Ed ministry to introduce school boards

| 15/04/2019 | 65 Comments

Cayman News Service(CNS): Premier Alden McLaughlin has revealed plans to introduce new governing bodies across Cayman Islands government schools, giving them the responsibility for raising students’ levels of achievement. As he delivered the Strategic Policy Statement in the Legislative Assembly Friday, he suggested that the education department may not be “best placed to make decisions about what happens in those classrooms”. Over the next two years school boards will be established to give parents, teachers and the wider community a direct say in how their schools are run, he added.

“While the minister will continue to set the overall direction for the education system and will hold schools to account, it will increasingly be the schools themselves that decide what happens in Cayman’s classrooms,” the premier told his colleagues.

Quality education comes not from the issuing of centrally driven policy documents but from what happens in the interaction between the teacher and the student,” McLaughlin said as he reviewed his government’s plans for education over the coming years.

“Taking decisions closer to that moment of truth by delegating responsibility away from the department and toward schools, principals and teachers will enable genuine improvement and innovation at the point where it really matters.”

The premier said he welcomed “the determination” the education minister had shown in driving forward the reforms necessary for public schools to improve and raising the quality of teaching.

“The next budget provides the additional money needed to deliver on the pledge to raise teachers’ pay to a monthly minimum of $5,000,” he confirmed, adding that it was “essential …to attract and retain the best people”.

Indicating other reforms, he said the Education Council, along with the education ministry, were setting the pace for further improvement, and the next step was to change the curriculum based on the latest British Schools’ Curriculum, which will be introduced in September.

“Some inside and outside the education establishment here have questioned whether this change is appropriate,” the premier stated. “They argue that Caymanian children may find the new curriculum too difficult. Call me a traditionalist if you will but I thought that education was supposed to challenge young minds.

“Rather than believe they should somehow settle in advance for a level of mediocrity, I believe in our young people. I believe they are as capable of learning and developing as any in the UK or elsewhere in the world.”

Claiming government was offering the right help and support for schools, investing in the quality of teaching and getting the right textbooks and other learning resources, he also said it would be investing in education infrastructure.

He said work on the new John Gray High School campus project is underway again and the target was to complete the project by the start of the 2021/22 academic year, provided there were no significant delays in the procurement or build out of the new school. 

We are aware that there are capacity and other issues elsewhere in the education system and we are tackling those as resources allow,” McLaughlin told the LA. “Other capital investments this year include in this SPS three new classrooms at Red Bay and construction of a hall at Bodden Town. We are also looking to improve the outdoor sporting facilities at a number of our public schools.”

The plans include new artificial turf football fields at Red Bay, Bodden Town and Prospect primary schools and playfields at Spot Bay Primary School in Cayman Brac and East End Primary School. 

McLaughlin said the government’s first priority was to drive up standards in schools, and that despite the recent disappointing results for several public schools following inspections, he said the evaluations “have indicated good progress at some schools whilst others are not yet where we would like to see them”.

He tasked all the government schools to rise to the challenge so that all of them can be rated as ‘excellent’. So far, no government school has received an excellent rating and the only one so far to be rated good was the Lighthouse School. 

But McLaughlin said it was the expectation of government for schools to achieve excellent grades and it was working with all stakeholders to ensure that goal was achieved.

Last week during a Finance Committee hearing to change the appropriations for the 2019 budget, Education Minister Juliana O’Connor Connolly set out the priorities for next year, adding around $2.6 million to education spending.

She said a curriculum implementation team had been established to put the new curriculum into practice in Cayman’s schools. She explained that children would now be “expected to learn more at an earlier age”.

This will include mastering their times table by the time children are nine, putting more emphasis on spelling, grammar and handwriting, as well as learning Shakespeare.

Children will also learn to write computer code, face a shift toward hard facts in science and a mandatory second language as part of the new more robust national curriculum. But schools will also incorporate local history and culture to address the specific needs of Cayman students.

Speaking about a trip by education officials to schools in England, the minister said the trip revealed the importance of school leadership and that the schools demonstrated a lack of behavioural problems that have plagued local schools.

“They had the necessary resources and teachers within the classroom,” the minister said of her own trip to UK schools, as she revealed the goal of having teaching assistants in every classroom, from early years to high school, within the next two years.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Speaking about a trip by education officials to schools in England, the minister said the trip revealed the importance of school leadership and that the schools demonstrated a lack of behavioural problems that have plagued local schools.

