***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.***
The leaders of Truth For Youth School have invested significant resources into the school’s response to COVID-19 and other issues identified in previous inspection reports, an Office of Education Standards inspector said.
During the pandemic, the private school in George Town has managed student absences and learning loss, according to a letter to Principal Angela McLaughlin from Senior Inspector Althea Edwards-Boothe.
“Senior leaders, the Church Council and staff exhibited clear commitment towards the ongoing provision of education for all students in a safe learning environment,” Edwards-Boothe said.
Truth For Youth is owned and operated by the Church of God (Universal).
“The Church Council was supportive of the work of the school and had hired substitute teachers during the pandemic to ensure adequate staff cover was in place to deliver the curriculum. Additionally, the Council had already started staff recruitment for the new school year,” the inspector 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 school had enhanced its provisions to safeguard students, including a buzzer-and-camera system, and grilled gates that restrict access to the campus by parents and visitors.
The school had also implemented measures to prevent the spread of COVID, including hand-sanitising, mask-wearing, regular cleaning and the installation of more outside seating to facilitate social distancing. Almost all parents surveyed said the school provided a safe environment for students during the pandemic.
The school was also working to improve in areas identified as ‘weak’ during its last regular inspection.
“School leaders had developed a response to inspection plan. However, adjustments are
required in the formal planning for school self-evaluation and improvement planning,” Edwards-Boothe said. “There was the need for the school’s self-evaluation to be more closely aligned to the OES Successful Schools and Achieving Students 2 Framework. There was also scope to ensure that the school improvement plan and priorities were derived using suitable and accurate evidence from self-evaluation processes.”
She said, “The Church Council had invested in a new curriculum for the school. The introduction of the New York State Curriculum had also provided staff and students with a suite of digital learning resources to augment students’ learning.”
During the Fall 2021 term, average student attendance was 83%.
“Subject leaders reported a degree of learning loss across the core subjects for a minority of students. Teachers provided in-class support to close knowledge gaps for those students. However, staff reported that the majority of students had continued to progress in their learning during the pandemic,” the inspector said.
Students with additional learning needs received support during class, and also could attend afterschool programmes that parents had to pay for.
“The Principal advised that there were plans to hire staff to coordinate [Special Education Needs] provision in the new school year,” she said.
School leaders praised the government’s decision to reinstate grants to private schools, which at Truth For Youth would be used to help purchase tablets for all students.
“The principal also spoke positively of the Ministry of Education’s provision of lateral flow kits (LFTs) for staff and students. A support staff had dedicated responsibility for organising the distribution of LFTs to parents,” Edwards-Boothe said.