Ministry defends choice of consultants

| 01/09/2015 | 53 Comments
Cayman News Service

Tara Rivers, Minister of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs

(CNS): The Education Ministry has roundly defended its decision to choose consultants with no experience at all inspecting government schools anywhere to conduct its baseline inspection of all the Cayman Islands’ government schools. The ministry has also strongly refuted accusations that this report has been doctored, as turned out to be the case with a previous report on behavioural issues within the school system, categorically stating that “no changes were made to the judgements in any of the reports”.

Initial draft reports by the Independent Schools’ Inspectorate Consultancy (ISIC), which conducted the baseline report, were sent to the schools for a “factual check”, the ministry stated, noting that this was standard practice after school inspections.

“However, many of the comments received from the schools went well beyond ‘factual accuracy’, and questioned actual judgements. This was understandable as the schools would have had nothing by which to gauge how their school compared with other similar schools, either locally or internationally,” the ministry explained in a defensive question and answer statement Monday evening.

“Where the comments received from the schools related to factual accuracy … the reports were amended accordingly. However, no changes were made to the judgements in any of the reports as these were agreed by the inspection teams as a whole and by the Chief Inspector of ISIC,” the ministry said.

Reacting to criticisms that ISIC, which only inspects independent (private) schools in the UK, did not have the correct background to properly assess government schools, the ministry maintained that their “costing, flexibility of scheduling, deployment and the way they went about ensuring their understanding of the Cayman context and the exact requirements, made them an obvious choice”.

Noting that the Independent Schools Inspectorate is monitored by Ofsted, the UK body that inspects Britain’s government schools, the ministry failed to explain that it operates under a different set of regulations to those that govern Ofsted and the inspections of government schools.

The only local inspector who was part of the whole process of the baseline inspections in the 2014/15 year was Lead Inspector Mary Bowerman, who provided “a local perspective, continuity and quality assurance that all judgments and evidence matched”, the ministry stated. CNS understands that a primary teacher from a local private school also participated in some of the inspections.

The ministry cited Bowerman’s role in the process to refute claims that the inspectors did not understand the Cayman system, saying that she “was able to provide an overview of the education system in the Cayman Islands and the requirements for the inspections” and that she corresponded with them prior to the inspections.

Much of the criticism of the ISIC report has centered around the fact that in some schools the inspectors did not consult with the principal or the teachers to gain an understanding of specific local challenges that they face. Nevertheless, the ministry maintained that interviews with staff and students was part of the process.

“Judgements were made after taking into consideration a range of evidence from direct observations, interviews with staff and students, questionnaires completed by staff and parents, scrutiny of documents provided by the school, including students’ written work and performance assessment data,” the ministry stated.

Claiming that the inspectors needed “to be able to provide extensive international experience”, the ministry also cited “the need to have continuity in the process across primary and secondary schools” and “the narrow focus that was needed for this particular purpose” as reasons to choose the UK’s private schools inspectorate.

At the Annual Education Professionals’ Welcome on Wednesday 26 August, Education Minister Tara Rivers said that the inspections found that student performance in most government schools had improved across the board.

“However, these results are still significantly below the expected minimum when compared to international standards. Generally, in English, mathematics and the practical aspects of science, overall achievement is significantly lower than UK norms by at least one year,” she told teachers.

Rivers also informed teachers that the inspections revealed a number of other shortcomings in the system, including: several human resource related issues in regards to recruitment, retention and deployment of high quality teaching staff; the need for better appraisal and performance management practices for underperforming staff; the need to increase resourcing and improve training and support for the management of special education needs and behavioural issues; the need to ensure that teaching assistants are effectively deployed and supervised; the need for better collection and use of assessment data, and monitoring of performance trends over time; the need to have more targeted induction and professional development programmes to meet the needs of teachers and support staff; and the lack of inter-school support and exchange of ideas, good practice and successes, which is believed to help improve the overall performance of all schools.

Following the inspections, schools are now expected to produce an action plan to address the issues that have been identified, which “provides a clear delineation of accountability”. The ministry has itself produced a comprehensive action plan for all those involved in the education system, including ministry and education department personnel, as well as school leaders.

