Policy credited with better school behaviour

| 23/01/2017 | 15 Comments

(CNS): Students in government schools appear to be behaving themselves, according to statistics released by the Department of Education Services (DES). Sharply contradicting perceptions in the community that the schools are in turmoil, with children misbehaving at every turn, the number of infractions has fallen dramatically. During 2015, 324 children were excluded from John Gray High School, which has a population of around 1,000 students, but in 2016 that figure fell dramatically to 103. Meanwhile at Clifton Hunter High School the number fell from 71 in 2015 to 34 last year from a student body of around 800.

Students can be suspended or excluded from school for a several reasons and not just for fighting or violent offences. Repeated absence or lateness and accumulations of other minor or uniform infractions can also lead to kids being kept out of school for short periods.

Education officials said that the fall in exclusions is a result of the hard work of teachers and educators but also directly because of the new behaviour intervention policies that are being implemented and the improved training that staff in schools have received on behaviour management.

Christen Suckoo, the chief officer in the education ministry, told the media last week that if people would be willing to get past the politics currently surrounding education, they would see that a “tremendous amount of progress is being made” in the local education system.

However, during a media meeting last week, senior officials from the DES and ministry and Education Minister Tara Rivers spoke about the many challenges teachers and school staff are facing every day. The minister said that schools reflect wider society, so if there are problems regarding drugs and violence in the community, those same issues will also be in the schools.

Ministry officials also spoke of the barriers that many children attending government schools have to learning; these are not always because of learning difficulties or special needs but can be down to poverty and the home conditions of a student. From children who come to school hungry and tired to cases of direct abuse and neglect, education experts warned that no matter how good a school and its teaching staff are, there are some barriers that are extremely difficult to deal with and involve the intervention of multiple agencies.

Schools “don’t have a magic wand” to solve these challenges, the officials warned.

They also said that the community needs to do a better job accepting and understand the number of young people that are suffering from mental health problems that are not being dealt with. Officials said there were also ‘a lot of students’ that are in the criminal justice system whose learning circumstances have not been properly addressed.

Education experts pointed out the challenges for teachers, with significant numbers of children facing real problems that prevent them from learning and the teachers from teaching. But education officials believe they are turning the corner and things are improving. More children are being supported earlier in their school lives and behaviour is improving and overall more children are doing better.

Unlike the private sector, the public education system accepts all children regardless of their ability. Officials claimed they are also being increasingly transparent about results and performance, and that Cayman is one of only a few countries in the region that publishes the number of students that took a subject as well as those who sat an exam, leading to much more honest results.

Shaking criticisms about politicians who do not send their children to government schools, Rivers said that all parents have a choice to make and not every school is right for every child. But she said that these were improving and it was up to her and the ministry to take more opportunities to promote the changes and improvement and to ensure that people know about the improvements and that they are not just pre-occupied with casting blame.

Educators also warned that the constant criticism in the community on talk shows, on social media and the wider local press, not just of the system but of students themselves, was very demoralizing. Experts said that for children to constantly hear that they are failures can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Some of you out there think that just because the well off and those enjoying the Cayman success story can and do send their children to private schools that those who do not/ cannot do that are lesser and unimportant.

    Not so! Some of those same private school children are also misbehaving. Private schools also have children from drug using homes, alcoholic homes, physical abuse homes and yes private schools also have children enrolled that smoke pot, get drunk and witness all kinds of sordid behavior at home. Some of these are professionals with lots of money and they too deal with these problems. The difference is that they and the schools try to hide it or transfer their unruly children to overseas schools. Yes our government schools are in trouble, but they are improving which is very difficult to do under the constant drip of making things out to be worse that it really is. There are many variables at play and top of the list is the need for parents to be more involved in their children’s lives. Some parents need to be taught how to be good parents as they themselves became parents before they were mature enough, and probably dropped out of school because they got pregnant. There are also too many past politicians out there who are so angry that they are not a part of the system now that they will go to any lengths to agitate and stir up trouble. You all know who you are and just because you lost the last election does not give you the right to cause trouble for the education system and schools. Imagine if you all had spent as much energy on your own portfolio how much better off the students would be, I do not have the answers to all these problems but I know that the education system have many many well, qualified, knowledgeable staff who work tirelessly to help these children every day. We have some very bright ” Caymanian” children who are excelling even though some of their parents struggle daily to provide for them. Imagine if they were all a part the Cayman Success Story!!

