9 May 2021 (Happy Mother’s Day!)
Weekly Current (archived version)
What happened at Red Bay Primary School? Analysing the differences in student performance in public primary schools. Tiny Tots rated ‘Satisfactory’ by inspectors. And more!
Welcome to this week’s newsletter on education in the Cayman Islands.
Week In Review
One of the trickier things for a news organisation to do is to report on something it can’t report about … particularly when other media are already reporting on it.
This is poor consolation for immediate gratification, but it can provide an opportunity to discuss making a judgement call on whether to go ahead with a story or to steer away from it.
In the case of the ‘alleged misconduct towards students’ at Red Bay Primary School, a couple of outlets made the decision to run with a story based on allegations that — if true — would be not only sensational but important, in terms of the immediate impact on students and also what it might reveal about the inner workings of Red Bay Primary and the entire government school system.
The key phrase is, of course, ‘if true’. The allegations, which have been levelled against different members of staff personally, are serious enough that if they turn out not to be true, or if the details reported turn out to be inaccurate, it would 1) be extremely damaging to the reputations of the people involved, and 2) provide grounds for a libel lawsuit.
One outlet that published the allegations cited anonymous sources. Another cited ‘social media posts by parents’.
While the Current does publish stories based on anonymous sources, we set the legal and ethical bar for those cases quite high. For this incident, and at this time, we simply have not received sufficient confirmation to justify publishing the allegations. The fact that the allegations are already circulating in other media (much less on social media) is, legally and ethically, irrelevant.
So if the big question is “What happened at Red Bay Primary?” The answer is, “We don’t know for sure, yet.”
That doesn’t mean we aren’t trying to find out. We’ve spoken to teachers and parents, and we’ve requested comment from officials, legislators, and Red Bay Principal Vickie Frederick.
We are putting out a public call to anyone and everyone who has knowledge of the alleged incident, or who has insight into the conduct of Red Bay Primary over the past 10-20 years, to please contact us. We promise to safeguard identities and also to operate fairly and responsibly. (You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by WhatsApp at 326-5064. From this starting point we can discuss other ways to communicate securely and confidentially.)
We assure you that we will be pursuing this story in depth over the coming days and weeks.
Right now, what we can tell you is that the Ministry of Education issued a press release stating that reports of “alleged misconduct” have triggered an investigation by police and the Department of Children and Family Services.
Staff members who were reported to be involved “have been relocated from schools until the investigation is complete”.
The catchment area for Red Bay Primary attendance coincides with the electoral districts for 4 members of the Progressives’ Opposition, including Alden McLaughlin, Roy McTaggart, Barbara Conolly and David Wight.
We asked the 4 MPs for comment, and in response McLaughlin said, “I don’t think it would be appropriate to speculate at this stage. Let the investigation take its course and produce a result.”
In addition to Principal Frederick, we are also awaiting a response from Minister of Education Juliana O’Connor-Connolly.
Stay tuned …
How prepared a student is for high school could depend on which public primary school they attend.
Student performance varies significantly among Cayman’s public primary schools, with differences in results only partly explained by assessments of students’ pre-existing “thinking abilities”.
Additionally, as a rule, public primary schools are failing to pull students with the lowest ability up to expected standards — and they are also failing to ensure that students with the greatest ability surpass those standards.
Continuing our series of stories examining the Education Data Report 2020, we compared scores on the ‘Cognitive Abilities Test’ (or CAT4, a standardised exam that assesses students’ ability to think) with actual results in Reading, Writing and Maths — for each public primary school in the country.
Highlights from our analysis:
- George Town Primary School had the greatest proportion of students who actually performed ‘below expectations’ in Reading (78%), Writing (73%) and Maths (63%).
- George Town also had the largest difference in the percentage of students predicted to perform ‘below expectations’ and the percentage who actually performed ‘below expectations’, in every subject.
- The greatest proportion of students who actually ‘exceeded expectations’ were at Creek and Spot Bay Primary School (Reading), Edna Moyle Primary School (Writing) and Prospect Primary School (Maths).
At every school, and in every subject, a larger number of students actually performed ‘below expectations’ than was predicted.
Tiny Tots Academy has a new manager after owner Jacqueline Hydes passed away in late October 2020. The preschool maintained its ‘Satisfactory’ rating in its latest Office of Education Standards inspection.
“The well-resourced outdoor play areas provided children with a variety of opportunities for movement which supported the development of their gross and fine motor skills,” according to the report.
Out of 14 categories, the school’s rating declined in 1 area — ‘self-evaluation and improvement planning’. This is becoming a trend in the 2nd cycle of inspections, as 3 of 4 schools inspected have been rated ‘Weak’ in that area.
More from the Current
- Investigation Launched into Incident at Clifton Hunter High School
- LIFE partners with Early Childhood Association on Thrive By Five literacy programme
- Department of Education Services Hosts 2021 NCFA Final Concerts
- UCCI Innovation Tour Taken by the Force
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 ($): Investigation launched into alleged misconduct at Red Bay Primary
- Cayman Compass ($): Police probe launched after 3 students fall ill at Clifton Hunter
- The Guardian (UK): England’s nursery schools driven towards extinction, says survey
- The Guardian (UK): ‘We’re all marking late at night’: teachers on England’s new grading system
- The Guardian (UK): A-level and GCSE grade inflation ‘inevitable in English system’
- Jamaica Gleaner: Recovering stronger – a school leader’s perspective
- Jamaica Gleaner: Troupe: Gov’t committed to TVET training
- Jamaica Observer: Gov’t committed to TVET training – Dr Troupe
The Week Ahead
- The performance of public school students with Special Education Needs
- More analysis from Education Data Report 2020