Kids at SJAC Primary falling well behind

| 08/12/2020 | 70 Comments
Cayman News Service

(CNS): A significant number of young students attending Sir John A. Cumber Primary in West Bay are far behind where they should be, the Office of Education Standards (OES) found after a follow-up inspection of the school in November. Overall the school was graded ‘satisfactory’ but children’s attainment in English, mathematics and science was ‘weak’ and only a minority of kids could write their letters correctly by the end of Year 1.

“Attainment in English was weak when compared to local and international standards,” inspectors found in their report of the school, where almost one third of the children have special needs.

Inspectors noted that during the COVID-19 lockdown, “when students were learning at home, a significant proportion was unable to participate in on-line learning due to a lack of internet access or the required hardware. As a consequence, students’ progress was hampered.”

Nevertheless, the inspectors reported: “In Reception, only a few children recognised letters. By the end of Year 1, most were able to name letters and sounds but, in writing, only a minority could form letters correctly. Most students needed adult support to form simple sentences.”

The report said that almost all students were reading from simple tests well below the standard expected for their age, and the results from reading assessments showed almost all students to be well below expectations. The inspectors found the same situation with writing.

Attainment in maths was ‘weak’ across the school, inspectors said, noting that in the Reception class no children reached the expected level in the latest assessments. Only a minority of students were able to count to 10, although a few were able to add single digit numbers together.

“During lessons only a few students were able to confidently solve simple problems,” the inspectors stated, adding that Key Stage 2 students scored below average in government tests and international assessments.

Children’s attainment in science was also ‘weak’, with assessments indicating that the majority of students were below expected standards and most students did not demonstrate age-appropriate scientific knowledge or understanding. The majority of students in Key Stage 1 had weak literacy skills, the inspectors noted, which had an adverse impact on the children’s ability to access aspects of the science curriculum.

The school failed to attain anything more than a ‘weak’ or ‘satisfactory’ grade from inspectors in any of the judged criteria and there will be another follow-through inspection within six to eight months to evaluate progress against the areas for improvement.

The inspectors have made a number of recommendations for school leaders, including the need to raise attainment across core subjects by holding teachers more accountable for the rates of progress made by their students.

The school was told the quality of teaching needed to improve and advised that it formulate an effective system to facilitate the sharing of good practice within the school, cut the time teachers talk in lessons and improve student assessment.

Among other directions, the inspectors said teachers should also raise their expectations of the children.

Sir John A. Cumber is the largest government primary school in the Cayman Islands, with 505 students from four to eleven years old. There are 60 teachers and 27 teaching assistants. Around 30% of the students have special educational needs and English is a second language for several of the children who speak Spanish.

During the COVID-19 lockdown earlier this year, SJAC Principal Jovanna Wright and her staff delivered lunches and supplies to her students and found that some of them were living in “unmentionable circumstances” without running water or electricity, which she described as “heartbreaking”.

See full report in CNS Library

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Category: Education, Local News

Comments (70)

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  1. Cat man says:

    Of course they are behind. They lost months of schooling due to Covid. These are not rich Cayman International School students, these are local kids. Their parents might have lost their jobs. Instead of doing anything reasonable we deny our youth any chance to be competitive. What on God’s green earth is our Government thinking?!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Let’s give all the staff a raise and another month off. I’m sure it’ll work this time.

  3. Anonymous says:

    how you expect any child to learn when they are hungry. the society needs fixing before the school can work

  4. Anonymous says:

    The biggest issue in the education system is leadership. Leaders influence the direction of the schools. How can the students progress if they are not taught?

    Firstly, we test more than we teach. There is a test every six weeks. Based on my experience, students are taught for 3 weeks the most out of those six weeks, the other times are spent in assemblies, celebration events, etc.

    Then there is the data collection, literally reporting in 50 different ways.

    Don’t forget the harassment from the Principal and her cronies that don’t know anything.

    All in all, it’s one big mess!!

    I think the SMT, Principals and DES personnel would’ve been benefited from a trip to UK that way, we could at least teach for 4 weeks with little to no interruptions.

  5. Ebanks says:

    An illiterate person would understand that this is an improvement from the last inspection and the one before that and the one before that…..look at the facts.
    Where is the accountability of the parents?
    SJACPS keep moving forward, some progress is better than none.
    You will accomplish the goals set before you.

