Ministry to tackle teacher trouble

| 18/06/2015 | 55 Comments
Cayman News Service

Christen Suckoo, Acting Chief Officer, Ministry Education, Employment & Gender Affairs

(CNS): The acting chief officer in the education ministry has said that there are plans to review teachers’ pay, as well as to conduct exit interviews with all teachers who are leaving this year and to start focus groups with local teachers who have already quit the profession. Christen Suckoo told Finance Committee last week that a strain on resources was behind the failure to do a thorough assessment of why teachers quit because the need to recruit new teachers each year took priority. Going forward, he said, the department was committed to interviewing everyone who leaves.

However, thorough exit interviews may not be pleasant reading for the government’s education officials.

Exit interview documents released in February 2014 under the freedom of information law revealed a shocking list of challenges faced by teachers from various schools who had opted to leave. Problems ranged from violence to sexually inappropriate behaviour, very poor basic literacy and numeracy levels, a failure of officials to indicate the challenges in the Cayman education system, with poor behaviour and mental health problems among students, as well as inconsistency in pay and contracts, and no support from management in the face of the difficulties, including incidents when teachers were assaulted.

The revelations came from only a handful of teachers who departed the school system in 2012, one of the worst retention years for the Department of Education Services.

Suckoo told Finance Committee that teachers are leaving at the same time that the department recruits and exit interviews have been neglected. But going forward that would change. He also stated that teachers’ pay would be reviewed after the long pay freeze and, in addition to the re-introduction of the civil servants’ cost of living allowance, the pay grade scale would be examined.

The acting CO said the department had plans to start focus groups with local teachers who have left the system to find out why and what could tempt them back. The department was also planning on creating more forums in the schools to discuss issues with parents, students and teachers before they leave schools.

The ministry is currently conducting baseline inspections, the results of which are expected to be given to the ministry before the end of this academic year.

In addition, consultants KPMG have reportedly completed a review of the system, which the education ministry has yet to reveal, claiming it has not yet received copies of the reports. However, CNS understands that a draft of the report has been produced and early indications are that it, too, makes for difficult reading. Ministry officials have stated, however, that both the consultant’s review and the baseline inspection results will be made public.

Education Minister Tara Rivers has said that the new education bill, expected to be enacted later this year, has provision for quality assurance in teaching. Once the baseline inspections have been completed, she said, the ministry will have an idea where the system stands on students’ progress, teachers’ leadership, the quality of provision and outcomes in foundation subjects, as well as the overall management of schools and what will be required to make the necessary improvements.

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Category: Education, Government Finance, Local News, Politics

Comments (55)

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  1. EX pat says:

    Hi all, I’m one of the leaving teachers but I can only speak to my reasons. The main one is that I entered the profession because I love to teach… Yet here, I had to fight with the children every single day to try to get them to care, be passionate, or even pay attention for a short while. I felt invisible and ineffectual, but came back every morning to try again.

    The British school system of setting students and testing ad nauseum does not work in Britain, so how could anyone think it would work here? There also needs to be an expansion of alternative programs because some behaviors at the public schools prevent entire classrooms from learning and the special needs students fall through the gaping crevices.

    The students here are very low compared to their international peers. If that isn’t this government’s priority, (and it appears that it’s not) this island is in trouble.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Well, from what I have seen and what I have been told by teachers who have exited the educational system, it is not so much the shortage of supplies, low pay or the children, it is the parents of the children they can’t cope with as the parents refuse to be a parent and accept any sort of responsibility. IF teachers put disciplinary measures in place, that’s when the parents rock up and get all defensives and start screaming and huffing and puffing. Teachers do then not get the necessary back-up from the school or ministry cause it is always somebody who knows somebody…….and the issue is swept underneath the rug until the next time.

    Until the whole system is prepared to put their foot down and deal with the parents and children who create issues, nothing will change, no matter how much money you throw at the problem. There needs to be a ZERO tolerance system equally enforced for all………….and if children do not turn up to school, parents must be held legally responsible.

  3. Anonymous says:

    So glad my children are privately educated. If people want to address the crime problems and the alleged unemployment problem then it is obvious that the education system is where to look.

    • Anonymous says:

      How about looking at family life? Absent fathers, dysfunctional families, drug addiction, entitlement culture, a disenfranchised youth and the rest all play an enormous part in criminality. Teachers are teachers, they are not social workers or psychologists. The malaise of any nation cannot be fixed by them.

    • Anonymous says:

      Agreed that private schools are a much better institution for laying the groundwork for white collar crime. How’s a kid supposed to pull off money laundering, ponzi, and general banking hocus locus if they can’t even read and write to standards.

