***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.***
East End Primary School has faced significant challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, including student absences, staff shortages and learning loss in all core subjects.
However, an Office of Education Standards inspector said senior leaders and staff have maintained excellent attitudes and implemented initiatives to deal with the problems, according to a letter to Principal Allison Greaves from Senior Inspector David Baldwin, following a one-day ‘thematic visit’ to the public school.
At one point in the fall 2021 school term, student attendance dropped to 30%, although it had since returned to 94% by the end of the term, according to the letter.
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.
Baldwin wrote, “Senior leaders, and all other staff across the school, exhibit an exemplary attitude towards the ongoing provision of education for all students. The school has remained open throughout the pandemic despite significant numbers of staff and student absence.”
The inspector noted that the educators take on additional responsibilities when there are significant absences among staff, “as witnessed by the deputy stepping up to act as principal during the visit and senior leaders deputising for the principal and deputy principal in the event of them both being absent from the school”.
He said, “These practices could usefully be documented as a part of the school’s management structure.”
School staff have focussed on supporting mental health throughout the school. “Staff recognise the concept of ‘mental wellbeing days’ and the advantages in ensuring all staff are able to perform maximally across the school,” the inspector said.
Similar to other schools, student achievement at East End Primary has been negatively impacted by COVID, in English, Mathematics and Science.
“School leaders are aware of a degree of learning loss across the core subjects and have identified knowledge gaps through testing. The learning loss is different across the three subjects and heads of department have programmes designed for closing the gaps in each area,” Baldwin said.
Students with Special Education Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND) receive extra assistance, such as when they have to be absent from school.
“Leaders, and particularly the [Special Education Needs Coordinator] and counsellor ensure additional support is available for SEND students during Covid-19. The SENCo will devote extra time to working with SEND students online when they are confined to home due to Covid-19,” he said.
Staff and students followed public health guidelines in regard to COVID, such as mask-wearing and hand-washing.
Additionally, staff gave positive reviews to the government’s free laptop initiative.
The inspector noted that absence of necessary written documentation to support the actions the school is already taking.
The leadership team “are aware of the need to complete key documentation, including the school’s selfevaluation and school improvement plan. Key issues have been identified and are being addressed ‘on the ground’ although written evidence is yet to be formalised and centralised,” he said.