    • Anonymous says:

      Inching is for amateurs, we pay good money to see professional progress and to make the mile.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Look who their role model is.
    The lady beater from the bay.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Translation: I am Caymanian so listen up or else. Abstract bla bla bla with no real ideas for improvement since that takes hard work and detailed logs of what is happening in the classroom with harsh realities. Let’s continue what we are doing, work is all done, where is my paycheck.

  8. Kman says:

    An honest assessment and clearly shows that our public education is an utter mess to say the least. Yet we also need to address the issues of poor parenting and allowing anyone to go to school even if they’re not ready physically, mentally or academically.

    As the report indicates 30% of children have special needs and probably another 20% are native Spanish speakers. Spending millions on new school isn’t the answer and certainly giving pay raises for goodness sake won’t provide many long term benefits either, a complete overhaul is required and ASAP.
    Enough with the politicians using our children education as pet projects and its time to go back to the basics of ABC and 123. I’m a Caymanian and a former student of JACPS 1978-83 and it hurts me deeply to see the level of neglect our children are suffering from and lack of respect that’s shown to teachers. However grading students from Year 1 isn’t a fair analysis of the entire school so let’s not jump too quickly and make JACPS a complete failure even if significant improvements are needed to address these challenges.

  9. Anonymous says:

    The many bad teachers just copy the good and then get them fired to cover their lack of effort. Teachers, like most, need to provide for their kids or families and will do anything to that effect. Cayman educational institutional politics 101.

  10. Anonymous says:

    And the DES appointed an acting Principal to SJACPS that has never even had a management position before. As a primary school senior manager I would like to know how this was allowed.

    • Anonymous says:

      This makes no sense. How else would she get the opportunity though?

      11:44 am you sound like you don’t know what you’re talking about!!

      • Anonymous says:

        By the usual route of gaining experience through middle and senior management posts over a number of years.

        Her appointment was not usual and being promoted from a class teacher straight to principal needs investigating. There are lots of good deputy principals in Cayman that should have been considered first.

        And I assure you that I do know what I am talking about! Many years of experience!

      • Anonymous says:

        She’s never been on a senior management team in a school…that would be a start. or, perhaps starting off at a small school meatier than the largest on island? Just saying!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Cayman employs the best of best where teachers are concerned. In some cases teachers do the bare minimum and I find that it’s the older teachers who have been in the system for 13+ years who short the kids. Having said that, the social construct of cayman is also to be blamed. I found an article online by a former teacher who taught in the Cayman Islands in the 80-90’s, and the things she spoke about then are still happening now. You say teachers must ensure that work is done….ok, whenever I give homework I’ll call the parents. Why then when I call the parents I hear that tim has a bday party to attend or the family will be out for family dinner, the maid won’t be in till next week, or you tired of teachers calling you and you hate all teachers. Next scenario, your child keeps leaving their book home, I call to remind you to ensure that he/she packs their book you say yes and guess what….the book is a no show. I start calling very often and you stop answering my calls. Next scenario, you and your child actively discuss your hate for teachers, child comes to school with a chip of their shoulder for all teachers.

    • Anonymous says:

      You mean teachers that know how students will scam the system will put their feet to then fire? Well there is your problem, we need fresh teachers unaware of the cayman situation who will not rock the boat so we can get back to business as usual.

  12. Anonymous says:

    We haven’t seen anything yet! More and more children will be here and in our school. Talk about a mess. We are already bursting at the seams – how much more is going to happen before we step up and take the bull by the horn????

  13. Anonymous says:

    The blind leading the blind… SMH

  14. Anonymous says:

    My son attends a Government school and he’s in year 1. Sometimes the homework he is given is very questionable for a 5 year old. A few weeks ago it was sequencing number lines, which as much as I tried to explain and teach him, he struggled with it. Some of the work is really too advanced in my opinion. I really feel like the curriculum needs a complete overhaul. I feel like year one should be more centered around, shapes, colors, numbers, learning site words, teaching them how to form sentences and questions, MANNERS, and hygiene. Yes folks I agree manners should be taught at home, but nothing is wrong with having it reinforced at school for these young kids. Let them go outside and teach them about nature. Kids will advance at different levels and we can’t paint them all with the same brush. They won’t all be lawyers, doctors and accountants. Cayman definitely needs a trade school. Chefs, mechanics, hospitality, and electrical are all well paid fields too, to name a few. Just my two cents here.

    • Lo-cal says:

      I fully agree with you. Here we copy anything the UK does and push our kids to attain and push to get them out of school at 15 and 16 (Soo Dumb) a 5 year old in most countries is still in preschool.