    • Anonymous says:

      Not everyone can afford private schools — and when the going gets rough — private school fees etc — you all will bring your kids back to the public system– in a heart beat– the public only hears the bad from our schools and not enough of the good.

      • Anonymous says:

        This is particularly true under Minister Rivers. Mark my words the woman is hell bent on implementing the policies of her rich C4C friends.

    • Anonymous says:

      the little future accountant was arrested for counterfeit money and there are few I know of that had to ‘leave’ private school to come to public schools, so again not just the school parents and friends do make a difference

      • IMHO says:

        Private schools kick them out as soon as they give the least bit of trouble. Therefore the Government school has to receive the rejects of the private school system.

  4. Jobsworth says:

    $30,000,000 plus annually on eduction. $100,000,000 state of the art high school that would be a university campus anywhere else.

    How can it be with such expenditure that our results are so terrible? Clearly, just throwing money around isn’t working.

    At the very least we should implement a vocational training regime tailored to the local jobs market and starting at age 14-15. It is time to accept that not all students are capable of going to university. For too long the system has failed to address the career needs of the wider student body.

    We cannot continue every year to cast adrift several hundred graduates who are unequipped to do anything and hope that the private and public employment sectors will magically provide training and positions.

  5. Educationalist says:

    I will be astonished if the latest crop of external reports on schools and the system are ever published. It seems inevitable to me that John Gray will not have come out well in their inspection, so it would be way too embarrassing for that to be out there in the public domain given that Lyneth Monteith (Principal at the time of the inspection) is now Acting Chief Education Officer…. Regarding teaching quality, the local teacher training programme just isn’t good enough and new teachers are now being sent into primary schools in quite large numbers insufficiently prepared. Also, ex-pat teachers from anywhere else but Jamaica are not going to be interested in coming to Cayman any more, unless they are exceptionally altruistic and committed to working in the government sector because the terms and conditions are just not good enough. Why would someone both talented and experienced sign up to work in Cayman when they could be paid more and have more perks (airfares, housing etc) working in an international school in the far east where they would also have the benefit of being welcomed and respected by the local community and having the opportunity to work with kids who are keen to learn and well supported by their parents? Education in Cayman at the top levels is now full of people in acting positions who just don’t have the experience and expertise to move things forward and all the good people from elsewhere, who have made some positive difference over the last four or five years, are gradually disappearing. I really fear for the future……

    • Anonymous says:

      If you are resident in cayman you have many things in the future to be fearful of.

    • Anonymous says:

      The Ofsted inspection report is due out soon.But we already know it will be damning else why would inspectors be appointed who have never taught in a state school. The majority of inspectors only ever worked in UK private schools. How can they even begin to know the issues? Also we have had inspectors from a country that has seen no improvement in 30 years despite all the testing and inspections. The inspection unit here was abandoned for very good reasons,yet we rehire the person who headed that unit to oversee this most recent inspection. Strange how she failed to see the issues for years in our schools but now is suddenly an expert on how to make them better.I despair!

  6. SKEPTICAL says:

    Why does Cayman still have relatively low levels of literacy/numeracy compared to other Caribbean islands – Jamaica/Trinidad? Is it because of the breakdown over the past 50/60 years in the family environment. Historically, Caymanian children learned essential life skills, work ethics, and the basic three ” Rs ” , from their Mothers and Grandparents, while their Fathers were away at sea, or working in foreign countries, to provide income for their families. How many young parents these days read to their children, talk about the Island’s history, teach them about all of the plants, animals, and fish around them, which in days gone by would have been important just for their day to day existence. Sadly, it seems, many of those new parents now hand their children the TV remote, an iPad, and an iPhone, while they commit their own lives to making enough money to buy more ” stuff ” for themselves. How many, from the time their children are born, have a programme to ensure that they will be able to achieve the best they can academically, whatever sacrifices they, as parents, have to make ?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Christen used to be the Civil Service Union bush lawyer for those ( hopeless incompetent) civil servants who were disciplined or fired by their fellow Caymanian managers. I would bet that now he has become the gamekeeper rather than the poacher, he now realizes how ghastly, useless some civil servants are. Karma, Christen. I warned you.

    • Anonymous says:

      It reflects well on him that he tried to help his fellow civil servants and he did a good job of it too. He is a very bright young man and probably knew very well that his “clients” were not up to much but felt that they still deserved some help. Good for him.

  8. Anonymous says:

    AHHHH yes I am from the bush used to trap wild game , skin it and then sell the pelts to the Canadian traders I know all about the moss from a tree and the weed that ends pregnancy
    I also know what was told to me years ago by one of your former principals from Jamaica
    about his experiences in your school system and dealing with the British teachers.

