13 March 2022
Weekly Current (archived version)
Getting ready for Friday’s showcase of our ‘Island Jobs’ documentary. Successes and challenges with COVID at John Gray. How Cayman Prep has navigated the pandemic. UCCI wins CFA Research challenge 4th year in a row.
Welcome to this week’s newsletter on education in the Cayman Islands.
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Week In Review
We’re gearing up for this week’s unveiling of the first episode of our ‘Island Jobs’ documentary series on TVET and STEM education.
Many of our readers will recall that in our last newsletter we announced Island Jobs has joined the lineup of the Cayman Documentary Festival, taking place at the Camana Bay Cinema. Our episode will be shown Friday, 18 March, right after the film ‘The Great Disconnect’.
But the Island Jobs project is so important to us that we wanted to underscore the event again, and to add a little more information.
Island Jobs is the culmination of tens of thousands of dollars of resources from our Project Sponsors and months of work, chiefly by journalist Kayla Young, who is the series’ director, writer and reporter. On Friday evening after the film screenings, Young will moderate a panel discussion on mental health, which will intersect with education.
“This series is the result of months of interviews with young people, educators and employers about the state of the job market and professional training in Cayman. We sought to centre this series around young Caymanians, who face the islands’ highest levels of unemployment,” Young said.
When complete, Island Jobs will comprise 5 episodes (about 20-25 minutes apiece … consider it the standard ‘half-hour TV time slot’), as well as a 90-minute feature-length cut.
As always, we extend our warmest gratitude to our Project Sponsors, including Dart, Health City Cayman Islands, Enterprise Cayman and Silver Palm Studios, as well as to our Media Partner Cayman Life TV. Their support is what makes our documentary project possible.
And here’s an exciting bit of news: We’re pleased to announce that on Friday afternoon we reached an agreement with local musician Stuart Wilson to use a piece of his music as part of the Island Jobs soundtrack. We want to thank Wilson for being extremely generous in regards to the terms of the arrangement, considering that we are a non-profit organisation. When you’re viewing the documentary, keep your ears (as well as your eyes) open. We think you’ll agree that Wilson’s music harmonises with the theme of our project and sets the tone for the documentary.
In addition to Island Jobs, the Festival is showcasing 5 international documentaries over 5 days. Each ticket is $25, with proceeds benefitting charities such as Plastic Free Cayman, Cayman Islands Crisis Centre, Alex Panton Foundation, NCVO and Cayman Arts Festival. The Festival will also include a special video report from the Cayman Compass on Cayman’s local housing issues.
“We are excited to bring their experiences to the big screen for the Cayman Documentary Festival and hope this series contributes to a larger conversation about empowering young Caymanians in the workforce,” Young said.
Again, if you can’t make the Festival, you’ll have to wait until the entire documentary is finished before you can see it. The remainder of the series is still in post-production with Silver Palm. When the project is complete, we will air the documentary online, on Cayman Life TV and via other avenues.
We hope to host a standalone event where we will premiere the 90-minute version of the documentary. But we’re still pulling those details together.
Until then … Stay tuned …
Journalist Kayla Young joins April Cummings of Cayman Life TV and Cayman Current editor Patrick Brendel to discuss the debut of Island Jobs, the work that’s gone into it and the larger questions the project is trying to address.
Later in the episode, April and Patrick discuss inspectors’ reports from local schools.
Continuing our coverage of inspectors’ reports on local schools, leaders at John Gray High School received good marks for mitigating negative consequences of COVID-19 on learning progress and the mental well-being of students and staff.
However, the pandemic had impacted the school in several areas, including delaying the planned opening of portions of the new John Gray campus, an Office of Education Standards inspector said.
A “summer catch-up camp” translated to a “solid start” by most students at the beginning of the Fall term. Overall, the inspector said there was “minimal periodic learning loss due to Covid-19 absence.”
John Gray’s three school councillors and an education psychologist provided support for students, but they sometimes struggled to meet the increased demand from students who were displaying mental health issues during the pandemic.
COVID had also “delayed the opening of the new school site although some areas had been securely opened”, the inspector said.
Meanwhile, at Cayman Prep and High School, leaders had utilised strategic planning and enhanced communication to navigate issues related to COVID.
To prepare for the next school year, the private school intends to focus on recruiting additional staff to fill vacancies created during the pandemic, inspectors said.
Although school leaders had their hands full with COVID, they had managed to begin the process of creating “an ambitious strategic 10-year plan”, the inspectors said. “Notably, the primary leadership team had already structured meaningful avenues to incorporate student voice in strategic planning processes.”
Another highlight from Cayman Prep was the quality of communications among leadership, staff, students and parents.
“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,” the inspectors said.
Like many schools, Cayman Prep had to manage staff absences due to departures or isolation. Leaders planned to recruit new staff to prepare for the next school year.
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Island Montessori has kept student attendance up and minimised learning loss during the pandemic.
The private school had been able to recruit new staff during COVID and aims to expand its primary school offerings to a new site next year, an inspector said.
Island Montessori had implemented an array of measures to protect against COVID, including daily lateral flow testing for staff. However, the inspector said, “Nearly all staff and students in the primary phase did not wear masks. The school reported this was due to medical exemptions.”
This year, the school’s attendance was above 94%.
The small size of Cayman Learning Centre has been an asset in regard to dealing with issues caused by COVID.
“Staff worked collaboratively to support each other and to cover staff absences. The intimate setting of the school lent itself to more seamless coverage as all teachers knew each student and were in close proximity to them,” the inspector said.
A point of interest is that students previously at government schools who had transferred to Cayman Learning Centre on government scholarships were able to keep their government-issued laptops and continue participating in the free school meals programme.
Those two initiatives have generally received praise in public schools this year.
And finally — Cheers! Cheers! to UCCI students Alan Cubas, Leann McLeod and Daphne Scott for winning the Atlantic islands region championships of the CFA Research Challenge. This is the 4th consecutive year a team from UCCI has claimed the title. Congrats!
More from the Current
- Student Registration for 2022/2023 Academic Year Set to Begin in April
- International Women’s Day Message from Minister for Education Hon. Juliana O’Connor-Connolly
Around The Web
The Current is a central resource for education journalism by others, including regional and international news relevant to Cayman education. (Find our running collection of links here.)
- Cayman Compass: Cayman Documentary Festival features local, international films
- Miami Herald ($): Legislature passes new rules for faculty tenure, accreditation at state universities
- Jamaica Observer: Quality teachers require a quality education system
- Jamaica Observer: Opposition Spokesperson on Finance calls for urgent action to stem education crisis
- Jamaica Gleaner: Delay sixth form Pathways programme and instead address learning loss – Robinson
- The Guardian (UK): Museum visits do not improve GCSE results, study reveals
The Week Ahead
- Friday, 18 March debut of Island Jobs, episode one
- UCCI annual report
- School inspection reports
- EdBeat: Episode 32