***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 Red Bay Primary School have taken on extra duties during the COVID-19 pandemic, and their work is showing in the continuing progress among all groups of students, an Office of Education Standards inspector said.
However, staff said they were “exhausted” and did not feel that the current demands were sustainable, according to a letter to Acting Principal Ryan Dale from Senior Inspector Carol Bennett.
“The willingness of the staff to perform additional duties demonstrated their dedication to the children and community which they serve,” she said.
The visit occurred on 2 Feb. and the inspector’s summary is dated 4 Feb.
Bennett said she did not find any significant concerns during the visit.
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.
“Student data and work scrutiny revealed that all groups of students continue to make progress during the pandemic,” the inspector said. “The Senior Leadership Team reported that the staff focused on closing learning gaps during the previous school year and this has helped the student’s progress in this school year.”
Dale has been serving as acting principal in place of longtime principal Vickie Frederick since May 2021, when law enforcement began investigating reports of alleged misconduct toward Red Bay Primary students.
As of December 2021, the investigation was “still ongoing”, according to a Ministry of Education spokesperson.
Bennett’s 2 Feb. letter does not mention the allegations or investigation.
She said, “In general the staff felt supported by the Principal but some felt anxiety and did not feel as if their suggestions were always listened to.”
Bennett said the additional duties have taken their toll on educators at the school.
“Staff reported feeling exhausted. Few staff expressed that working through to the end of the school year in the manner that is demanded of them at this time could prove to be
unsustainable,” she said. “Only 33% of staff who completed the survey felt that the school had sufficient staff to deliver the curriculum effectively during the pandemic.”
The inspector said the school counsellor and pastoral team effectively supported the mental health needs of students, and staff who required mental health support also went to the school counsellor.
“However, the staff did express they were unaware of other mental health providers which they could access,” Bennett said.
Most teachers were able to conduct classes successfully with some students in the classroom and others learning from home.
The inspector said the attendance rate at Red Bay Primary was 90%, counting students in isolation who attended lessons remotely.
As in other public schools, staff said the government’s free meal programme had a number of positive effects on students and their families.
Staff and students followed public health guidelines in regard to COVID, such as mask-wearing, hand-washing, social distancing, year-group bubbles and regular cleaning of classrooms.