***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 changes during the pandemic have created challenges for educators at Prospect Primary School, an Office of Education Standards inspector said.
However, the school had relatively few staff absences related to COVID-19, although several classes were impacted by prolonged absences among students due to the virus, according to a letter to Acting Principal Joylyn Ebanks-King from Senior Inspector Althea Edwards-Boothe.
“There had been recent changes to senior and middle leadership positions at Prospect Primary. In less than a year, the school had experienced three changes to headship. The Deputy Principal was the current Acting Principal,” Edwards-Boothe said. “Furthermore, during the first term of the current academic year when Covid-19 community transmission was at its peak, key positions of deputy principal and counsellor were vacant. Both positions were filled recently. This had presented challenges for the senior leaders and staff.”
She said, “Notwithstanding, senior leaders indicated that they had been managing the changes with the support of the senior school improvement officer and other personnel from the Department of Education Services including the Director. Given the inexperience of the current leadership team, the senior school improvement officer recognised the importance of providing professional training relevant to their positions.”
The visit occurred on 9 March and the inspector’s summary is dated 11 March.
“I did not find any significant concerns” during the school visit, the inspector 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.
Ebanks-King has been Acting Principal since October 2021, replacing Patricia Taylor who served in the position of Principal for just one month. Taylor had in turn replaced former Principal Matthew Read.
The leadership changes had knock-on effects down the school’s organisation chart.
“Distributed leadership at the school was evolving but was not yet optimised. A number of middle leaders were also recently promoted,” the inspector said.
“In the context of recent frequent changes to leadership at the school, the senior school improvement officer further indicated that succession planning and capacity building were identified as areas to be actioned expeditiously.”
Edwards-Boothe noted that less than one-third of staff responded to the inspectorate’s online survey ahead of the visit.
“The low response rate suggested that staff engagement was an area for review,” she said.
The school had implemented an array of measures to protect against COVID, including mask-wearing, hand-washing, regular cleaning, new air filters, and outdoor tents to support social distancing and year group bubbles.
“Unlike most of their counterparts in other public schools, staff at Prospect Primary were not unduly impacted by Covid-19 related illnesses. In fact, throughout the pandemic, staff attendance was consistently above 90%,” the inspector said.
“Reportedly, only few teachers and teaching assistants had contracted the Covid-19 virus. This was borne out in the survey responses as majority of the respondents indicated that the school had sufficient staff to deliver the curriculum effectively during the pandemic.”
However, a significant number of students had prolonged absences due to COVID.
“Some teachers reported that a minority had experienced challenges transitioning to face to face learning and others had continued to experience residual impact of the virus such as tiredness and falling asleep during lessons,” Edwards-Boothe said.
“Given the curriculum structure and timetabling arrangements, some teachers expressed challenges supporting students with knowledge gaps who had been absent due to Covid-19. Some teachers had incorporated lesson recall activities at the start of each class as part of their catchup strategies. Reportedly, learning loss was more evident at Year 4. Consequently, early morning classes had been organised for these students,” she said.