    Are any of you commenters saying that inbreeding is healthy or that teenage pregnancy is a good thing? I think not
    Might I ad that I have earned 2 degrees one in business and the other is human behavior
    I no longer live in the bush own homes in Cayman and the US
    I call it the way I see it and what I see is a disgrace Cayman was and is a social experiment that has failed
    The experiment started over 150 years ago with keeping you people in the dark then in the 50’s they changed it up and gave you money
    In both instances your people have not progressed.
    Don’t worry the bench mark will be adjusted most likely independence from England and then total Chaos will set in. Its what happens Good Luck

    • Anonymous says:

      Well, you’re in a fine mood today. I don’t really understand what you were trying to say but I think I did notice that you own homes in cayman ant the U.S. , just like a couple of other favorite sons of the soil recently in the news. In Georgia by any chance?

  9. Rp says:

    “Christen Suckoo told Finance Committee last week that a strain on resources was behind the failure to do a thorough assessment of why teachers quit because the need to recruit new teachers each year took priority.”

    Poor excuse! Typical short sighted approach coupled with poor prioritizing. If we figure out why teachers are leaving you won’t have to spend time recruiting, training etc. Fix the cause not the effect. Glad to see we are moving in the right direction but there should have been no excuse given for poor management.

    Also please publicize the actual findings, no more coverups or excuses. Coverups and excuses do nothing but continue to fail the children who want to succeed.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Expect mass exodus of staff who can work in other jurisdictions. Check the large numbers leaving Clifton Hunter our “state of the art School?” This was predicted long ago since Alden had a conference inviting criticisms and solutions. All was recorded and ready to be implemented. All we got was inspections, foreign advisers, staff and principals. When will it dawn on us that we can fix this ourselves Caymanians? I guess when the money runs out and we are left high and dry. Thank God for the hard working staff that work quietly on all levels in schools without complaint. God help us when they leave. Over to you Mr. Suckoo!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Will Christen publish the report that was edited in its entirety? Or are ‘his people’ facing too damage damage and still need to be protected for what they really do in the classrooms?

  12. Anonymous says:

    We have many exit interviews.

    Why not have interviews, anonymous with those teachers in the system?

    Based on what my children have access to, it doesn’t appear to be lack of resources BUT a lack of student morale, character development, discipline from early years of education.

    Speaking of Jamaica, there are scarce resources in most schools there, less pay & benefits yet students are motivated, just like the majority of Jamaican students (who are appear to be in majority as their parents are normally civil servants or have status) in public schools here are faring the best. So maybe the MInister, Acting CEO, Acting Head of Education need to address that maybe the lack of motivation starts from the homes, community and schools where there is an obvious lack of Caymanaian teachers.

    So why are the powers to be turning away Caymanian teachers who should have more responsibility and interest in caring for their own?

    • Anonymous says:

      Just maybe they are not good enough!

    • Anonymous says:

      People leave teaching for many reasons. Many because it is simply hard work being a teacher and we find, once we are actually doing the job, teaching is not for us.

    • Anonymous says:

      You may be sure that any exit interview that highlighted an issue with a Caymanian would not be acted upon, whether that be with a fellow teacher, boss or someone at the Department of Education. Exit interviews only work if there is a genuine will to see change when global themes emerge. We are just not mature enough yet as a nation or big enough as a country to take on those with connections. A case in Point is the whole performance management fiasco, where we still cannot manage incompetent teachers out of the system. We can just not renew contracts of expat teachers but are stuck with Caymanians if they are incompetent. As a teaching Cayman professional I despair.

    • Anonymous says:

      What Caymanian teachers? The teacher program has just started on island. Of the five Caymanian teachers at CH, one has missed 4 months of school and another has a shocking attendance record and refuses to go to meetings. Two others work very hard to undo the example these lay-abouts set

      • Anonymous says:

        Sounds like one other school I know. She’s stressing the children out with her behavior but she’s connected so they will never get rid of her.

  13. Anonymous says:

    ALL STAFF (Admin included) pay should be revised as the non teaching staff are being faced with much duties that they are not being paid for as well. It seems as if only the “Teachers” are the only ones doing the work when in fact the Secretaries in the offices are the ones babysitting the students when the teachers cannot handle any bad behavior from the students. Therefore, Secretaries in the Academy offices should be making more in their salaries. All staff are expected (by the students) to counsel and advise them on a day to day basis.

    • Anonymous says:

      It comes under other duties. Why would you get paid extra for simply doing your job. I have never notices secretaries being overworked. In fact I have witnessed teachers doing the admin duties that secretaries should be doing.