“The Education Bill, 2015, once finalised and passed into law, will provide the legal framework to ensure that educators are held accountable for the standards students achieve, and will recognise the need for schools to have the required support and resources to carry out their job more successfully,” the ministry stated.

MOE Statement_Clarification on Baseline Inspection Reports of Govt. Schools – 31.08.15

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Comments (53)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Let me add my two cents on this matter if I may??? The state of Public Education in the Cayman Islands, like any other small nation/country, is indeed in need of consistent improvement. However, there is a saying ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it”. Too many times we have left the state of affairs for Education in these islands up to those in many incidents who have not a clue about how to run an education system. Teachers and other personnel who could be deemed resourceful are left out of the picture too often. Instead, the CI Government loves to spend money on outside consultants to tell us what we already know. I suggest that the government from this point forward, use that money to improve all areas of the public schools, including paying teachers better, offering parents/guardians some type of training to assist their children with their education, using persons who have gone through the public school system and have succeeded (I do not mean must have a MBA or higher but at least shown that they are hard working, able and willing to help the CI continue to prospect), to offer workshops for parents, teachers, Ministry/Department, make public appearances at schools on a regular basis, using teachers who have the knowledge and expertise to help the Ministry of Education fill these potholes, and STOP using EDUCATION as a political football game. If some of these ideas are adhered to, then maybe Ms. Rivers could see some improvement in schools before she is ousted in the next election.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Changing your attitude Minister would be much more productive than changing your hair style. I quite understand you are way way out of your depth but actually you have some good people around you with no political agenda who would be more than willing to offer sound advice. Tapping into their expertise might just gain you some respite from the widely help criticism of your education tenure. Try it,

  3. Soldier-Crab says:

    There was a schools inspectorate, remember? Set up as an independent body headed by Mary Rodriguez who was trained, at great expense, in the UK. It may not have been perfect, but it was locally-based and had Caymanians on the staff.
    Was it too honest? Was it too impartial? Was it too independent?

    What is obvious is that the inspectorate no longer exists and poor Mrs Rodriguez has been banished to an office no-one can find doing nothing very much.

    The price of success!

  4. Anonymous says:

    The 300k would have been better spent in plowing it into early years. Nurseries are run by people who know nothing about child development, know nothing about how children learn and are staffed by mostly the uneducated. Get the early years right and you may just have a chance. Its all to late to try to make up the parenting and early years deficit when the children start school. Also parents of Cayman, try staying at home with your children for a while and not leaving them with people who don’t enrich their lives.

  5. Anonymous says:

    To simplify this and address the problems does not require more audits and inspections. You have schools that parallel a zoo. Kids that are from broken homes no role models and are in many cases exposed to some form of abuse. This is a best case example for the majority. There is a severe issue of drug and alcohol abuse in this country and the high school age kids and younger are involved or a parent. The social fabric is torn apart. Couple this with poor teachers in some cases. It does not matter what changes you make to the schools the 32nd result do be the same, and then you will be adjusting Labour laws to accomodate the products of not only the school system but the poor community they are born into…………….oh wait this is being done.

  6. Clueless as usual says:

    Your rival paper once again failed to grasp the basic problem with education in the Cayman Islands. It has nothing to do with Charter schools, non-Charter schools, inspectors or no inspectors. It has everything to do with:

    1. parenting
    a. is there a Mommy and a Daddy?
    b. if there is no Daddy in the picture, does Daddy provide outside support?
    c. are there rules in the household?
    (i) if yes, are they enforced?
    (ii) if no, why not?
    d. does Mommy and/or Daddy work, or are they being supported by gov’t?
    e. what kind of examples do Mommy and Daddy set for the kids (ie. do they wear
    their pants at the ankles or properly like a respectable human being?)
    f. is there any drug/alcohol abuse in the household?
    g. does Mommy and/or Daddy talk to their kids on a daily basis about the
    importance of education and doing well in school?
    h. does Mommy and/or Daddy set high expectations when it comes to education?
    i. etc. etc. etc.
    2. parental support, or lack thereof, at home – again, I could go into a million and one
    sub-categories, but I think that the average/intelligent person understands this point
    3. the ability of the student to come to school and sit quietly in his/her desk for more
    than two minutes (without maiming oneself, others, causing general mayhem and/or
    disrupting the learning of the entire class)
    4. the child’s attitude when it comes to education and/or learning – bottom line!

