Wesleyan Christian teachers say parent communication improved during COVID, but mask-wearing a challenge

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***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.***

Wesleyan Christian Academy

Teachers at Wesleyan Christian Academy said the school’s communication with parents had improved significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, but that mask-wearing had resulted in a slight ‘distancing’ between teachers and students, an Office of Education Standards inspector said.

Staff also talked about how students’ well-being had been negatively impacted by the effects of the pandemic outside of school, according to a letter to Church of God at West Bay Administrator Shauna Haylock from Senior Inspector David Baldwin.

“Senior leaders, and all other staff across the school, exhibited an exemplary attitude towards the ongoing provision of education for all students throughout the pandemic,” he said.

The visit occurred on 9 Feb. and the inspector’s summary is dated 10 Feb.

“We did not find any significant concerns” during the visit, Baldwin 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.

The inspector said, “Teachers reported communication between school and parents had been considerably strengthened during the pandemic, with parents much more willing to engage on all matters academic, behavioural, health-related and regarding wellbeing.”

However, teachers said their communication with students had suffered due to mask mandates.

“Teachers reported that there had been a slight ‘distancing’ of relationships between staff and students during the pandemic. Students were unable to relate to staff’s facial expressions and the younger students were denied the physical reassurances enabled pre-Covid. Staff expressed the feeling that the mask may have been perceived as a ‘comprehension barrier’,” Baldwin said.

Teachers also referred to external challenges that could be affecting students in school.

“Staff reported anecdotally, that some students, particularly higher in the school, had lost
a degree of ‘drive’ during the pandemic. Staff contributed this to Covid-related factors such as parents losing jobs, or illnesses in the family, that had led to a loss of focus or optimism for the future,” the inspector said.

Staff and nearly all students followed public health guidelines in regard to COVID, such as mask-wearing, hand-washing, social distancing, year-group bubbles, staggered lunchtimes and regular cleaning of classrooms.

Staff shortages had led to one class transitioning to remote learning, with a teacher providing support to part of the class and the remaining students working individually.

The school had individual data on student progress through the pandemic but did not have school-wide or cohort-wide data analysis.

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