3 April 2022
Weekly Current (archived version)
John Cumber Primary adapts to COVID pressures. Inspectors’ reports published on Sister Islands schools. Results from robotics challenge. John Gray makes it 5 wins in a row at Inter-Secondary sports meet.
Welcome to this week’s newsletter on education in the Cayman Islands.
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Week In Review
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.
“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,” 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,” he said.
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”.
As part of the ‘thematic visits’ initiative, OES inspectors travelled to Cayman Brac and Little Cayman on 16 March to take a look at the 4 public schools on the Sister Islands.
At Layman E. Scott Sr. High School, educators had identified learning loss in students during the pandemic, but initiatives such as extending the school day had enabled students to make up that deficit.
The unique situation on Cayman Brac and the closeness of the community allowed the school to continue extracurricular activities and field trips despite COVID-19, and to keep tabs on students with Special Education Needs and/or Disabilities, the inspector said.
“Heads of departments had a very clear awareness of student progress across the school against internal assessments undertaken. Heads of department reported an initial loss of learning during the pandemic,” he said.
“Heads of department produced data evidencing that learning gaps had now been closed to the effect students were now progressing above expected levels in core subjects.”
Upon identifying the learning loss, school leaders held extra lessons in the afternoon and extended the school day by one hour for a term after students returned from lockdown in Fall 2020.
Most students at West End Primary School continued to make academic progress during the pandemic. However, some staff said they were “overwhelmed and disheartened” by the rapid pace in which changes and new initiatives were being introduced, an inspector said.
“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,” she said.
“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
“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.
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. But some staff said they were sometimes expected to teach from home even when they were not well enough, or despite needing to care for family members also in isolation.
New leadership at Creek and Spot Bay Primary School had helped to maintain positive attitudes among staff and students during the pandemic, an inspector said.
Student attendance at the school remained high until community spread of COVID increased on the Brac at the beginning of 2022.
“A new Principal and Acting Deputy Principal were appointed at the start of the current school year. They had benefitted from ongoing training and support to carry out their new responsibilities effectively,” the inspector said.
“School leaders spoke positively about the support provided by the senior school improvement officer such as organising opportunities for them to collaborate with colleagues in other schools as well as other professional development opportunities. The senior school improvement officer indicated that there was a now a sharp focus upon building staff capacity and the mapping of progression pathways for classroom teachers and middle leaders as part of the department’s succession planning strategy,” she said.
While measures taken to guard against COVID had resulted in extra work for staff, the school had largely been spared from direct impacts of the virus itself until the the current spring term.
“Students’ average attendance throughout the pandemic was in the mid-90s. As a consequence of the increase in community transfer of Covid-19 on Cayman Brac, attendance had been trending downwards since January with the biggest dip in attendance since the current school year recorded in February,” the inspector said.
Unlike many other schools, “Staff reported that the pandemic had not led to an increase in students with anxiety related concerns,” she said.
And last but not least, Chief Inspector Nicholas Sheriff visited the country’s smallest school, Little Cayman Education Services, which at the time had an enrolment of only 2 students, who happen to be siblings.
The school faced many of the same challenges as the country’s larger schools have during the pandemic, including additional public health measures and learning loss due to absence from school, the inspector said.
However, school staff had a strong relationship with the students’ family and the Little Cayman community.
“The school staff had created a safe and caring environment that allowed the students to continue with their education throughout COVID-19. The local community reported how caring and dedicated the school staff had been during the pandemic,” he said.
One of the school’s issues has been the relative unreliability of power and internet on Little Cayman, impacting the ability to use video conferencing programmes.
***Editor’s note: We are pleased to announce (and assume you are pleased to hear) that the OES has now published all 31 reports from inspector’s one-day visits to Cayman schools. We have written stories on 28 of those reports. This coming week we will tackle the 3 remaining reports and begin our higher-level analyses from the thematic visits. Also, keep in mind the OES intends to publish a comprehensive report on their visits. … Stay tuned …***
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Congratulations to ‘Grogu’ and ‘Herbert’ — or rather, the teams that built them. You see, Grogu and Herbert aren’t foreign exchange students, but robots that emerged victorious in the FIRST Tech Challenge hosted by Minds Inspired on 26 March.
Students on two teams from Cayman International School beat an alliance between John Gray High School and Triple C School to become champions of the ‘Freight Frenzy’ competition.
The winning alliance was between two CIS Teams comprising Loic Magnan, Nicole Keilczewski, Robbie Sved, Max Clarke and Kyah Morris with their robot Grogu; and Josh Cowell, Alex Walters, Jordan Lisle, Max Haug, Finn Childs and Zion Bodden with their robot Herbert.
And returning to a story that we mentioned a few weeks ago in this newsletter: Bravo, bravo to Caymanian swimmer Jordan Crooks, who earned a bronze medal in the 50-metre freestyle in the NCAA Division I Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships. Crooks also recorded a 5th-place finish in the 100 free.
As our readers will know, Crooks — who attends the University of Tennessee — broke through as one of the best US collegiate swimmers during the SEC championships in late February.
Following his performance at the NCAA championships, Crooks was named ‘Breakout Swimmer of the Year‘ by swimming publication Swim Swam and an Honourable Mention for ‘Freshman of the Year‘.
The magazine noted: “When Crooks finished tied for 3rd at NCAAs in the 50 free, he was one of only two freshmen … to score in that race. When he finished 5th in the 100 free, he was again one of only two freshman … to do so. No other freshman finished in the top 25 of both races, let alone the top 5.”
More from the Current
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.)
- Cayman Compass ($): Crooks swims into history at NCAA championships
- Cayman Compass ($): Runners impress at school sports championships
- Jamaica Observer: Education ministry ‘undaunted’ by recent challenges
- Jamaica Gleaner: Overhaul education ministry – Neville Ying
- Jamaica Gleaner: Editorial | Will Gov’t take over early-childhood education?
- The Royal Gazette (Bermuda): Records not kept of school days lost to Covid-19, Pati request finds
- Trinidad Express: 19,000 write SEA exam today
The Week Ahead
- School inspections: Footsteps, Truth For Youth, Lighthouse
- EdBeat: Episode 33