    BBC: Teachers face weekly violence from pupils, says survey https://www.bbc.com/news/education-47964155

    • Anonymous says:

      Schools visited were hand picked by none other than an SSIO. They are not representative of UK schools but of particular schools in a particular area. See 10.33 link. There are no quick fixes and when they realise this yet another layer of management will be put in place to fix the problem. The problem in Cayman is multi fold, no vision, lack of leadership from the top, poor management in schools, teachers who are either not qualified, don’t care or are so demoralized by the leadership they have given up, HR practice of hiring from the Third World or those from a particular church, a performance management that is not fit for purpose, disengaged pupils and many parents who simply don’t care. Could the Minister of Education please state how the appointment of school boards is going to address these issues? Could she also advise who will sit on these boards and what educational qualification they must hold to be appointed in the first place? How will she ensure that the Boards are not packed with failed teachers who were promoted in order to get them out of the classroom?

      • Anonymous says:

        Came across this post today. Very depressing but very accurate. Perhaps the Minister of Education would also advise the public how teachers who cannot spell are expected to teach kids to spell.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I wonder what has happened to the government appointments to the Education Council? They not doing their job? (CNS as reference see the Extraordinary Gazette 2018-67 for the long listing of appointees).

  3. Anonymous says:

    Promotion in schools is not on merit but is based on what church you attend, what family you come from and having powerful friends.Its the way it is in Cayman and always will be.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Attention: Ministry of Education, Housing & Gender Affairs

    Subject: Special Education Needs (SEN)
    Application Re: Caymanian Child of
    Complusory Education Age.

    Dear Mrs. Julianna O’Connor Conolly, I, a Caymanian mother of Caymanian children, write to you with regards to the above mentioned. I actually intended to place a formal letter in the Compass papers this week but realize time is not in my child’s favor.

    In January of this year I submitted an application for funding to assist my child with his special educational needs. The evidence submitted with the application thoroughly & completely confirms my child’s special educational needs, needs which the CI Educational System has failed to meet. (By all means this is no intention to criticize but merely a desperate cry of a parent who is trying all to secure a future for her child.)

    Unfortunately the SEN application was denied by the Education Council Board and an informal confirmation of that was provided to me via e-mail on or about April 8th, 2019. Sadden by this response, I requested the to be appeal the decision and requested a formal written response as to the basis of the denial.

    On April 11th, 2019, I was promised by SEN Dept. that by Tuesday, April 16th, 2019, I would receive the formal denial letter via e-mail along with steps to take to navigate an application requesting the Educational Council Board to reconsider their decision. That promise was broken as I did not receive the update up to 6pm that said day.

    I’ve done some reasearch and cleary see where the C.I. Educational System has failed, with regards to my child, to comply with some of their own policies and expert recommendations regarding children with special educational needs hence why I don’t undertsand why the application was denied.

    Mrs. Julianna O’Connor Connolly, I can appreciate this matter arrives at a time when there are heavier items on the scale for consideration, nonetheless my child’s case is not unique and when coupled/combined with similar cases should also carry a hefty weight worthy of urgent attention.

    The Cayman Islands is not a 3rd World Country hence I can’t comprehend why more is not done to ensure its future success by ensuring the majority of students in public schools are educated at an internation level, as a report I found on the Ministry’s web site seems to suggest that the current teaching procedures etc. does not adequately prepare school leavers, especially children with special needs, for the out side world.

    In closing, I am kindly asking for your officers to provide me with a formal update in the matter identifying their basis for the denial and my rights and steps to initiate the appeal.

    Thank you for your time.

    CNS: I would have made this a featured comment but there is no name included or any way for ministry officials to identify who you are or what the issue is, or how to contact you.

    • Anonymous says:

      They give grants to who they want to give grants to. You think they care about our children? Like the other writer said, they give it to their rich and powerful friends and their own families whilst the poor man child suffers.

      • Anonymous says:

        And millions is spent on non Caymanian children while there are inadequate resources for Caymanian children.

        • Anonymous says:

          Resources are not the issue.More is spend per child on education than both the USA and USA. The failure of our schools is down successive Educational CEO’s failing to address the disgraceful hiring practices and the utter failure of the Performance Management System. Its interesting to note that time and again Heads are forced to keep teachers who have failed Performance Management simply because they are connected.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I agree whole-heartedly with Alden’s comments on devolving power to the school BUT – and this is a big BUT! – it must be combined with accountability.

    I’m not sure a school board will be any more effective or decisive than the dept of education. CIS doesn’t have a school board. It seems to do okay.

    Just make the Principal the CEO of the school and make him or her accountable. Make them come up with a plan and fire them if their plan doesn’t work. The proof must be in the pudding – if the pudding’s no good, the chef has to go.

