Action plan underway to address school performance

| 22/10/2015 | 37 Comments
Cayman News Service

Tara Rivers, Minister of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs, in the LA

(CNS): In the wake of the recent review and damning school inspections report, giving the local education system a failing grade, the education minister told the Legislative Assembly Wednesday that she has met with all the government schools’ principals to discuss the plan of action to address the problems. Tara Rivers said school leaders are being encouraged to identify the positive things and work towards making those consistent in all classrooms, adding that the plan was not beyond realistic expectations.

With most of the government schools described as unsatisfactory in many areas by the inspectors, the minster said the department was promoting inter-school collaboration to share the good ideas and good practices.

Outlining the plan’s details in a long speech to her parliamentary colleagues (posted below) she said a consistent theme in the inspection reports was the need for more resources and improved training and support for management of students with special educational needs and disabilities and those with behavioural problems. The plan, she said, calls for improved identification of special needs and provision of appropriate interventions.

“This school year, non-teaching Special Education Needs Coordinators (SENCOs) have been employed to provide support for all government schools,” she said. “This includes identifying students with special or additional educational needs, coordinating assessment and essential interventions and then monitoring students’ progress and achievement to ensure no child is left behind. This is the first time that all schools will have access to non-teaching SENCOs whose job it is to focus specifically on students with SEN/D.”

She also revealed that the Education ministry is spearheading a project for pre-school aged children displaying special education needs and disabilities or who may be at risk strengthening the Early Intervention Programme.

Rivers said the schools action plan was “solutions focused, seeking to address specific issues identified in the reports” with an accountability framework which identifies one lead person for each action or initiative. Schools will be reporting each term on school improvement with an analysis of data related to staff performance, student academic progress and achievement, professional development, and behaviour incidents.

“The Plan of Action is a direct response to the issues raised through the schools inspections and education system review process. As a Government, we are not shying away from the issues. As a country, we need to ensure that the education system addresses those issues and that our children have the high standard of education that they deserve,” Rivers added.

During the course of this year she said the ministry will also be considering in greater detail the recommendations to introduce some form of “enhanced education governance model” pointing to public-private partnerships.

“I want to state my unequivocal commitment to public education,” she said, but said there was scope for greater cooperation, participation and collaboration with parents, the private sector, NGOs and the community at large when it comes to public education.

She said the reviews were commissioned to understand where the country’s education system was and how to improve it.

“Although the Baseline Inspections and Education System Review reports have highlighted some difficult realities about our education system, the reviews have been completed as promised, and we have utilised this information to develop a clear pathway to improvement on all fronts,” she said, adding that there is a lot of work to be done. “This government has no intention of having these reports sit on a shelf. The results are in and the work continues. Improvements need to be made. We are shifting to a system of accountability for all. Reporting mechanisms have been built in and the education team is expected to make improvements,” she said.

Pointing out that the issues facing the education system have not emerged overnight, she said they were the result of many, many years of growing challenges and solutions could not be implemented overnight, as she warned it may be some time before the plan yielded results.

Minister Rivers’ Statement – Presentation of the Baseline Inspections Reports and the Education System Review Report – 21-Oct-15

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Category: Education, Local News, Politics

Comments (37)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Your opening line starts with “in the wake of recent reviews”. The release of those reviews has been exactly like a wake. The death of hope, innovation and change. We have stepped back in time to a place that absolutely had large numbers of our children failing. Why, because reports were commissioned from people who never have inspected state schools before. I heard only yesterday they were not allowed to talk to any CIG people. What the ### does Tara Rivers think she is doing? What class of ignorance has she surrounded herself with to make such fundamental mistakes and please tell me who Mary Bowman is. Last time I came across that name her department had been closed down so how come she is now running the education system?

    • Anonymous says:

      I have heard it all now! So at the top of education we now have Tara (no education experience), Winston (no education experience), Cetonya (failed classroom and head teacher), and finally Lyneth (failed headteacher). Trust me, out education is not heading to be world class being headed up by this bunch. But sit back folks, all is well as they are Cayman’s answer to the unemployed.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Pouring money into SEN support won’t work and will probably have the reverse effect to what is intended. The overarching problem in the government schools is that there haven’t been the right opportunities for classroom teachers to be trained to world class levels. Consequently, because class teaching is often not very good, kids fall behind. Many of them are then classified as SEN when, in another class/school/system, they would have been doing just fine. The danger with making SENCos responsible for fixing the problem, is that classroom teachers can easily feel that the progress of lower achieving kids is no longer anything to do with them. There are also dangers with piling in extra teaching assistant support, as kids who are behind really need input from the best possible TEACHERS, not hand-holding from well-meaning but untrained aides. There is overwhelming international evidence about this sort of thing so it defeats me why the Minister has decided to go down this road…..

    • Anonymous says:

      In order to be the best possible teachers the system itself needs to change. If teachers could go about the business of teaching and learning, things would be better. Why do so many good teachers leave? It is because the know the system is messed up. Fix the system, and the teachers will teacher better.

