17 May 2021 (Discovery Day)
Weekly Current (archived version)
Former chief inspector gives an inside view of Cayman’s schools. How students with special needs performed on exams. Comprehensive results from high school tests. Red Bay Primary update. And more!
Welcome to this week’s newsletter on education in the Cayman Islands.
Week In Review
The former Director of the Office of Education Standards throws back the veil on Cayman Islands schools. During his 3 years here, Peter Carpenter led a team of inspectors that visited every one of the more than 50 public and private schools in Cayman.
Now in Dubai, Carpenter has penned a perspective on his time in Cayman. Informed by his international and local experience, Carpenter’s commentary is light-hearted and humorous, but also deeply informative about fundamental issues in Cayman education.
Running at more than 6,000 words in length, Carpenter’s Viewpoint — “‘Do you know your numbers to 10?’: Reflections on life as a school inspector in Cayman” — is what we in the industry call a ‘long read’. We’ve broken it out into 3 parts, and this week published the first 2.
We think the article demonstrates the versatility of our platform and the Current’s commitment to publishing education content of the highest possible quality and the greatest possible depth.
Whether you devour the Viewpoint in a single sitting, or take it one bite at a time, we strongly encourage you to read Carpenter’s commentary from cover to cover.
With a particular focus on public primary schools, Carpenter’s tale is peppered with dutiful teachers, precocious youngsters and fervent citizenry — and punctuated with sober observations and, on one occasion, a 7.7-magnitude earthquake.
Here are some highlights from the first 2 parts:
- “The character which seeps from [the] colourful exteriors [of government primary schools] is further heightened within, where classroom displays give honour to local heroes, the Cayman Islands flag and very importantly, the islands’ Christian ethos which is so central to the dedicated people who serve the children in each institution.”
- “Everyone, of course, is an expert about Education. Because we have all been through an education of some form or another, naturally we have a view about what works, or did not work for us.”
- “Mrs. Ebanks reminded us that graduates of the public school system were without doubt unemployable. Perhaps, with the exception of her own children and her friend’s son …”
- “There was no way that she was going to put up with any more English folk coming to Cayman and telling us what to do with our education system. That was a helpful start.”
- “The truth was that the quality of education in certain private schools was much worse than in public sector provision. Yet, in most media and in the general perception, the government schools and, by implication, the government itself, was ‘failing’ the public it served.”
- “In many ways, the government schools seemed to be battling poverty and apathy and a social divide exacerbated by a rule which restricted public school access only to Caymanian children and the children of civil servants. … And the divide is widening.”
- “I sometimes think teachers have certain superhuman skills. How else could one get a group of 30 five-year-old children to listen, sit still and do things they really don’t particularly want to do?”
- “Just as the teacher was explaining the effect of seismic waves, there was a sudden loud rumbling noise and various car alarms outside in the school car park were triggered. The teacher did not blink.“
- “And this is when Edward felt inclined to burst with information and stood to shout loudly, “Earthquake!” … “Yes,” responded teacher.“
If you’re interested in submitting your own commentary, click here to Join the Conversation.
Students who have progressed to Phase 2 of the Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) process appear to perform significantly better on Year 11 exams than students who are still in Phase 1.
In Phase 1 of the SEND process, a public school student is identified as having a potential education disability, and receives additional support from their classroom teacher. In Phase 2, the student can start receiving ‘school-based support’ from outside the classroom. In Phase 3, the student has a verified education disability and receives support from outside the school.
According to the Education Data Report 2020, Phase 1 students have lower Year 11 exam scores in English, Maths and Science than Phase 2 students. Additionally, Phase 1 students outperform Phase 3 students in English, perform about the same in Maths, but perform worse in Science.
A possible implication is that many of the Phase 1 students could benefit from the additional support that Phase 2 (or Phase 3) students are receiving.
Overall, students with no identified SEND have significantly higher exam scores across all subjects than students with potential or verified education disabilities.
The report notes that the Phase 3 SEND population is about half of what should be expected: “8% of the cohort requires [Phase 3] SEND services. This percentage is below international norms which according to the National Centre for Education Statistics (NCES) stands at approximately 14%.”
We’ve just about wrapped up our series on the Education Data Report 2020. Our final story — to be fair — isn’t really a story, but is a table of end-of-high-school exam results for Year 11 and 12 public school students.
In terms of the percentage of students earning top marks (i.e. A*/A/I), Cayman students excelled in Physical Education, Electronic Document Preparation & Management, Spanish and Statistics, where more than half of students got the highest grades.
Our table is searchable and sortable.
Next week, we’ll publish a final roundup that highlights our findings from the report.
OK, at the beginning of the newsletter, we promised an update on the situation at Red Bay Primary School.
In this instance, that was more of a teaser than a proper introduction. If this were a progress report, the status is ‘incomplete’.
Multiple parents, teachers and others have responded to our request for information on Red Bay Primary, the recent allegations and other issues that may have arisen in the past decade or so. The results have been, well, mixed. In brief, we haven’t received positive confirmation that the alleged incident did occur as described in other media — and neither have we received a definitive denial.
We have heard from people who say the allegations aren’t surprising, in light of recent history … and also from other people who say they were surprised.
We have filed an open records request with education authorities, and we will submit others once we are reasonably sure responses will not be delayed by the ongoing investigation.
We haven’t heard anything from Minister of Education Juliana O’Connor-Connolly; however, we did get a statement on Monday 10 May from Opposition Leader Roy McTaggart, whose George Town East district falls in the Red Bay Primary attendance zone.
McTaggart said, “I am concerned about the report and grateful that the Ministry of Education has moved swiftly to assure the public that the allegations are being investigated and the staff member has been removed from the school pending the outcome of the investigation. I believe that it is important to let the investigation take its course and not rush to any conclusions or judgment on the matter. Given the sensitivities, I will await the outcome of the investigation before making further comments.”
We continue to encourage anyone with any information to please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp us at 326-5604.
Stay tuned …
More from the Current
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 Life: Friends, Faith, and the Girls Brigade
- Cayman Life: Creating Cultural Harmony in Cayman
- Tes: Ofsted to ‘review’ its impact on teacher wellbeing
- Jamaica Gleaner: Editorial | Mass mobilisation for education
- The Guardian (UK): Pupils in England ‘waiting up to five years for special needs plan’
- The Guardian (UK): All university students in England allowed to return from 17 May
- Miami Herald ($): In a tight vote, Broward School Board approves Runcie’s $754K severance package
- Miami Herald ($): Broward School Board agrees to $226,000-plus severance deal with its indicted top lawyer
- The BVI Beacon: Junior high schools promised in east, west
The Week Ahead
- Part 3, Viewpoint from Peter Carpenter on Cayman schools
- Final roundup, Education Data Report 2020