After nearly a decade leading the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre, Delores Thompson has stepped into a new role, focussed on a much younger demographic.
Early childhood development and education will take priority in her new position as director of Miss Nadine’s Preschool and Jack and Jill Nursery, operated by NCVO on Anthony Drive.
The preschool and nursery currently offer one of the island’s most affordable childcare options, due in large part to charitable donations. Now, Thompson would like to make the facility one of Cayman’s best and eventually achieve ‘excellent’ inspection status.
Part of realising that vision will mean connecting staff with local training opportunities, like the University of the West Indies’ early childhood development certification, and learning from facilities that have already achieved outstanding results, like Little Trotters Farm & Nursery School.
The 16-member NCVO childcare team serves students from 6 months to 4 years old across five class groups. Each child receives three meals a day: breakfast, lunch and a snack.
“We’re working with each of those classes, going in and seeing how things are going and what’s happening. It’s really exciting to see that,” Thompson said. “We’re working with them to make sure, obviously, that when [students] leave here, they’re ready for primary school. That’s really important, making sure that they have those skills.”
Setting a solid foundation at the preschool age not only prepares students for better results in primary school but can influence the rest of their lives, Thompson pointed out. For families that cannot afford the average cost of Cayman Islands daycare, NCVO’s facility provides an important resource for early childhood development.
“We’re trying to make sure that people can have access to a good education for their children, even if they don’t have the money to send them to the more expensive schools,” Thompson said. “High-quality, early childhood education is something that every child deserves, regardless of their socioeconomic background, where their parents work or how much money they [make].”
As young people progress through the school system, gaps in education or developmental support may become more apparent, leading to low performance and ultimately challenges succeeding as an adult – a reality Thompson observed during her time working with high school students at CIFEC. Enrolment in a quality preschool means not only having a safe place for children to spend the workday, but it also increases the possibility of early intervention for students who need extra support.
“[Research] shows that when you have that quality, early childhood education and you get it right, that that impacts how children learn when they go into school, it impacts whether they finish high school, whether they go into college, whether they’re successful in their jobs,” Thompson said. “So, it has a long-range impact.”
An important element to improving outcomes for young people also means providing support for parents. Thompson would like to see a more proactive approach to reaching parents who need resources the most. Many times, Thompson said, parents may not understand or appreciate that alternative, healthier forms of caretaking are possible.
“I even look at things like abuse and I think sometimes parents don’t realise what constitutes abuse. They don’t realise how they’re exposing their children to abuse. I think sometimes it’s about educating them,” Thompson said. “I mean, nobody sets out to be a bad parent. Nobody sets out to have their child abused. But sometimes you’re just not tuned in to different things.”
At CIFEC, Thompson ran into frustrations offering parenting programmes. There were times when parents didn’t show up and staff were left with empty workshops. Despite that experience, Thompson remains confident that with an improved approached, her staff can break through to more families in need.
While she has only been on the job at NCVO for less than a month, she has a long-term vision for empowering children and families.
“I would love to see us get it really, really right and do it really, really well. I would love us to have that ‘excellent’ rating and then we need to duplicate this and we need to take it out to the different districts,” Thompson said. “There needs to be a Miss Nadine’s in West Bay, maybe a Miss Nadine’s in East End and North Side and Bodden Town.”