Poor leaders undermine school’s achievements

| 04/01/2021 | 71 Comments
Photo courtesy of St Ignatius Catholic School

(CNS): What was once considered one of Cayman’s best private schools has been given just a ‘satisfactory’ grade by government inspectors. Even though student attainment and progress was either ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ in English, maths and science across the whole school, “fundamental weaknesses in leadership and governance” brought down St Ignatius Catholic School’ overall grade. Despite some excellent teaching, inspectors said governance fell short of best practice and management decision-making wasn’t fit for purpose.

Inspectors from the Office of Education Standards criticised St Ignatius over how it handled the recent departure of the head of school and the resulting staffing issues, and said parents who wished to support the school were unhappy.

“Staff were also unhappy and the lack of effective governance was destabilising the school’s operation and continuing effectiveness. The high turnover of staff risked compromising the maintenance of high-quality teaching and learning,” inspectors warned.

The school charges over CI$9,200 per annum for primary children, rising up to more CI$12,500 for sixth form students, but inspectors found that both leadership and self-evaluation of staff was weak. The school will face a review in sixth months time to see if the inspectors’ recommendations have been implemented.

“The secondary organisational structure was not fit for purpose,” the inspectors said in their report, as they pointed out that one or two teachers who are very committed are doing much of the work but are being isolated.

“This was recognised by leaders, but changes had been halted by problematic decision-making and staffing issues,” the inspectors wrote. “Secondary senior leaders were not sufficiently active in monitoring and supporting staff which had led to many staff feeling undervalued, over-burdened and demoralised.

“The current concerns about aspects of school governance and leadership, as expressed in the survey and in person by relatively large numbers of stakeholders, had distressed those on all sides of the conflict and were beginning to impact on well-being across the school.”

Inspectors added that the lack of defined timescales regarding recruitment had resulted in a shortage of qualified teachers.

This article has been updated to show that the fees stated are per annum. An earlier version incorrectly said they were per term.

See the full report in the CNS Library.

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Category: Education, Local News, Private Sector Oversight

Comments (71)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    If the teaching is excellent, that’s all I really need to hear. The rest is the usual PTA mommy wars.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Great school, great teachers, and great children.

    • Hubert says:

      The truth hurts so many parents as they are in denial about what has occurred at the school the past 3 years.

      The answer is not to stop the indefensible. If you do, in the end your children will ultimately pay the price.

  3. A Fan of St Ig. Go Saints!! says:

    Best school on Grand Cayman without a doubt. High standard of Academics, Great Music Teachers and the Arts, sports and extra educational activities . By far the most diverse ( in fact second to none). You will find former students in high level positions today. It can’t be right for a satisfactory score! the fact that the excellent stuff is undermined by a lack of leadership and drag the score down is totally unfair to the hard work of teachers and the principals. The test is in the pudding; have a conversation with a St Ignatius student / past student and you will understand.

    • Anonymous says:

      High standard of sports – I assume that’s a misprint? We’re abysmal and taught that taking part is all that matters. It’s embarrassing going to sports days against other schools.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I’m an atheist and I send my kids there because the teaching is great. I can confidently say they don’t force religion on any child.
    As harsh as the overall grade may be, the ispectors had to do it in order to justify returning in 6 months to follow up and ensure leadership is making the necessary changes.

  5. Anonymous says:

    What this boils down to is a few parents/teachers decided they don’t like to be told no to anything so they picked up their toys and went home. Now they are trying to smear the school and force the priest to resign. Quite selfish, actually. Hopefully it backfires on them. The funny thing is, if you don’t like a school you’re free to take your kids somewhere else. The last I checked St Ignatius pumps out some of the most successful kids.

    • Anonymous says:

      A few parents? Over 51% of the parents signed the petition that was issued calling for good governance. Check http://www.stignatiusparents.org for the “few” parents that are calling for change and improvement.

      The school inspectorate was done by highly qualified inspectors, some independent from the UK, who further validated the concerns through the evidence they saw during the inspection.

      Those best students are “pumped” out because of the hard work and dedication of the teachers! NOT because of the church and priests.

      The school has been through many priests who upheld good governance structures and supported past Heads of Schools and Principals and actually took part in day to day activities with the students. The latest run of priests have only been power hungry with no educational background or understanding of local laws and good governance. If they weren’t power hungry they would put in a proper constitutionally appointed board with reasonable power to help run the school with qualified parents. Which was what was done before and it worked!

      Parents and teachers have a right to fight for what is right and demand change as again, the inspection has shown that teaching and learning is not the problem.

      • Anonymous says:

        Looks like a nerve was struck. You can try to continue to spin the truth and fool people, but you’re the power hungry one, not Father Naveen. I think you fail to comprehend that this is a CATHOLIC school. You may not practice the Catholic faith, or care about it being a central part of this school, but it is a Catholic school and you cannot change this. The Catholic faith will be part of the curriculum and if you don’t like it, go next door.

        • Anonymous says:

          For the record I am Catholic and have been around St. Ignatius for a very long time. Looks like you can’t read or read to understand. Accountability and transparency is what is being called for and I wasn’t aware the Catholic Church was exempt from that?

          If you would take the time to go through the parent website you would see clearly what is being demanded and it isn’t the removal of the church from the school. The parent group has also used the Archdiocese of Detroit’s constitutional document for their church schools, edited to align with legal and regulatory requirements of the Cayman Islands.

