***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.***
Leadership and staff at George Town Primary School have been working diligently throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to support students inside and outside of school, an Office of Education Standards inspector said.
However, staff shortages and the additional workload have caused educators to feel “overwhelmed and burnt out”, according to a letter to Principal Sharon Campbell-Danvers from Senior Inspector Althea Edwards-Boothe, following a one-day ‘thematic visit’ to the public school.
“While staff were clearly invested in the education of their students and willingly acceptedredeployment and additional duties, current arrangements for staff cover may prove unsustainable over time,” she said.
The visit occurred on 26 Jan. and the inspector’s summary is dated 27 Jan.
“Following the thematic visit to George Town Primary School, I did not find any significant concerns,” Edwards-Boothe 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.
George Town Primary parents and students also completed surveys prior to the visit.
The inspector said, “Senior leaders and staff had placed an appropriate focus upon supporting students’ wellbeing and progress throughout the pandemic. Overall, there was a well-focused and coordinated approach to student welfare.”
She said, “The care, commitment and responsiveness demonstrated by senior leaders and staff in meeting the needs of parents and students during the recent wave of community transmission of COVID-19 was highly commended by parents.”
Staff said a majority of students continued to make acceptable progress in learning, attributing that in part to the ‘gamification’ of learning via online resources. Staff gave positive reviews to the government’s free laptop initiative as well as the free school meals programme.
“Senior leaders and staff highlighted the early impact of free meals provided by the government on students’ overall attendance, punctuality and engagement in learning,” Edwards-Boothe said.
Staff and students followed public health guidelines in regard to COVID, such as mask-wearing, hand-washing and social distancing.
As in other schools across Grand Cayman, staff at George Town Primary are feeling the negative effects of increased responsibilities amid increased staff and student absences.
A majority of staff said there were challenges in supporting students with special education needs. The inspector said, “Senior leaders strongly advocated for additional teaching assistants to better support students with additional learning needs to progress in their learning.”
School leadership continued to make efforts to monitor and address the mental well-being of staff. “Nonetheless, staff expressed concerns for their own emotional health given the physical and mental demands associated with working in the pandemic including being tasked with multiple roles and additional responsibilities,” Edwards-Boothe said.
She said, “Staff expressed the need for a national parent association to alleviate staff of some of the responsibilities associated with supporting parents and families during a pandemic or other adverse circumstances.”
Throughout the school there was a strong ethos of team work and collaboration. Nonetheless, a majority of staff reported feeling overwhelmed and burnt out due to additional workload as a result of staff absences associated with illness and quarantine and isolation requirements,” the inspector said.