      Cayman does not have a worker shortage, so why push them out so young? in my opinion no one should graduate before their 18th birthday.

      • Anonymous says:

        They can stay in school until 18 – at the private schools. If they have the necessary grades to get in then government pays their fees.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why do people keep acting like UCCI does not provide trade skills? Why not use what you have instead of always off to something new?

      • Anonymous says:

        Because that program is not efficient or very good. It barely ever runs the classes people sign up to take.

    • Anonymous says:

      The focus should be on the basics- Reading, Writing, Math, personal and social skills indeed. It’s all nonsense!

      We should all come together and create our own school minus all the UK bs.

      • Anonymous says:

        Sorry but that’s the worst idea ever. Please realize there’s no need to reinvent the wheel and no shame in leaning on others who have already done this successfully. I know nobody wants to hear about the UK or the US and both countries have their own host of problems etc. however, many many many other countries have far superior education frameworks. Ours is failing, full stop. There’s nothing to be proud about and say “well it’s getting better” or coming up with excuses and blaming expats etc.
        adopt a good system, in full.
        Get rid of all the old teachers who preach and don’t teach.
        Hire new staff that are highly educated and high performing in their field.
        Push parents and families to give a $#!+ and realize that fixing this is the ONLY way to get future generations up to speed with their peers.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sorry to break this to you but numbers and colors and manners are what kids can usually handle at 2-3 years old. Decent preschools have them counting to 20, washing their hands, asking politely and understanding colors, big/small, rough/smooth etc by 3 or under. All kids learn at different speeds and that’s 100% ok but the teachers need to push and help them learn and grow. Riding the easy train is just going to leave them farther behind their peers.
      My two cents.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I said many times raising up Teachers salaries by one thousand will not have no effect, if one has good work ethics they have it and if they don’t have it they just don’t have it.

  16. Anonymous says:

    “kids behind in school”

    Juju’s response: “lol give them 2 extra weeks off”

  17. Anonymous says:

    My child has been in the public, primary system for a number of years and it is only now that she has a teacher that I can ‘write home about’.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes but are parents reinforcing learning at home? It starts at home by talking to kids when they are young, helping them form language and count. You all expect teachers to do it all.

      And are we ready yet to discuss the level of inbreeding in WB and the very real effects it has had on the gene pool. we joke about it, but it is a very real thing.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Caymanian culture is to blame. Bring you children up with no respect for parents, teachers, and education and what do you get? Million dollar schools with ten cent students. Will this change in the future? No. Get used to it. It is and will be the norm for most Caymanians. Who are you going to blame? Anyone but yourself.

  19. Anonymous says:

    What a mess….and the grade is satisfactory. The illiterate would interpret this as OK… me satisfactory is poor. We continue to ‘lower the bar’ and accept failure.

  20. Anonymous says:

    1/3 Special Needs? That alone tells the story of societal breakdown in Cayman. That is not the teachers fault. It is clearly and only a parenting (lack of) issue.

    • anon says:

      8.49am “Special needs” – applies to most of the West Bay M.P.’s and one in particular.

    • Anonymous says:

      Probably equal parts gene pool, fetal drug use, absentee fathers, and resentful unsupported home lives, but these are all wild, bias-based, generalizations. The fact is, there remains little political will, or budget, to make necessary and effective early social interventions. Many high-rank education officials will state to your face, that Cayman also needs “grocery bag packers”, as if to acquit themselves of any duty.

      • A concerned Caymanian says:

        Harsh words ! But they all have a ring of truth to them . Especially in regards to the lack of political will and the utter lack of concern from them to address the societal issues . Why would they care about their constituents when they laid plans to ask for independence and reattach to their previous motherland as soon as possible and I am not speaking about the U.K in that instance.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I understand that teaching can be a very challenging job but we have to come to a realization that the schools are not overly crowded like some other countries! The teachers are not to blame no.. but I think we need to all pull up our socks and GET TO WORK! And stop making excuses! The kids love these long breaks and they are the ones ultimately suffering! I say this with all due respect but teachers and school staff are not the only persons that are stressed! There are hard working essential staff that have it worst and on top of that have to worry about home schooling and supervising our kids for a longer break!

  22. Anonymous says:

    To be fair the report has a lot of positive notes too. People should read the actual document before getting too emotional about it.

  23. Anonymous says:

    poor teachers and sub-standard parenting….. a recipe for disaster.

