***Editor’s Note: Due to the impact of COVID-19, the Office of Education Standards is conducting one-day ‘thematic visits’ to Cayman Islands schools in the Spring 2022 term in lieu of more in-depth inspections. (Click to expand.)
(Read our story on the decision here.) OES recently published the first batch of reports from these visits, which will eventually involve 31 government and private schools and culminate in a national report. The Current will publish a story on each individual school, as well as stories from a more comprehensive perspective.***
An Office of Education Standards inspector reported excellent attitudes and communication among leadership and staff at Joanna Clarke Primary School. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on educators and diminished student achievement, according to a letter to Principal Delton Pedley from Senior Inspector Carol Bennett following a one-day ‘thematic visit’ to the public school in Savannah.
The inspection occurred on 12 Jan. and the inspector’s summary is dated 14 Jan.
Unlike full inspection reports, the inspectors do not assign graded judgments to schools as a result of the one-day visits. Inspectors conduct interviews with school leadership, teachers and administration, as well as reviewing documentation.
Bennett wrote that “We did not find any significant concerns” at Joanna Clarke.
She said, “The very positive ethos of the school and the willingness of the staff to perform additional duties demonstrated their dedication to the children and community which they serve.”
“The Principal and other Senior Leadership Team members demonstrated an exemplary attitude towards ongoing delivery of a quality provision for all students and creating a safe and supportive environment for students, staff and families,” Bennett said.
Teachers said they felt supported by the school’s leadership team. However, staffing shortages put additional demands on educators throughout the school.
“Some teachers reported feeling exhausted and felt as though working longer term without additional staffing could prove to be unsustainable,” the inspector said.
The pandemic had negatively impacted students’ learning as well.
Bennett said, “In line with early international reporting, attainment was lower than expected. However, student data and work scrutiny reveal that all groups of students continue to make progress during the pandemic.”
Staff and students followed public health guidelines in regard to COVID, such as mask-wearing and hand-washing.
Present attendance was 83%, which was lower than the 87% attendance rate before COVID.
Expressing concern that they were not consulted, some teachers did not agree with government policies regarding COVID, for example the decision to allow unvaccinated students who have been exposed to COVID to continue attending school as long as they test positive on quick-response lateral flow tests.
“A significant minority shared that they felt more vulnerable to COVID-19 transmission. They also felt that the possible increased risk of transmission to teachers was not always considered by policy makers,” Bennett said.
While staff agreed that the government’s free laptop initiative was effective, they were not always able to transmit live classroom lessons to students learning remotely.
The government’s other new major programme also got good marks.”Pastoral staff and the Senior Leadership Team shared that the free snack and meal initiative had a number of positive effects on the students and their families,” she wrote.