    • Anonymous says:

      She goes down this route because thise around her know nothing. The ones who do know she ignores and she prefers to take advise from those previously sacked for incompetence and now on board again. Cayman has just taken ten steps backwards and us teachers are caught in the middle of headteachers jumping to Tara’s tune and having to implement stuff we know does not work.

  3. Cass says:

    Its a shame the seemingly have outlawed holding children back in school even if its to their benefit. The government system pushes each child forward even if they are not ready.

    • Anonymous says:

      There is absolutely no evidence from anywhere in the world that making kids repeat years is beneficial, so this is an area where the Minister has got it absolutely right!

      • Anonymous says:

        This is a ridiculous statement. Are you then saying move the children along from one grade to another like a conveyor belt? It is common sense that there will be a percentage of children who will not be ready to go to the next grade – so what should we do? These kids who are not ready to be moved to the next grade should be singled out and given to the Assistant Teacher under a Supervivory capacity and within a specified time frame to bring the kids up to the class level before moving them on to the next grade. Thios is a far better solution than moving them on to failure!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Holding them back does not work! They will just get the same rubbish teacher a 2nd time!

    • Anonymous says:

      For the last time, holding children back DOES not work. Get the teaching right in the first place and many children will not be so far behind. Stop being concerned with levels teachers and somehow survive the head teachers contradicting everything we are learning on our cpd courses. Does anyone in the Ministry and Department talk to one another?

      • Anonymous says:

        A couple of years ago, there were people in both the Ministry and the Department who were regularly speaking to each other and things were really starting to move in the right direction. One by one, though, they have been let go or driven out, to leave behind people who know nothing other than to say “Yes Minister” to every one of Tara’s bright ideas. Why somewhere as small as Cayman needs both a Ministry and a Department of Education also defeats me – but then I guess having the Department as a separate entity means that the Minister will still have someone to blame when she finally realises that all her bright ideas have just made things worse……..

        • Anonymous says:

          There are excellent people. Namely the literacy and numeracy specialists but their voices seem to be marginalised.

  4. Anonymous says:

    One position cannot change a systemic problem. Stop promoting bad teachers into positions in schools, the ministry etc. Just stop right now. Start getting a vision. It seems to me we are all over the place with one initiative after another with sense of real purpose. Note though the softer tone, me thinks electioneering has begun. By next year Tara will be telling us that state schools are great just so she can look like she is responsible. We are not fooled misses and we will prove that to you come the general election.

    • Anonymous says:

      Exactly, being Caymanian should give a person more right to get a higher position if they are not capable of doing a good job. It’s not their fault, but some just haven’t got the experience or training to do what it takes to improve schools. I agree Caymanians should come first when it comes to jobs, but only if they have proved themselves else where, not because the pool of employees is really small and there’s nobody else to hire! The hiring and firing of educators should be more rigorous and principals should get a say in who works at their school instead of having any old Joe Blogs turn up who doesn’t know his ass from his elbow. I mean the acting chief officer Monteith XXXX Her previous school is a failing so why has been promoted? She should not be advising anyone how to run a school. The only person who can hold her head up high is Mrs Gloria Bell because she’s proven she is a good leader. Give me strength!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Here we are in 2015…the education system has been a mess for many many years and never addressed. Tara has been in office for over two years and now all of a sudden the light bulb comes on that we have a problem? She is useless and hasn’t done a darn thing for this country. As a matter of fact non of the politicians have done anything. Oh yea we had Ezzard ranting and trying to start a race war, was anything done about that NO, then we have Eden with his lovely remarks about Gay people, was anything done about that NO. This is what we have in Government. Oh yea Mckeeva suing everyone and Alden being Alden.

  6. At the trough. says:


  7. Anonymous says:

    It’s all very well appointing SENCOs, but they are all very new to the job and are being trained as they go along. They have very little resources to do these so called interventions and when they do have a person to do them, they are often not qualified teachers and a lot of the time do an ineffective job. We need qualified special needs teachers or teaching assistants who have formal teaching assistant qualifications.
    Tara’s motto is children first no excuses, but when a child is referred to the behaviour unit Stepping Stones for some much needed support the government won’t even pay for transport to get them there! These children are in desparate need of help but they can’t get to the place that can provide it and end up being suspended time after time from main stream. It’s disgusting.
    I work in education and I am upset every day by the amount of children who have mental and emotional issues. They need help! They come from tough backgrounds, they are shouted at every day, threatened, beaten and talked to like they are worth nothing. We expect them to come to school ready to learn and show respect to adults when they rarely get any respect themselves, get real. The government need to sort out the social needs of the communities and familes. Parents are troubled and their kids are troubled. Some children all suffering in abusive homes and nothing gets done, everyones hands are tied for one reason or another.
    Children do not come first in this country and they are the future of Cayman. Shame on you government!

  8. Anonymous says:

    “This government has no intention of leaving these reports on the shelf”. What we are going to do is insist the head teachers implement changes that do not materially improve the quality of education children receive. Tara wants to ensure the head teachers are running around like headless chickens, working against best practice. Pathetic.

  9. Anonymous says:


    My immediate thought before reading the article was, “finally Tara is resigning”. Oh well.