    The old approach would be for the dept of education to micro manage a poorly performing principal. And for the Ministry to micro-manage a poorly performing Dept of Ed.

    The same applies to teachers, Caymanian or otherwise. If they fail to perform, they have to go.

    Until everyone has autonomy with accountability nothing will change.

    • Anonymous says:

      Until Head teachers are allowed to fire staff nothing will change.

      • Jamie Lannister Victorius says:

        Wrong 7:59 p.m.

        1. Until students don’t come to school prepared to learn, nothing will change.
        2. Until parents don’t hold poorly-behaved kids accountable for their behaviour at school, nothing will change.
        3. Until parents don’t hold their kids accountable for their learning at school,
        nothing will change.
        4. Until government doesn’t hold negligent parents accountable for their actions, nothing will change.
        5. Until government doesn’t hold itself accountable for being irresponsible, immoral, nepotist, and corrupt, nothing will change.

      • Anonymous says:

        Or decide who they hire

    • Anonymous says:

      Just a other Day in our amazing CIG. Come on haters admit it.

      This plus reduced fees for the Elderly makes me so proud of our Government.

  6. Anonymous says:

    How much better might our government schools do if so many hours were not wasted teaching children religious fairy tales? Imagine all that time spent teaching, math, reading and writing instead.

    Wait, maybe we can just merge actual useful education into the current religious indoctrination program.

    How about this as an example of a math problem that could be used? — If you have 5,000 people speaking in tongues + 12,000 people hearing voices in their heads + 16000 people using the Bible to justify hate and ignorance, how many total religious fanatics would you have? Now, divide that figure by a thousand years and what do you have? Please show your work.

    (Correct answer: The Dark Ages)


    • Anonymous says:

      Here’s the kicker: Cayman Prep and High School is owned and operated by the United Church of Jamaica and Grand Cayman. Always has been. Guess the “religious fundamentalists” are good for something afterall. And here is another interesting fact: it’s run by Debbie McLaughlin, the Premier’s sister. Can it be that a Caymanian can be that good?

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s one class. Children learning about religions is the absolute least of the problems in Cayman’s education system

      • Anonymous says:

        If you honestly think dozens of hours per semester during some of the most formative and influential times in the entirely of human lives should be used for the furtherance of indoctrination rather than actual educations I pity you
        I was encouraged by multiple persons within the general education field and church organizations to avoid going to “liberal” tertiary institutions and if I did feel further education was necessary to pick a school based on religious teachings rather than anything else

        There are serious issues in Cayman’s education system, and cutting RE is a great start to making sure our kids can compete on internationally

  7. Anonymous says:

    Whenever our politicians face criticism for continuously doing nothing to solve problems they appoint a board/authority/other bunch of cronies to put between justifiable criticism and their do nothing back sides. All this will do is add cost and give the politicians a board to blame for their own incompetence. This will not help our failing schools.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Will whatever you’re planning to do help teach these kids how to use punctuation????? It’s quite evident that past graduates never learned this as so many comments on so many articles on CNS and elsewhere have people ranting about things without a single use of punctuation! It’s mind boggling to me, as I learned where to put a period, comma, etc when I was in 2nd grade! Will his school boards help with that? FFS

  9. Anonymous says:

    Excellent. Just what is needed, more chiefs.

    If they can squeeze in some representatives from churches, that should be perfect for the critical mass of nonsense to carry on too.

    • Anonymous says:

      Then they’ll teach that fossils are a lie created by the devil, evolution isn’t a proven fact and the dating methods used to prove that we’ve been here longer than 6000 years are fake.

    • Anonymous says:

      So will the SSIO’s be now sacked for failing to improve schools?

  10. Anonymous says:

    The trouble is the parents. Since they don’t care and won’t help the children, how will this help?

    • Anonymous says:

      ridiculous generalization

    • Anonymous says:

      It won’t, but at least we are taking a step in the right direction.

      Meanwhile, perhaps we could stop with the import of those foreign parents who do not care, and thereby minimize the problem going forward.

      • Anonymous says:

        How about free birth control since our caymanians are breeding like green iguanas

      • Anonymous says:

        Obviously comprehension isn’t your strong point is it? The boards will be for public schools which very few expat kids attend. My god, the information is right in front of you; don’t let that stop you from spreading hate and misrepresentation.