    In Cuba, China, and other poorer countries in the world (yes, there is still lots of poverty in China, especially in the rural areas) students come to school prepared to learn. They are not there to cause havoc or to waste their time – they are there to learn, as their parents have drummed it in their heads that the only way to get ahead is by getting a good education. Discipline is not an issue as students or often able to self-regulate their behaviour. In cases where they’re unable to, the issues get addressed immediately and without further questions.

    The problem with the Cayman Islands is that there are far too many wanna-be-thugs who disrupt the learning of those few students who are there to learn. The problem with the Cayman Island is that there are far too few students interested in learning, and not enough parents who set high enough expectations when it comes to learning. The problem with the Cayman Islands is that government wants to give everything to their people, instead of making them earn it. The problem with the Cayman Islands is that there are politicians unwilling to speak the harsh truth and do what is required – instead they want to pander to their electorate, blame it on the teachers, blame it on unknown and never heard of disorders, blame it on the system, etc. It doesn’t help that every time that a new government comes in they make wholesale changes to the “system” just for the sake of doing something “new”. In addition, government pays for endless reports that gather dust on shelves, millions on experts and consultants who really are not much of experts other than being very good at facilitating governments in spending millions unnecessarily on matters that don’t make on bit of a difference. I could go on and on with this but don’t have the time to add to the myriad of problems along the same lines. Ultimately, these are some of the issues facing the public school system in the Cayman Islands.

    • Shhhhhh. says:

      Your last para is so correct re. a constant change of policies etc,and that is one of the core problems with Immigration also. Constantly in a state of flux due to policy and legal changes, and can never settle down and work smoothly. TOO MUCH TINKERING!

      • Clueless as usual says:

        You’re absolutely correct. Change for the sake change and/or as a means to pat oneself on the back and/or as a means to say that you’re doing something “new” is not productive. Too much tinkering indeed.

    • Anonymous says:

      A few years ago I was doing some work in a Cayman school. I asked a class of twenty-five 10 year-olds what time was their bedtime.
      They all looked at me as though I was speaking Swahili. The concept of a bedtime was totally unknown to them all.
      Therein lies a huge problem. Without fundamental domestic procedures and guidelines there is no basis for academic and social development.

    • Anonymous says:

      5. Do you refer to “mom”/”mommy” or “mum”/”mummy”/”mother”. If the former why are you degenerating into crass Americanisms?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps I am missing the point, but wouldn’t it be a good thing for us to strive to bring our Government education standards up to those of the British Private school education??

    There are so many children in the Government system here that face significant challenges in their home lives, and sadly, without the proper support for these children, these problems become problems in the school environment, affecting the overall quality of Government education. Teachers can not be expected to be able to cope with the myriad issues that go on in these childrens’ lives.

    We can not afford to look at the quality of education in isolation-these children are too important.

    I seem to remember reading some time(years) ago that the cost of Government education, when broken down, came to about CI$15,000.00 per student per year. This is more than the fees at almost all of the private schools on the island! It makes no sense. For this much money, our children deserve much better.

    • Anonymous says:

      Oh to have motivated parents with bright and school ready children. Unfortunately those children here go to private schools. Government schools are left with the rest. We are trying man but telling us we are crap at our jobs will not help us to do a better job. What would help is better leaders, consistent good quality teaching, the dropping of all the distractions within schools of preparing for one festival or another, more training and better hiring practices not to mention the dreaded retention of those non expat teachers for whom teaching is a daily struggle. If the performance management system was working the failing head of a certain high school would not have the CEO job now.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Another day, another piece of inane patronising arrogance from Rivers.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Your rival paper I see has said that the “haters” out there aren’t upset about the inspections; they’re upset about the results”. How wrong can that statement be..

    1) Firsty the Independent Schools Inspectorate Consultancy is a name and does not make it independent. What teachers are upset about is being inspected by people who have never set foot in a state school before.
    2) The supposed base line assessment is not a true picture since schools were treated differently and some even not inspected by the ISIC at all.
    3) We accept that we need to improve and have spent the last five years doing just that. The report is not a first step as far as teachers are concerned as we have been taking leaps over the last few years and the results are proof of that.
    4) Our schools may not be fit for purpose, but we are improving year on year that is more than can be said for (a) the management of schools (b) the department of education (c) the ministry (d) HR practices (e) the ability of schools to fire teachers, teacher managers or head who are under performing because of their status within the community.