  10. Anonymous says:

    We are always ready to blame the education system, but what have the parents done to assist their children with their learning. Remember it is not only up to the teacher but parents must have an active role in their children’s education.

    • Anonymous says:

      We teachers are not in control of parenting. We can only deal with childrens learning. With such a demoralised teaching work force that is difficult especially when Tara has headteachers ticking boxes rather than doing anything meaningful.

      • Anonymous says:

        Additionally, teachers are demoralised because we know the system is failing our children by not supporting the teachers. There is very little offered for students with learning issues, or behavioural issues. As one teacher said, “we are given a basket to fetch water”, and then we are demeaned for the amount of water fetched.

        • Anonymous says:

          More money is actually spent on support services for kids in government schools (counsellors, psychologists etc) than in most other jurisdictions. The fact that this has had no discernible impact on outcomes, suggests that making troubled kids someone else’s responsibility, other than the clas teachers’ just doesn’t work. Teaching in Cayman just isn’t good enough on the whole, although this is not teachers’ fault as they just haven’t had the training or role models or leadership they need to be the best they could possibly be.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Always a plan, always a committee, always a soon come but never any actual productive changes. Yep, sounds like Government alright.

  12. Hulk says:

    The department of education has always employed SENCO’s in our schools. This position dates back 10 years. These folks have not been trained or provided with the resources they require to do a great. This is the reality today. All schools now have SENCO’s and very few if any are from a special needs background.

    We continue to create post to manage crisis not solve problems. We give our team responsibilities with no resources. We have children who are attending high schools who can’t read, yet they attend a full classes with no support. The minister has no clue what she is talking about. She is being informed by people who also have no clue what is happening on the ground.

    Until all agencies remove the silo work, we can hire 50 SENCO’s it will not matter. Until persons in the schools, department of education, and ministry are held accountable for bad service and policies, nothing will change.

    I challenge the minister to spend a few hours in one of schools to gain first hand experience of what teachers are dealing with.

    • Anonymous says:

      Hulk that’s my point below where I brought up the qualifications. This is the first time I have dealt with a SENCO and honestly I know more than the SENCO.

    • Anonymous says:

      For the students that are in the high school that can not read, did the parents not notice this??? If they had then they could have addressed the issue or issues that their child may have been having. Stop blaming government and take some responsibility as parents.

      • Anonymous says:

        So when hardworking and unfortunately illiterate parents send their children to school, are you saying that the school system is designed so that socio-economic background determines a child’s level on literacy and numeracy?

        Therein lies the problem, access to education is politicised and principals (including now our acting Head of Education Department) never have to be concerned about a child unless parents are pressuring them, or even more obvious…… look at John Gray’s FB page, students in spelling B are all Jamaican one, just check how many have parents in teaching or police or prison. Yes, our public schools are catering more to the majority who are children of Jamaican status holders or contracted workers. Get real

      • Anonymous says:

        You assume that the parents can read!!

    • Anonymous says:

      The issue with the SENCOS is very valid. I challenge Tara Rivers to retract her damning speech she made to teachers about their performance. I challenge Tara Rivers to realise she knows nothing about education and stop meddling and start listening to the experts under her nose she has so skilfully ignored for almost two years. I challenge her to review all those around her and if no one has challenged her in two years then they need to be fired. The emperor has no clothes Tara… are a joke so do not try and cosy up to us teachers. You have done irreparable damage to your reputation, to teacher moral and more importantly are set to put back many of the gains made over the last 6 years.

  13. Anonymous says:

    What I want to know is when are we going to see an action plan underway to address MLA performance?

    • Anonymous says:

      well that’s the vicious cycle eh? keep people uneducated, bring in desperate workers from Jamaica, convince them you’re Jamaican and get their votes so no need to monitor actual performance, an educated/WISE electorate would mean majority there now would never get back in but people will forget come 2017

  14. Anonymous says:

    Next year it will be back to the same old same old. Rolston Anglin did the same thing. My son got help for one year and no matter how hard I fought and tried that was it.
    Just one thing about SENCOs, “under The Education (Special Educational Needs Coordinators) (England) Regulations 2014 a SENCO must be either: a qualified teacher; head teacher/appointed acting head teacher; or where a person becomes the SENCO at a relevant school after 1 September 2009, and has not previously been the SENCO at that or any other relevant school for more than 12 months, the school must ensure that the person holds “The National Award for Special Educational Needs Coordination” if they are the school’s SENCO at any time after the third anniversary of the date that person became a SENCO.”

    • Anonymous says:

      Don’t you get it yet, many SENCOS were poor teachers.

      • Anonymous says:

        A SENCO is supposed to be a QUALIFIED teacher so how can they be poor teachers? They can be poor SENCOS but they shouldn’t be poor teachers.

        Poor teachers should be terminated and I can think of a few. It’s time for government to stop moving around bad apples and terminate them.

        • Anonymous says:

          In Cayman you cannot sack an underperforming Caymanian teacher. So yes a SENCO could have been such a teacher and the position being used to move them out of the classroom.

      • Anonymous says:

        All SENCOS are qualified teachers. They were not selected from a pool of poor performing teachers, but applied for the post.

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