  2. LOL says:

    Ummh, yeah,there’s a reason that politicians do not send their kids to government schools. It has nothing to do with all parents having “a choice”, not every school being “right” for every child, but everything to do with poor discipline and poor behaviour that continues at government schools despite what this report and any other says, just in time for elections. One cannot but laugh at the (self) congratulatory back-slapping that Minister Rivers somehow feels is appropriate for extremely poor results. Perhaps she ought to take her own advise and set the bar just a tiny bit higher (read, a lot, lot higher), unless she wants it to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Utter bullshit. Damn, these people can congratulate themselves.

    • Anonymous says:

      Actually, as a parent of a JGHS student I can tell you that this is not, as you say, bull****. I wonder what evidence you will cite to back up your position. Let me give you mine. A student, with friends, who all study hard, get good grades, are responsible, upright young citizens, who sit around my dining room table talking about everything from dating, to science, to world politics, to questioning why no matter what they do, so many people speak negatively about them and their school. Education officials are absolutely correct. There are many barriers to education. Read a little before you criticize. Or do you know of education professionals who will say that poverty, abuse, mental health issues and other issues have no effect on the children? Have you been to JGHS? People speak of the school as if it is an out of control prison. It is not. It’s a school with teachers and students, and it is thriving. The new policies have helped. The new principal has helped and the students in general seem to be taking more pride in their school. It’s time for people to be a part of the solution or shut up and go elsewhere. Your comment puts you in the category that needs a plane ticket. And by the way, I don’t see anything in the article that is self congratulatory. The department gave us useful information. I also listened to them on the radio on Friday and they were quick to say that more work is needed but progress should be acknowledged. Should we not recognise progress when it’s is made? It seems to me that there are too many people out there that have an ulterior motive. Too many people want our children to fail. That’s why when the department does well and the students do well the first thing we see is people immediately criticizing. As I said, be a part of the solution or move on. I for one am a proud parent, and judging from what I see of my child and his friends I am in for a pleasant evening come graduation next year.

      • Really? says:

        Right. You’ll convince me and the public at large of this when all government officials and anyone who can afford private school start sending their kids to JGHS instead of enrolling them into a private school. Until then, not even a 500 page novel praising how great JGHS is will do the trick.

        • Anonymous says:

          I have done just that….and I am very impressed with my child’s teacher, how he’s learning and how happy he is.

        • Anonymous says:

          Parents that actually care to do the research will see that JGHS is a great school with excellent teachers and kids doing great. Private schooling has become somewhat of a status symbol on this island and I find some parents that send their children there are less focused on education and more on who you know and who goes where.

          • Really? says:

            Nobody said that JGHS did not have great teachers. What is disputable is whether or not behaviour has improved as dramatically as Minister Rivers claims it has – it’s kind of self-serving to brag about it just before an election…

        • Anonymous says:

          11:30pm You are very upset over some parents choice of school/s for their children. Anyone, who makes that choice, can afford to pay for their education, so why are you worried over where they send their children. I made the choice to send my child to a private school and then to the GHHS and JGHS. Those who go to the government high schools are no different than those who go to other schools. I would assume the most important thing would be their education. Those who want to learn, will learn, but those who choose to be disruptive and rebellious, should be removed from the classrooms and placed in their own environment.

          • Really? says:

            I think you better take some courses in reading comprehension… I’m not at all upset about where parents choose to send their children to school. All I stated is that when all politicians start sending their kids to JGHS, that will be the day that I start believing their propaganda about how great of a school it has become.

      • Anonymous says:

        I fully agree with you. I am also a proud parent of a GGHS student. The school has changed some policies and the head principal. It all seems to be working nicely. It’s time for people to stop criticizing the teachers, students and parents of the students for sending the kids to this school.
        If your child has a good support system at home and a willingness to learn they can do it in any school. The teachers in GJHS are more than capable to do their jobs.My child is also thriving here… People it’s time to change the way you view this fantastic school.

        • Anonymous says:

          I agree also, I am a proud parent of a JGHS student with whatever they say to me the parents needs to be a part of there kids also the school!! my daughter has been going there for three years and for all three she has been getting very good reports!! yes from the worst school JGHS, so tell me what u guys think about this also she is coming from the CENTRAL where people put down everyday, but always remember it’s not where your coming from it’s where your going…

          • Anonymous says:

            Anonymous 9:54 amen to that!! Past elected officials are planting their people on tv bad mouthing the schools and the system. Those who obviously could not cut it. Not everybody should be teachers – you have to have a heart for it. Don’t take up the profession for the pay or the prestige.

      • Anonymous says:

        I have a daughter attending JGHS and I must say I agree with every point you made. Well said!! I hope JGHS continues to improve and it takes a team effort to do so.

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