  10. Anonymous says:

    This one is easy, just follow the money.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Here we see something. Me. Rivers is an extremely educated person, well travelled , and has held notable positions in her course of employment. This resume would only make a presumption that she would make intelligent deductions in reasoning. From this article and the impending horror of the Labour law she has proven herself to lack competence and unbias forethought for the whole poplulance. She appears to lack critical thinking skills from her performance on these two most important issues.

    • Anonymous says:

      What this proves is simply that obtaining fancy educational qualifications is not an indication of a person’s ability to do anything except pass exams. Bluntly, her paper qualifications (particularly the MBA, which the FT recently rated as a waste of time and money) are pretty meaningless without any real word experience to back them up.

    • Teacher says:

      Just because you can teach a donkey to count by tapping its foot doesn’t mean that you can teach it any common sense.

  12. Teacher says:

    In other words, what Madame Minister really means: Hear ye, hear ye, all common folk, I have come to make a pronouncement: I am right and you are wrong, so stick it! Teacher

  13. Teacher says:

    With three taps of her right hand on her left shoulder Madame Minister once again congratulates herself, to the applause of nobody, on a job well done. Teacher

  14. Anonymous says:

    Oh no just when you think she could not make it any worse. Does she think we are idiots?

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes is the short answer. She does not realize as educators we are capable of researching her so called independent schools inspectorate and come to the conclusion they were not fit for purpose. A lot like her really. There are some great people in the Ministry but their voices are drowned out by the ignorance of a Minister too arrogant to know “what she does not know”.

      • Cass says:

        Well said 9:45, hear hear!

      • Anonymous says:

        Best outcome is that the few people on island who are helping us improve and actually know what good teaching is like and understand the cultural imperatives are allowed to continue what they are doing. The results are a testament to their expertise and teachers willingness to engage, learn and change.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Rattled cage comes to mind!

  16. Anonymous says:

    “The ministry cited Bowerman’s role in the process to refute claims that the inspectors did not understand the Cayman system, saying that she “was able to provide an overview of the education system in the Cayman Islands and the requirements for the inspections” and that she corresponded with them prior to the inspections”.

    How would Ms Bowerman know the current situation since she has not been in the education system for some time prior to them shutting down her department altogether. How would she know anything without talking to the very people whose job is to deliver higher standards across the subject areas? If she was so successful, why terminate her and the department?

    More importantly how come there was so little progress within schools when Ms Bowerman was Chief Inspector within Cayman?

    The attempt by the honorable Minister to justify her disastrous speech with this press release has miserably failed. There are too many of us in the system who actually know what a good inspection looks like and have been part of such teams. It is also not difficult to google these consultants and find out all you need to know about their lack of expertise within state/government schools. Perhaps if the Minister had done so she would not have made such a disastrous choice. Oh and hear is a novel idea, how about talking to people within Cayman before you hire so that they can “advise” you professionally or are you too arrogant or threatened to do even that. Seek advice man, its not a weakness.

  17. Anonymous says:

    What in the world are you people complaining about? Are you suggesting that the schools of the Independent Schools Association of the UK are not of a high enough standard, as compared to “government schools anywhere”? I do not see anywhere in your report that Government suggested the Cayman Government run schools should have produced results on a par with the UK Independent Schools. Surely you realise there are other ways to use a good benchmark?

    • Anonymous says:

      You totally mis the point.

    • Anonymous says:

      Rattled your cage too iCIS? I am sure you are great at what you do. Your report is factually full of holes but I understand why a 300k contract would be so attractive.

    • Anonymous says:

      Except its not a benchmark because the process was flawed and not evenly handled and the assessment was done by inspectors who have never been in a government school.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Did Tara congratulate herself while roundly defending herself?

  19. Anonymous says:

    Well she would. She failed to say that the ISIC would not be permitted to inspect a state school. Why…because they are not qualified to do so. Therefore she needs to answer another question, namely if OFSTEAD do not deem them qualified why would she. Defending the indefensible is the way we teachers see it.

