30 May 2021
Weekly Current (archived version)
The premiere of EdBeat, our collaboration with Cayman Life TV. Interview with new St. Ignatius Principal Martin Nugent. Social worker’s viewpoint on outside factors affecting student performance. A digital presentation on Cayman’s education landscape. New UCCI scholarship. And more!
Welcome to this week’s newsletter on education in the Cayman Islands.
Week In Review
It’s the world premiere of ‘EdBeat’, a collaboration between Cayman Life TV and the Cayman Current.
EdBeat is envisioned to be a weekly video programme where Cayman Life founder April Cummings and Current editor Patrick Brendel discuss the top topics in Cayman education. This is a new venture for both Cayman Life and the Current, so we’ll be learning and improving as we go. In the future we plan on releasing a new episode every Wednesday evening.
In Episode One, we talk about the Current’s mission and vision, and comment on several of the stories that appear in this newsletter. We also have a conversation about the challenges of covering education in Cayman, where many people are reticent to speak publicly on what we believe is the number one issue facing society.
(EdBeat airs on Cayman Life TV and is also uploaded to social media. Watch the first episode here.)
Martin Nugent arrived in Cayman in mid-March to take the reins as Principal of St. Ignatius Catholic School. Following a couple of weeks in mandatory quarantine, Nugent has been extremely busy diving into his new role just as the school is engaged in spring examinations. He graciously carved out time in his schedule to accommodate an interview with the Current.
As readers are aware, the year 2020 was not ‘drama-free’ for St. Ignatius, including the departure of the former Head of School, public concerns from parents, and an overall ‘Satisfactory’ rating from government school inspectors, as ‘Good’ and ‘Excellent’ grades across the board were offset by ‘Weak’ marks in leadership.
Here are highlights from Part One of the interview with Nugent:
- Originally from the UK, Nugent has more than 30 years of experience in education, including abroad in Malaysia, Dubai and Tunisia.
- “I .. eventually became a teacher and did, kind of a very straight route through education. I wanted to improve things, so I became a head of department. I thought I could do the next job better than the other person, so I wanted to do that job. And at each point I did that in order to try to help more people, more children under my care.”
- “I set up one of the first academies in the UK, which was 4 primary schools, 1 secondary school and 4 Sixth Form colleges. I was part of the Building Schools for the Future programme, so that got me into building schools, basically.”
- “For me, my job is looking after children. We can show them how to do Maths and Science and other stuff, teach them a bit of Religious Education as well. You know, we can do all that, but it’s about care.”
- “The teachers like teaching and the children like learning when they’re safe and happy. That’s not an excuse for being mediocre. It’s actually a place of excellence. That’s where we get the best from people.”
- “I couldn’t imagine being in a more blessed place than St. Ignatius Parish. It’s just like coming home, and I can’t explain how welcoming, kind and thoughtful the people of this parish have been. It’s like a celebration being here.”
- “The first thing you notice when you walk around is the quality of the education, which is outstanding.”
In the next couple of days, we’ll publish the second half of the interview, where Nugent discusses the challenges facing St. Ignatius, plans for the future and last year’s turmoil over school leadership.
Veteran social worker Mark Nicoll has penned a Viewpoint in response to the Current’s recent series of articles exploring the Education Data Report 2020.
Nicoll writes, “I was struck that the report implies that responsibility for the state of student progress falls on the public schools they attend.”
- “What’s completely missing in this report is any consideration of factors other than the education provided by the teachers in these schools which also influence student progress. The report provides no information about the students and their life circumstances, so a reader cannot come to any conclusions about what would need to change for these current outcomes to improve.”
- “Students who live in a safe loving home and have enough to eat are better able to focus on learning. Sadly, children who do not have these basic needs met are much less able to focus on learning.”
- “Another key characteristic to know about them would be how much trauma they have faced in their lives.”
Nicoll refers to an established and growing body of research about Adverse Childhood Experiences (or ACEs), which are risk factors for negative outcomes in adulthood such as chronic disease, mental illness, premature death, substance abuse, alcoholism etc.
“In short, the real and ongoing cost of poverty and other childhood trauma on children, families and communities is significant and long-lasting,” he writes.
If you’re interested in submitting your own commentary, click here to Join the Conversation.
The Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce recently invited us to make a presentation on the education options available in Cayman.
We adjusted that presentation for an online format and published it on the Current’s website. It’s our first attempt at this kind of story, so we welcome any and all feedback.
In the presentation, we go over the school landscape from ‘early years’ through higher education, and at each level describe key characteristics, outline the variety of schools and curricula, and discuss key news items and issues.
Local residents Beverley and Tom Simpson are making a significant commitment to the University College of the Cayman Islands, establishing a US$50,000 per year Community Engagement Programme that initially will provide need-based scholarships for up to 20 students annually.
The application period is 1 June to 16 July. Requirements include being a ‘first-generation college student’ (meaning parents did not complete a college degree).
Finally, a heads-up for this coming week. Reliable sources have told us that a batch of inspection reports are about to be published, and that there could be ‘Good’ news for government schools, including John Gray High School.
More from the Current
- More than 2,600 laptops arrive for public primary school students.
- Start date for CXC exams delayed from 14 June to 28 June.
- Department of Education Services sends assurances on handling of Child Safeguarding issues.
- Education Minister tours several schools
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 News Service: DES denies handling teacher allegations badly
- The Royal Gazette (Bermuda): Banking on public education
- Jamaica Gleaner: Education, technology and the transformation of work in the CARICOM region
- Jamaica Gleaner: Online school in grade six
- The Guardian (UK): Longer school hours won’t plug Covid learning gaps, says Cambridge academic
- The Guardian (UK): ‘Horrific’ cuts in pipeline for English universities and students
The Week Ahead
- Results, school inspection reports
- Interview with St. Ignatius Principal Martin Nugent, Part Two
- EdBeat, Episode 2