10 April 2022
Weekly Current (archived version)
Cayman’s teachers ‘exhausted’ and ‘burnt out’ by COVID pandemic. Roundup of all the inspectors’ reports on public and private schools. Highlighting Lighthouse, Footsteps and Truth For Youth.
Welcome to this week’s newsletter on education in the Cayman Islands.
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Week In Review
Teaching in the Cayman Islands during the COVID-19 pandemic has been, in a word, ‘exhausting’.
Many of the country’s teachers say their current workloads are simply not sustainable, according to reports from Office of Education Standards inspectors.
For example, Chief Inspector Nicholas Sherriff wrote about St. Ignatius Catholic School, “During the visit staff reported feeling burnt out, exhausted, and requiring counselling support.”
Although the issue was particularly acute at St. Ignatius, similar sentiments were expressed by staff at many of the schools that inspectors visited from January to March 2022.
Educators across the islands have been taking on additional duties related to COVID, including teaching online, holding extra classes to address learning gaps, covering for colleagues and administrators who are absent, or even packaging and distributing lateral flow tests.
In the meantime, they have been trying to improve their technological skills and implement school-level improvement initiatives, while focussing on their students’ mental wellness. And many teachers have been dealing with illnesses of their own or within their households.
The past 2 years has taken a mental toll on local teachers in both public and private schools, despite the best efforts of principals and administrators.
Many schools said they had trouble recruiting new teachers, whether it be on a temporary basis to cover for staff absences, or on a permanent basis to fill vacated positions.
The OES has completed its one-day ‘thematic visits’ to Cayman schools. From January to March 2022, inspectors conducted one-day ‘thematic visits’ to 31 public and private schools across the country.
(Inspectors also visited UCCI to examine its dual-enrolment programme with CIFEC.)
Due to the pressures of COVID-19 on schools, the one-day visits were held in lieu of more comprehensive inspections.
In addition to the individual reports, the OES will publish a national report on findings from the visits.
During their visits, the inspectors focussed on assessing two performance standards: “Keeping our students safe and always supported” and “Leading and managing our school and developing links with the community we serve”.
As the reports have been published, the Cayman Current has written stories on the individual schools.
For readers’ convenience, we have created a list of the schools with links to the Current stories on the reports, and we also have made available the OES reports.
April Cummings of Cayman Life TV and Patrick Brendel of the Cayman Current talk about Cayman ‘exhausted’ teachers, give a roundup of school inspectors’ reports, celebrate some talented young musicians, and more!
Staff at the specialist Lighthouse School have found creative ways during the pandemic to serve their students, all of whom have moderate to profound Special Education Needs and/or Disabilities, an OES inspector said.
Despite the efforts of senior leaders, the additional workload related to COVID-19 has left staff feeling “beyond exhausted”.
“Integration into the community was restricted during the pandemic, therefore, staff were creative in finding ways for students to gain work experience. The result was school based business enterprises that included a café and car wash. The packaging and distribution of the Lateral Flow Test kits was also completely managed by students as a business enterprise,” the inspector said.
“Senior Leaders shared that they had provided well-being initiatives for the staff. These included wellness activities during inset days. Staff, however, shared that they were ‘beyond exhausted’ and, while the attempts of Senior Leaders were appreciated, they never did feel as if they were able to recover from the exhaustion,” the inspector said.
Teachers at Footsteps gave school leaders good marks for being supportive of their well-being during the pandemic, an inspector said.
Unlike many schools, the private primary school has had few absences due to COVID9, seen minimal learning loss, and has not had difficulties recruiting new staff members.
“The school leadership reported the school had continued to be a popular choice for new staff and they had not experienced any recruitment issues due to the pandemic,” the inspector said.
The leaders of Truth For Youth School have invested significant resources into the school’s response to COVID and other issues identified in previous inspection reports, an inspector said.
During the pandemic, the private school in George Town has managed student absences and learning loss.
“Senior leaders, the Church Council and staff exhibited clear commitment towards the ongoing provision of education for all students in a safe learning environment,” the inspector said.
“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.
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Congratulations to St. Ignatius Catholic School guitarist Sean Moran, who was recently named the Butterfield Young Musician of the Year.
Also, kudos goes to John Gray High School saxophonist Lewis Bromby, who as named runner up.
Sean and Lewis competed against 6 other finalists from the 2022 National Children’s Festival of the Arts preliminary competition.
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): Two new parish primaries and third signature school to open in September 2023
- The Guardian (UK): Pandemic has delayed social skills of young children, says Ofsted chief
- The Guardian (UK): The children I teach have been badly set back by the pandemic. ‘Catch-up’ lessons aren’t what they need | Anonymous
- Jamaica Gleaner: Absentee teachers
- Jamaica Gleaner: Editorial | What’s the universities’ view on the education report?
- Jamaica Gleaner: Ronald Thwaites | Critical role of churches and trusts in education
The Week Ahead
- Analayses, school inspectors’ reports
- EdBeat: Episode 34