***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.***
Staff at the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre were attempting to address student learning gaps in advance of external exams, particularly in Mathematics, Office of Education Standards inspectors said.
At the same time, they were focussed on supporting the mental wellness of students in the context of increased incidence of anxiety in the fall term, according to a letter to Director Pedro Lazzari from Chief Inspector Nicholas Sherriff and Senior Inspector David Baldwin.
“The centre leadership team had created a safe and secure learning environment for students to continue to learn throughout the pandemic. In addition, there was a clear focus on the mental health and emotional support for both staff and students,” the inspectors said.
The visit occurred on 9 March and the inspector’s summary is dated 11 March.
“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.
“Subject coordinators were focused upon the up and coming CXC second chance exams
in English, mathematics and Human & Social Biology with mathematics reporting some
learning loss over the pandemic,” the inspectors said.
The inspectors said students continued to make progress through the COVID-19 pandemic, and that CIFEC’s improvement plan included the issue of learning loss and how to prevent and mitigate it.
“Centre leaders reported that whilst additional support was offered, a number of students were still not taking advantage of the help which took place after centre or at the weekend, such as the ‘Mathematics Marathon’. The centre cited transport, home access and family commitments as reasons for the lack of engagement for many,” the inspectors said.
CIFEC leaders had requested additional transportation from the Department of Education Services.
The mental wellness of students and staff were supported by a counsellor.
“Senior leaders reported that term two was a focus for student wellbeing given the increased incidence of anxiety reported in the student population during term one,” the inspectors said.
Initiatives included a 10-week supplementary mental health curriculum for students.
The school had implemented an array of measures to protect against COVID, including mask-wearing, hand sanitising, social distancing and regular cleaning of classroom spaces.
“Attendance was monitored and tracking demonstrated approximately 7-10% of students
were absent due to COVID related issues,” the inspectors said.
CIFEC has a “significantly high proportion” with special education needs or who speak English as a second language.
“SEN staff reported that COVID enforced absence and the large case load had made the management of support for this group of students extremely difficult,” the inspectors said.
While CIFEC staff have access to resources, the school’s physical facilities are outdated and, in some instances, in need of repair.
“The Centre is an old site and requires significant ongoing maintenance fixing leaking rooves, dealing with termites and closing rooms due to HVAC failure,” the inspectors said.
Part of the new John Gray High School project involves moving CIFEC into the current John Gray campus after it is refurbished.