***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.***
Leaders at Cayman Prep and High School have utilised strategic planning and enhanced communication to navigate issues related to COVID-19, Office of Education Standards inspectors said.
To prepare for the next school year, the private school intends to focus on recruiting additional staff to fill vacancies created during the pandemic, according to a letter to school Director Debra McLaughlin from Senior Inspectors Althea Edwards-Boothe and David Baldwin.
“The school’s leadership team and staff demonstrated exemplary commitment to promoting students’ wellbeing and progress during the pandemic,” the inspectors said.
“The Board of Governors had provided strategic oversight and guidance and held senior leaders to account for standards of educational provision through regular meetings and reporting,” they said.
The visit occurred on 16 Feb. and the inspector’s summary is dated 21 Feb.
“We did not find any significant concerns” during the school visit, the inspectors 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.
Parents also completed a survey before the visit.
The inspectors noted the existence of clear plans and strategies in the short and longer terms.
“Almost all parents who completed the survey agreed that there was a clear strategy to promote learning during the pandemic and this had been communicated to them,” they said.
Beyond the immediacy of the pandemic, the school is continuing to prepare for the more-distant future.
“The school and the Board of Governors had begun the process of embarking on an ambitious strategic 10-year plan. Notably, the primary leadership team had already structured meaningful avenues to incorporate student voice in strategic planning processes,” the inspectors said.
The inspectors made several references to the quality of communications among leadership, staff, parents and students.
“All stakeholders consulted during the visit expressed a strengthening in the depth and meaningfulness of communication between school and parents during the pandemic with staff happy to extend additional efforts to alleviate issues before they became greater problems in the future,” they said.
Staff and students used online platforms to facilitate conversations, inspectors said, “Nonetheless, staff also expressed that they missed the quality of face to face interactions in events such as in person whole school assemblies.”
In the primary school, there was a “negligible increase” in the number of students displaying anxiety related to COVID.
“Staff indicated that a few of the younger children had exhibited separation anxiety and some had experienced difficulties adjusting to class routines after being absent due to Covid-19. This had sometimes resulted in low level disruption,” the inspectors said.
They said, “Regular staff meetings and communications ensured all relevant staff were aware of individual student requirements and concerns regarding wellbeing and mental health.”
At the primary level, assessments “showed most students demonstrated positive attitudes to learning and felt safe in their learning environment.”
The school had implemented a number of public health measures related to COVID, including replacing water fountains with water dispensers, upgrading the air conditioning filtration system, mask-wearing, hand-washing, regular cleaning, physical distancing and one-way walking systems in narrow corridors.
The secondary school had adjusted the start and end times of school days to ease potential crowding issues with neighbouring schools (including St. Ignatius Catholic School and John Gray High School).
School leaders and staff took an extra responsibilities such as collecting and distributing lateral flow testing kits. As with other schools, those additional duties were incurred at a time when staff numbers were stressed by temporary absences related to COVID isolation, teachers deciding to leave the school or country, and difficulties recruiting new staff from abroad.
The inspectors said, “The primary school had recently lost two subject leaders. Staffing was also impacted by staff illness or isolation due to Covid-19. Staff were redeployed to support areas as needed. There were plans to recruit additional learning assistants and sports staff for the new school year.”
They said, “Similarly, leadership at the secondary phase was finding recruitment and retention particularly difficult at the moment with staff making decisions to either return to their home countries or not travel during the Covid-19 situation. The school was reviewing how best to address this.”