    • Anonymous says:

      Teachers should be doing their jobs. Admin staff should not be taking care of the children but you’re right, it’s happening.

      My son went up a grade as usual to his new class for the day and he loved it. When I told my cousin that she said well, that teacher is always out sick but maybe he’ll like the Teacher’s Aide. If that happens, I’m reporting it. I didn’t send my son to school to basically have a babysitter and not learn anything. He can stay home and do that.

      • Anonymous says:

        and these teachers always out sick are caymanian by status

        • Anonymous says:

          Absolutely true. The sickness and absent rate in schools in Cayman is something else and places a huge strain on usually “expat” teachers who have to cover absent teacher classes when that time should have been used to prepare.

        • Anonymous says:

          That is a lie. The born Caymanians are by far the worst.

        • Anonymous says:

          I don’t know about always, but the Caymanian humanities teacher at Clifton hasn’t made an appearance since March.

        • Anonymous says:

          Actually, I don’t think he has papers. I think that Christen Suckoo needs to check on the qualifications of these teachers as I’ve been told that many don’t have teaching degrees. None of these are born Caymanians and came here on work permits.

      • Anonymous says:

        Well good luck with that complaint. Sickness in the public sector is rift here in Cayman.

  14. Anonymous says:

    So much for the budget surplus
    Keeping outsiders out is a sure way to keep your children as stupid as you can keep them
    Inbreeding and a failed gene pool is the root of your problems not pay for the teachers
    Besides the fact that a good number of your teachers were raised in the bush of Jamaica Sure they can teach you how to pick the best roots for a cold but modern people go to the pharmacy. Your current choice of teachers is just not good for they themselves couldn’t pass a simple GED test.
    Furthermore Teenagers having children isn’t helping the situation It is so sad that I see many 15-16 year olds having children They have no idea how to raise a child and expect the child to do well in life.
    The teenage mothers are blinded by the fact they will be able to get a check every month
    and be able to continue to sit under a tree drink smoke and sex all day.
    Lastly years ago when most of your teachers were British they intentionally did not teach your children the basics for their own preservation

    • Anonymous says:

      You need professional help, 9:51.

    • Anonymous says:

      Wow ignorant much. This is the craziest thing I have read in a long time. The comment about Jamaica teachers clearly shows your level of inbreeding because that could be the only reason why you would go there. The British teachers usually arrive take one look at our kids and return home the Caribbean and local teachers are the ones that try. You can’t fault people when they have poor resources, no support, moving benchmarks, disrespectful students and ignorant parents to deal with.

      Its time for parents to take some of the blame for our children and for the education department to stop lying and trying to pretty up the situation. The education department changes the benchmark almost every year to make it seem like more children have passed, we also have many children with tons of disabilities whether learning or social in the school and no special needs coordinators to deal with them and this also goes for the gifted and talented kids in our schools because we also have a few of those and these kids are merely left bored in class because there is no plan to deal with them.

      Education department has no strategic plan to deal with most of the issues our children face and the teachers report, make suggestions and they fall on deaf ears because every government comes with a brand new plan instead of fixing the current one. Every 4 years we start completely over and before you know it nothing is down. Maybe we need to go look in the archives when the system worked and put that back in place i.e. the days of checked school uniforms for primary and middle school and the simple gray and white uniform for high school. We are too confused now a day with image in the school rather the basic of learning.

      Time for the educations in the fancy building in town to get out of the building and actually get back in the school room. They are too disconnected to even understand much less begin to fix it. And time for parents to take responsibility in part of the problem because its your kids that aren’t learning.

      • Anonymous says:

        If the teachers cannot cope with gifted and talented then I suggest they should find themselves another job. The british teachers return home for many reasons and the kids are the least of those reasons. I suggest the halcyon days you talk about were anything but that. The attainment was abysmal so many of the issues are very long standing. There are some very encouraging things happening in the classroom with the help of expat experts and a more enlightened management. Your comments on the color of uniforms shows your ignorance.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is pretty much as close to hate speech as one can get. I mean how close to the line do we need to get. It is sick and ignorant bule what this person has regurgitated from the darkness within their bowels.

    • Anonymous says:

      9.51 with views like that I feel nothing but sorrow that you are carrying so much hate within you. I hope you understand that you cannot hide this this type of hate. It will be evident to those around you. You seriously need professional help and a lot of self reflection.

    • SSM345 says:

      9:51, by any chance did you graduate or were you one of these problems in school?

    • Rp says:

      The concerning part is that a third of the people agreed with you at the time of this post.

      CNS: comments such as this should not be posted!!! It’s not an opinion but rather discusting ethnic generalizations to put it mildly.

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