  11. Replace the RE says:

    Great way to improve education standards in the Cayman islands
    Remove standalone Religious education either all together or add them as part of the social studies classes the students already take

    They could save hundreds of hours through primary education alone that could be used for far more important classes
    Brainwashing kids into believing in one sky fairy over another by telling them if they don’t they will burn in hell for all eternity is a waste of time
    The private schools are already doing enough proselytizing via brainwashing (as I have witnessed from firsthand experience in both the public and private school systems)
    If parents want religious educations for children they can send them to churches or let them pursue it during tertiary education like every other specialized area of learning

    Wouldn’t cost a cent more and the results would likely be dramatic
    There is no reason why we should be focusing on arks, floods, and burning bushes in the desert when our year after year results show our schools are not getting kids where they should be

    *I have no doubts the religious right will be outraged at this comment but if you think it is the job of primary and secondary schools to brainwash your kids you are part of the problem
    Its not like force feeding kids religious educations is stopping the widespread disillusionment with religion that can be seen around the world including Cayman
    We should be emulating other nations who education standards exceed our own by far

    Like it or not the fact of the matter is religious education is a waste of time during their youth when kids minds are the most absorbent to new knowledge look at the basic structure of the Korean curriculum a nation consistently rated with some of the top education standards in the world

    • Anonymous says:

      I am a religious teacher at one of our Universities and I can tell you that without God and my church I would not have been able to organize getting fired non-church going teachers. Circumstantial evidence is all that God requires and the church allows us to band together against such heathens to do whatever it takes to get rid of them. God spoke to me and he wanted me to cast out these demons of our educational system. They are a cancer to Cayman and JuJu is on the right track and we will all some day inherit the kingdom without such infidels that are causing all the problems in our schools.

      • Anonymous says:

        I think it is time we require all teachers to declare their faith and attend church or else if you do not like it then we will buy you your one way ticket.

      • Anonymous says:

        Lol! This poster is an imposter!

    • Anonymous says:

      …and this is clearly your anti-Christian plan to eliminate religion in Cayman. Do you propose a course on “sky fairies” takes it place too?

      • Anonymous says:

        Oh yeah, cos most atheists are all about teaching kids about the sky fairies.

      • Anonymous says:

        I think I was pretty clear it was my plan to ensure our students can use the hundreds of reallocated classroom hours to you know…
        Actually learn something of real tangible value

        If you want to get your kids a religious “education” (indoctrination) send them to private schools, send them to Sunday schools and send them to religious universities with laughable accreditations to waste their time and money

        Education is the investment in our kids futures and we are pissing hundreds of hours per kid away by teaching them about whales swallowing people whole, burning bushes, and nonexistent gardens with magical knowledge fruits

  12. Anonymous says:

    More boards filled with PPM donors and lackeys who will be nothing but a talkshop while accomplishing nothing

    If these boards aren’t completely apolitical and independent from the Ministry and the MLAs they will be useless
    I would say they should be elected locally but the PPM would just run candidates there is no point

    These boards will likely be DOA

  13. Ironside says:

    Keeps throwing poo and I guess eventually it’ll stick but then dries up and, well, you’ve seen a cow’s haven’t you?

    Dear people in charge, watch a documentary-movie named “Waiting for Superman”. This will open your eyes to the lack of care/failures and also show care/achievements when it comes to the public school and education machine.

  14. Anonymous says:

    This will be good. More school board members means more jobs for possibly those who have failed high school. Our government is so clever in solving our education problem. They deserve a raise.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Huge mistake. Inevitably the school boards will be packed with Christian fundamentalists who will then engineer curricula that teach children creationism, climate change denialism, assorted other pseudoscience, and just plain religious dogma. Science and reality are too important to trust to a popularity contest.

  16. Anon says:

    Ju Ju , it looks to me like this new curriculum would be admirably suited to the Speaker. Just imagine quotes from Shakespeare resonating in the House.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Trouble is, these boards will be filled with political cronies and the madness will continue.

    • Anonymous says:

      Exactly! They will take the same incompetent leaders and give them more power. How absurd?!

    • Anonymous says:

      Raising the level of education means abandoning regional teachers and impossibly hoping the parents will magically step up and take an interest.

      • Anonymous says:

        Correct, it also means bring an end to the practice of the promotion of failed teachers to positions of authority.

        • Anonymous says:

          Never going to happen!

        • Anonymous says:

          It’s crazy how this happens…at least 2 on Cayman Brac in the past year. Suppose it’s better than being in the classroom and having a stronger influence on our kids. Can’t they just fire these failures?

        • Anonymous says:

          Well that should clear out most of middle management in schools, in the department of education and in the Ministry.

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