***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.***
Village Montessori in Camana Bay has had success in dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, with attendance remaining high and students continuing to make progress, an Office of Education Standards inspector said.
However, school leaders said recruiting staff has become more difficult, and they questioned whether government officials took education into account when formulating national policies, according to a letter to School Director Jeifrene Small and owner Traci Bradley from Senior Inspector Carol Bennett, following a one-day ‘thematic visit’ to the private preschool and primary school.
The visit occurred on 19 Jan. and the inspector’s summary is dated 21 Jan. (Village Montessori was formerly known as Starfish Village.)
“We did not find any significant concerns” during the visit, Bennett said.
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.
“Attendance continued to be high, with a 95% average attendance to date,” she said.
The school’s leaders “were dedicated to creating and maintaining a safe environment for the school community and the continuity of learning for all students”, the inspector said.
Additionally, Bennett said, “Student data, discussions with teachers and responses to surveys indicated that all groups of students continued to make progress through the pandemic.”
Staff and students followed public health guidelines in regard to COVID, such as mask-wearing, hand-washing and lateral flow testing. In order to support students who were hesitant to take the LFTs, staff encouraged them to investigate how the tests worked and the potential impact tests like this could have on healthcare.
The school’s leaders said they had been “strongly supported by an Education Strategy Officer and an Early Childhood Care and Education Officer within the Ministry of Education” in regard to supplying LFTs, communicating evolving COVID policies and assisting the school with COVID protocols.
However, at a higher level, the leaders questioned if government policymakers adequately factored education into their plans for the Cayman Islands.
The inspector said, “The Senior Leaders expressed concerns regarding the apparent lack of consideration for education and infrastructure regarding the formulation and implementation of some Covid-19 national initiatives, regulations and policies. An example of this was the Global Citizenship initiative where they did not feel availability of spaces in schools was considered.”
Echoing other school leaders, Village Montessori leaders said it was becoming “increasingly difficult” to recruit staff, particularly “suitably qualified Montessori staff who will relocate to a country with a high cost of living”.