27 March 2022
Weekly Current (archived version)
Investigation into Red Bay Primary allegations hits 10-month mark. More reports from school inspectors’ visits. UCCI receives $405K grant to train 50 unemployed Caymanians.
Welcome to this week’s newsletter on education in the Cayman Islands.
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Week In Review
More than 10 months since law enforcement began looking into reports of alleged misconduct toward students at Red Bay Primary School, “The investigation is still ongoing,” a Ministry of Education spokesperson confirmed Monday, 21 March.
Ryan Dale has been serving as acting principal in place of longtime principal Vickie Frederick.
On 7 May 2021, the Ministry and Department of Education Services issued a press release stating that the joint Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) — comprising the police and Department of Children and Family Services — had been contacted about allegations at Red Bay Primary and that staff reported to be involved were being “relocated from schools until the investigation is completed“.
As we did in June, July, September, October and December 2021 we asked police and education officials questions, including:
- Is the investigation still ongoing?
- If the investigation has concluded, what are the findings and what actions were taken?
- Has the file been submitted to prosecutors, or will it?
As they have before, education officials confirmed the investigation continues.
On this week’s episode of EdBeat, April Cummings of Cayman Life TV and Cayman Current editor Patrick Brendel discuss the ‘ongoing’ situation at Red Bay Primary, as well as the debut of Island Jobs, UCCI’s big new grant, school inspectors’ reports and more.
This week we examined inspectors’ reports from 4 schools,including 2 that touched on the Dual Enrolment programme, where students from the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre take classes at the University College of the Cayman Islands.
Delayed scores from CXC exams resulted in some students being ‘inappropriately allocated’ to the DE programme, according to Office of Education Standards inspectors who visited the UCCI campus.
“The delay in the CXC exam publication for the second year had created a need for the use of predicted grades to be used to select Yr11 students for DE/CIFEC/A level. In retrospect this was not always accurate resulting in students inappropriately allocated to DE and CIFEC,” inspectors said. “However, having both sites identify this problem and then reinforced by the publication of the actual student CXC results, DES and the MOE took the decision not to move any students.”
The thematic visit from OES was the first time UCCI had been looked at by school inspectors, who focussed on DE programme students. The inspectors concluded that UCCI was adhering to COVID-19 guidelines from the Ministry of Education.
UCCI made live lectures available in-person and remotely during the pandemic.
“UCCI had experienced issues with DE students returning from COVID related absence as such a policy of face to face first was adopted,” the inspectors said.
Over at CIFEC, staff are attempting to address student learning gaps in advance of external exams, particularly in Mathematics, inspectors said.
“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,” they said.
CIFEC leaders reported that “a number of students” did not take advantage of additional support provided outside regular school hours.
“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.
Inspectors noted that CIFEC’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,” they said.
Part of the new John Gray High School project involves moving CIFEC into the current John Gray campus after it is refurbished.
At Prospect Primary School, educators have been facing challenges created by leadership changes during the pandemic.
“In less than a year, the school had experienced three changes to headship,” the inspector 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.”
Joylyn 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.
“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,” the inspector said.
On the plus side, Prospect Primary had relatively few staff absences related to COVID.
“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.
And over at Cayman Academy, the family atmosphere fostered by leaders helped staff to stay optimistic despite the additional pressures caused by COVID.
For example, putting the students in class ‘bubble groups’ assisted with social distancing, but also “almost completely eliminated” teachers’ non-contact time — the time used by teachers for preparation, assessment, correction, etc., without needing to supervise children.
“Despite this they stated that this challenging period would end and they were willing to work together to ensure the students were kept safe,” the inspector said.
Unlike government schools, Cayman Academy did not provide free laptops to students, but the school “arranged the importation of devices at a more affordable costs. Payment plans were also extended to parents who required assistance. This initiative helped to ensure all students were able to access devices,” the inspector said.
Counting students who attended classes virtually via Microsoft Teams, the current attendance rate at Cayman Academy was 97%.
***Editor’s note: We’ve now written stories on 24 of the 31 schools that inspectors plan to visit this term. Once all the reports have come out, we will publish stories from a more comprehensive perspective.***
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UCCI has received a grant of $405,000 from the RESEMBID Programme, funded by the European Union, to train 50 unemployed Caymanians in “trades that are sustainable, both environmentally and economically”.
(In case you were wondering, ‘RESEMBID’ stands for “Resilience, Sustainable Energy and Marine Biodiversity’.)
The year-long programme is expected to begin in May.
The areas of training include: renewable energy, sustainable construction, information and communications technology, and tourism.
UCCI will partner with Workforce Opportunities & Residency Cayman and the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce to identify appropriate candidates for the programme.
“I think it’s significant for helping locals to re-skill, especially in a time like now, where people have been displaced by COVID. It is hoped that 90% of these people gain employment,” said Paul Puckerin, UCCI’s Interim Dean of the Professional and Technical Education and Training Division.
***Editor’s note: We’ll be following up with Puckerin about the programme this week, particularly since it aligns with the subject of our Island Jobs documentary on TVET and STEM education in Cayman. Stay tuned …***
More from the Current
- Public invited to ‘Young Musician of the Year’ competition 2 April
- ‘Early Years Extravaganza’ set for 3 April
- Learn more about robots at the 2022 Minds Inspired FIRST Tech Challenge this weekend
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.)
- The Royal Gazette (Bermuda): Mask-wearing in schools to be relaxed
- The Royal Gazette (Bermuda): Parents opting to educate children overseas due to school Covid restrictions – OBA
- The Royal Gazette (Bermuda): New Education Authority to run at arm’s length from Government – minister
- The Royal Gazette (Bermuda): English student loans system eased to benefit Bermudians
- Jamaica Gleaner: Editorial | New approach to violence in schools
- Eye Witness News (Bahamas): Police return to public schools after stabbing incident
- Eye Witness News (Bahamas): Govt. to review Bahamas High School Diploma criteria
The Week Ahead
- UCCI annual report
- EdBeat: Episode 33