter James Whittaker.)
The latest FOI response notes an increase in security services in 2020 due to COVID-19, but the private security costs have increased steadily during every budget period since 2010/11.
Both the recent FOI response and the one from 2015 state that increases in costs are due to “increases in hours of coverage” even if the number of guards remain constant.
**Editor’s Note: We are seeking further clarification on some more information we received in regard to private security guards in public schools. The security costs FOI is one of several open records requests to which we have gotten responses. Expect to see stories from us over the next couple of weeks on student exclusions, teacher exit interviews, and Special Education Needs numbers and costs.)**
As a non-profit, public service journalism organisation, the Current is focussed on its mission to improve education in the Cayman Islands by informing and engaging the community on the topic of education. Put another way, as opposed to traditional, for-profit media, the Current’s first and final concern is to create positive impacts on education — rather than to monetise views or clicks through advertising or subscriptions.
That’s why we want the Current to be something larger than a news website, and why we continue to push for our content and our mission to appear beyond the bounds of platforms with the Cayman Current brand. (Not only is our content free to readers, but it is also free for republication by other media.)
Accordingly, we were quite pleased to see the Current’s reporting cited by Red Bay candidate Sammy Jackson in a viewpoint published on Cayman News Service’s Election 2021 section.
Calling the status of education in Cayman “a silent crisis”, Jackson references the Current’s reporting that “More than 80% of Caymanian students attend schools that do not meet national standards”, and that Cayman’s per-student spending on public education is the 2nd-highest among 33 OECD countries.
We are taking this moment to highlight Jackson’s letter because it is the first occasion where the Current’s reporting is influencing the political campaign — but it won’t be the last. As we have stated before, our goal is to elevate the status of education as an issue during the election, and bring it to the forefront of priorities for candidates and voters.
Now we realise it’s not considered ‘best practice’ to continually refer readers away from your own website, but we will also direct you to an interview with Cayman Current founder Patrick Brendel published by Yello.
In the Q+A, Brendel talks about his background, the formation of the Current, future plans for the organisation and his vision for education in Cayman.
Here’s what he said:
“The ultimate goal for Cayman’s education system is for it to be equitable, affordable and enviable. That means fair opportunities for all students, without breaking the budgets of households or the government treasury, and with results that other jurisdictions look upon as a model to which they hope to aspire. What that looks like in practice, and how we would get there, I think is a larger endeavour that our community must work together to work toward.”
More from the Current:
- Nearly 50 businesses participate in John Gray High School’s Career Fair
- ‘Tradewinds’ wins the Layman E. Scott Sr. High School Sports Day in Cayman Brac
- ‘Sun’ wins the Theoline L. McCoy Primary School Sports Day in Bodden Town
- Local publisher and authors discuss their craft during a joint event from the Cayman Islands Public Library Service and Cayman Arts Festival
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.)
- Camana Bay Times: Montessori with a view
- Jamaica Observer: How has The UWI managed to survive?
- Jamaica Gleaner: Audit under way at Immaculate Conception amid alleged misappropriation of funds
- Jamaica Observer: Education Ministry working with Immaculate Conception High School to complete audit
- Eye Witness News (Bahamas): 50 percent of students to return to public school campuses next week
The Week Ahead
- Non-profit Profile: Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Cayman Islands
- Renaming ceremony for Savannah Primary School
- FOI responses: student exclusions, teacher exit interviews, Special Education Needs