***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.***
Unlike teachers at many other schools, staff at Sir John A. Cumber Primary School did not report feeling “over-stretched” by additional duties during the pandemic, an Office of Education Standards inspector said.
Significant challenges included lack of physical space for large student gatherings while maintaining social distancing, and the need to provide training for parents so they could assist with their children’s home-based learning, according to a letter to Principal Jovanna Wright from Senior Inspector David Baldwin.
“Heads of department reported they were able to cover all class-based sessions with appropriate staff during the pandemic and staff were not feeling burnt out or over-stretched. This was reinforced during a meeting with teaching staff and by the staff survey,” Baldwin said.
The visit to the West Bay school occurred on 23 March and the inspector’s summary is dated 24 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.
“The principal, senior leaders and [senior school improvement officer] demonstrated a consistently high level of awareness and concern for the staff’s wellbeing and recognised the extra stresses and workloads that Covid had caused. ‘Mental health’, as an issue, was openly respected and discussed by all stakeholders,” the inspector said.
“Social distancing was generally adhered to although on occasions such as in smaller classrooms or during larger school gatherings, limited space meant this was more a case of minimising the risk, rather than eradicating it altogether,” Baldwin said.
“The school had identified the need for additional space to enable full school gatherings to be held, and all stakeholders were aware of this.”
During the spring 2020 lockdown period, school leaders identified homes that did not have access to reliable internet, and facilitated the introduction of mobile Wi-Fi units.
“Senior leaders, staff and some parents highlighted the issue that there were a significant number of parents that had lacked the literacy, numeracy and IT skills to support their children’s learning,” the inspector said.
In response, the school developed an initiative called ‘Cumber University’ to “deliver sessions to parents within the school’s community to support adult literacy, numeracy and IT skills. These were to be delivered in the evening at school and the initiative had been met with considerable support from the community”, he said.
School staff also worked to up-skill themselves in digital learning technology, and they underwent professional development “on many aspects of wellbeing including how to recognise how stress and mental health issues may manifest themselves”.
Department heads had detailed information on and analysis of student’s progress in core subjects, and their observations were supported by ‘rigorous work scrutiny’ from senior leaders.
“Heads of department reported learning loss was closely monitored during the pandemic and had been successfully addressed through the use of online engagement communication logs,” Baldwin said.
Teachers in years 2 and 6 had offered additional learning sessions on Saturday mornings to ensure appropriate coverage of any learning loss due to Covid with respect to the upcoming SATs tests,” he said.
The school had implemented measures to prevent the spread of COVID, including mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing, bubble groups, increased security and cleaning staff, and staggered arrival and departure times for students in different age groups.
The school was supported by an on-site nurse three times per week.
Attendance on the day of the inspector’s visit was 89%.
Like in some other schools, one positive result of COVID measures has been improved communication between educators and parents.
“All stakeholders reported a much stronger level of communication between school and home with regards to quality and empathy. Staff highlighted successful communication with their parents in class groups via WhatsApp,” the inspector said.