***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.***
Most students at West End Primary School continued to make academic progress during the pandemic, an Office of Education Standards inspector said.
However, some staff said they were “overwhelmed and disheartened” by the rapid pace in which changes and new initiatives were being introduced at the Cayman Brac school, according to a letter to Principal Susan Aaron-Abel from Senior Inspector Carol Bennett.
“It was reported that, based on data, most students have made progress during the pandemic. Staff expressed that more progress was evident during online learning with students who had parents who were also engaged in their learning,” Bennett said.
The visit occurred on 16 March and the inspector’s summary is dated 21 March.
“We 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.
“While staff generally agreed that there was a vision for the school which could benefit the students and some staff described the Principal as a “good instructional leader”, they reported feeling overwhelmed and disheartened by the pace of which change was
introduced,” the inspector said.
“Staff reported that they felt as though their well-being was the cost of the rapid introduction of initiatives and they therefore were not always able to be fully effective with their students,” she said.
Some staff said that senior leaders were open to feedback, and others said that was not always the case.
Like in many other schools, teachers who were absent due to COVID were asked to teach from home if they felt well enough to do so.
“However, some staff reported that they were sometimes expected to teach from home even when they were not well enough or when their responsibilities in their home environment, such as caring for other family members while in isolation, were not conducive to doing so,” Bennett said.
The school had implemented an array of measures to protect against COVID, including mask-wearing, outdoor sinks, hand sanitiser dispensers, social distancing, regular cleaning and year group bubbles.
In regard to the new free school meals programme, the inspector noted that, “there was a lot of food wastage and an obvious aversion to vegetables by students, especially in the younger year groups.”
When a student was absent with COVID, the school arranged for their meals to be delivered to their home.