  20. Anonymous says:

    A female version of former education minister now premier same ego and arrogant ways

  21. Anonymous says:

    the usual waffle and managment speak……typical tara….

  22. Anonymous says:

    When will the ISIC report and the KPMG report be made public?
    Why have they been withheld from the public?
    What does Tara Rivers and the Ministry of Education have to hide?

    • Anonymous says:

      The report tells us that there are many flaws in the system. Some actually not addressed by them. What it does not tell us is “fact” or come near to “children first, no excuses, just solutions”. Reason, they know nothing about our children, the demographics of our nation, not indeed of the many challenges we face. Not excuses just an attempt to understand the complexity of the problems we face as educators. We have challenged parents, children with poor social skills, an early years experience that is inadequate, then add to that 30% of the brightest being creamed off into private schools. We did not need to spend the figure quoted by some to find that out. We need a robust early years system, positive parenting programs that are actually effective, early intervention upon arrival in school for children with poor social skills and teachers that are well trained and supported. Change is a process and cannot be reduced to meaningless slogans. Heres a catch phrase for you Tara….no going back to a system that so woefully failed our children.

  23. Educationalist says:

    Why did the inspection team need “extensive international experience”? Cayman essentially uses the British system, so surely it would have made more sense to use inspectors with experience of inspecting GOVERNMENT schools in the UK……. This company’s only experience of international work prior to coming to Cayman was in the private sector and I don’t imagine there are many similarities between a school like East End primary and one serving rich kids in Singapore. Also, asking Mrs Bowerman to bring the inspectors up to speed on the context is just laughable – hadn’t she been out of the system for 3 years, having left on very bad terms indeed with Mary Rodrigues, with no formal send off? If the Minister had really wanted the inspectors to know about the journey schools have been on, why was no one from DES allowed to speak to them at any point in the process, despite having people working in the schools every day? It seems to me that the only good thing to come out of this whole fiasco is the fact that the entire teaching force in the Islands now has a common enemy in the form of Ms Rivers………

  24. Anonymous says:

    To paraphrase a well-worn quote from the 1960s, “Well she would, wouldn’t she?” Sadly, this is just the latest example of a newly-elected politician failing to meet the expectations of the people who elected them – it seems to happen every four years.

    • Anonymous says:

      I wonder if in the deep recesses of her mind does she ever think to herself “Tara you have a passion for education after all I have a vested interest in ensuring the best education system there is” but passion is not enough. I need expertise which I do not have. Perhaps I should start talking to some of those who do know even if I don’t always agree with them. I need perspective and that is sadly what I am missing right now. Oh wait that would require an enquiring mind and a lot of self reflection something sadly lacking.

      • Anonymous says:

        You are making a huge leap there in assuming Ms Rivers reflects. If she did the speech she delivered in Grand Cayman would not have been delivered on the Brac.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Yeh yeh yeh…really? Kindergarten stories tend to be believed only by young children. The rest of us know what the real story is. XXXXX

    • Anonymous says:

      Therein lies the problem, 1/2 the registered voters on this island have the education of a child in kindergarten and believe anything said by their illustrious Leaders. All you need to do is listen to the radio and check CNS on a daily basis to see all the UDP supporters comments as an example.

      • Anonymous says:

        Don’t over half the LA have the education of a child in kindergarten too? No, I am serious don’t they? And those that do have a “proper” education seem to just act like child in kindergarten per se. Sets a stellar example to the rest of us!

        • Anonymous says:

          I would not knock people who did not for various reasons have the opportunity to receive a formal education. What I would knock is the level of ignorance, the lack of intelligence, the absence of critical thinking and the dearth of leadership of so many for the jobs they have. Tara Rivers and Winston with their education are no different to those with no education because they lack all of these skills.

          • Anonymous says:

            So true though at least Winston is actually a nice guy.

            • Anonymous says:

              Sorry being a nice guy does not cut it when you are on the salaries these people are on, when you hold jobs that you know nothing about and still dismiss those who know around you as irrelevant. That is the bit that is unforgivable.

            • Anonymous says:

              What has being “a nice guy” got to do with your ability to do the job in hand?

      • Anonymous says:

        The UDP Leader got to grade 7 before he left school. Nuff said.

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