  24. Anonymous says:

    ju-ju will surely resign …not.
    and that sums up the problem of cayman …poor performance at the very highest level with no accountability…

  25. Anonymous says:

    a tragedy…my recommendation would be to give the teachers a pay rise and extra xmas holidays….
    yep welcome to wonderland.

  26. Anonymous says:

    We can’t continue to put money into this failing investment. Parents need to start to pay for the education of their failures,

    • Anonymous says:

      The parents need to enforce the learning as well. Dont just leave it to the teachers.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Say what now?! Clearly something isn’t right…🕒

  28. Anonymous says:

    Controversial opinion alert… Keep religion in the church and out of schools. There is too much focus on the bible and not enough on basic education and life skills. I’m not saying people shouldn’t be religious but there is too much focus on it in public schools.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Yes…let’s blame the teachers…zzzzzz😪

    • Anonymous says:

      More like blame the parents. Before we started primary school in the UK our parents made sure that we could read, write and handle basic maths. Never had a family myself but my late brother did exactly the same with his four children – they’ve all gone on into professional careers. The problem is too many parents here just see the schools as a convenient dumping ground for their offspring, that’s where the rot sets in.

      • Anonymous says:

        I think that even though teachers are responsible for teaching our children, PARENTS play a big part and have a responsibility to ensure that their children are learning or getting the help that they need if the child/ren are struggling.

      • Anonymous says:

        You are assuming the parents know how to read and write, or know basic maths…

  30. Anonymous says:

    Yet they’ll be getting two weeks extra out of school this Christmas.

  31. Anonymous says:

    I find the results from say Year 2 and up more significant. It bothers me when they say that no one in Reception reached the expected level in maths. I personally think too much emphasis is placed on academic achievements at too early an age nowadays.

    In any case it is a difficult situation, especially given that 30% of the students have special needs. Cayman’s education problems are social problems for the most part, not teacher problems. There were a couple bad decisions made in the past in regards to who had access to public education here and then the decline started.

    I just spoke with a teacher on island who has taught in countries all over the world. She was teaching at John Gray locally at one point (no longer) and she said she has never seen anything like it. Gross disrespect for teachers, an unwillingness to learn, students who constantly disrupt and make it impossible for everyone, etc. It affected her mentally for what she went through there on a daily basis. Completely defeated and frustrated. She tried not to let it get to her but eventually gave up and moved on.

    It is an extremely challenging situation to rectify.

    • Anonymous says:

      Wish I could like your comment 100 times. I do not think we should be classifying the learning abilities of kids in reception through to year 2. It just makes no sense assigning these label’s to children in this age range. I’ve seen quite a few children who I’m guilty of writing off at such an early age and boy did they surprise me, one has a masters in biochemical engineering and another is now a CPA.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Teachers must improve

    • Anonymous says:

      How about the parents improving…not just the teachers? The standards of parenting in the government schools in far too many cases is terrible.

      • Anonymous says:

        Spend a day at a public school. The kids are so poorly behaved, but the teachers have either given up or are so poorly trained, it is no wonder these children are horrible. I also witnessed a teacher using cursing and physical removal of a female student who was misbehaving at Clifton hunter.

        • Anonymous says:

          Take a hard hat

        • Anonymous says:

          I work at clifron and I’ve never heard of this. Please shed some light on this.

        • Anonymous says:

          I am sorry, but your contract will not be renewed.

        • Anonymous says:

          True, some teachers try to discipline, but some others do not. Then, as a teacher, you get tired of saying things because they do the same thing by another teacher and nothing is said. The kids get it and the foolishness continues. The old principal should of not been run out, but Uncle Bernie had his way.

    • Anonymous says:

      On vacation

    • Anonymous says:

      Parenting must also improve. These are the people who keep electing McKeeva and this problem is what he should be concentrating on.

    • Anonymous says:

      This starts at the top. First, replace the Minister, then work your way down through the Ministry followed by the Department. Then, replace the teachers.

      • Anonymous says:

        Just replace the bad kids with good ready to learn kids and the problem is solved. PS. You’ll have to fly them in.

  33. Anonymous says:


  34. Anonymous says:

    Do not allow students to advance until they have mastered grade appropriate skills. It really is that easy!

    • Anonymous says:

      8:42, some of them would be in primary school until they are 18. It really is NOT that easy.

  35. Anonymous says:

    They’re probably just tired. Give them two weeks extra off at Christmas.

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