          No one wants to change it from being a Catholic School and challenging authority of the church and ensuring they run the organisation properly has nothing to do with caring or not about the Catholic faith. It’s those who follow blindly, not challenging authority that leads to abuse of power and bad governance and leadership.

      • Anonymous says:

        Lobbying parents to sign and duplicate names on the 51% ‘parent list’ – it’s equivalent to a Trump campaign. On closer inspection there’s probably names on it of people who have no connection to the school whatsoever.

        • Anonymous says:

          Telling Catholic parents who have signed the petition that they are bad Catholics and need to remove their name from the petition is equivalent to Trump. Something the priest has done.

        • Anonymous says:

          I doubt it. I am a former student and a former parent – I would have signed the petition but it would not let me.

      • Anonymous says:

        How did the Parents group get all our confidential data, and how are they storing said data? Breach of CDIL law?

    • Anonymous says:

      Funny that when inspectors who are independent of the Ministry of Education and many of whom are recruited from the UK to carry out these inspections _ report that a public school is failing, they are applauded but when they report that a private school is not doing well the inspectors are the problem. What a mess.

      Denial is such a bad thing.

      Get a life.

  6. Anonymous says:

    What kind of parents send their children to a Catholic school in this day and age? Everyone should know by now that the Catholic Church has a horrific record when it comes to child sexual abuse. It’s almost criminal negligence to let a child go anywhere near them.

    CNS: This has come up a couple of times. There have indeed been horrific examples of child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic church that have been covered up by the church itself, which is a huge scandal and unforgivable. However, there are 1.2 billion Catholics in the world, so it’s entirely unreasonable to tar them all because of the actions of the very very few. All parents should be aware that child abusers are most often trusted adults, of any religion or no religion, and make sure they know the signs. MASH has some good tips and links here.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I can’t be bothered reading the report, does it provide commentary on the new fantastic state of the art Sports Hall that was due to break ground in 2020 where substantial donations were received? If it’s not now going ahead due to the “global pandemic”, can the donations be returned?

    Here we are in 2021 and the so called new Sports Hall is a muddy field used as an overflow car park and the occasional location for a crappy sports day of bean bag throwing. Assume all that cash is safe and fully accounted for.

  8. Anonymous says:

    You are only as strong as your weakest link. It is clear from the report that the weakest link is the leadership and governance and until this is addressed, it will continue to drag the rest of the school down.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Where and when did the “government inspectors” go to school? Your welcome.

  10. Anonymous says:

    The academic aspect of the school is excellent and we have a great track record. But it’s the priest’s leadership which is bringing the school down and causing staff to resign. Our head of school resigned because she was bullied out by the higher ups; and parents feel like they aren’t being told what’s going on and being kept in the dark. Our last priest was worse though; he was a bitter man who kept firing teachers left right and center! The church just wants control because they’re power hungry. I understand it’s a catholic school but the head of school position should be given to someone who has been trained to run a school, a priest is not.

  11. Anonymous says:

    For those who don’t understand the inspection regime, Governance and Leadership is one of the big items that is weighted heavily along with student attainment and progress and a few others. It’s one of those “only as strong as your weakest link” situations. The school couldn’t have gotten “Good” with Governance and Leadership being “Weak”. Anyone who has ever worked for a company/someone else knows how corporate structure and leadership can affect a business and this also applies to schools. Just because everything else is strong at the time of the inspection, it does not mean it will stay that way. If governance and leadership is not dealt with then there is the potential that teaching and learning could drop as it directly affects the working environment for the school staff. If St. Ignatius got “Good” it would not have highlighted the importance of the governance and leadership needing to be dealt with and improved with urgency which it does.

    The teachers and staff of St. Ignatius are holding up that school and they are to be admired for doing so amazingly in such a disheartening, stressful and devaluing environment. The Church and anyone else involved in the governance and leadership needs to do what is right and implement the recommendations so that the school can move to excellent overall. Can you imagine what the staff could do if they worked in a positive environment where they are valued?!

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree 100% BUT fear that if leadership at St Ignatius is weak – hate to think what grade Clifton Hunter will achieve.

  12. Anonymous says:

    If you don’t want to present your financials for scrutiny, don’t pretend to be a not-for-profit.

    That’s really all this is about.

  13. anon says:

    Who is responsible for signing off on these school reports? – looks like here someone has a personal agenda.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Almost like church shouldn’t be a school too…. it’s gross that people who don’t believe in evolution also teach our children science. Go to Sunday school if you must but keep it out of everyday education.

    • Anonymous says:

      People who send children to these indoctrination facilities are admitting by action that their religion has to be imposed on young minds to survive generation after generation.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’m an atheist and I send my kids there because the teaching is great. I can confidently say they don’t force religion on any child

  15. Anonymous says:

    The over all rating of the school is very harsh – the consistently high academic achievements in the school are all but being overlooked.
    The school is lucky enough to have amazing teachers. Look at the yearly results the school achieves and compare and contrast.
    No way should it be given such an overall low score.

    • Anonymous says:

      And to think what these amazing teachers have achieved with the state of management. Changes at the top are essential and not just the church.

    • Anonymous says:

      The same can be said for clifton…..our passes are always better than John Gray’s but…..the inspector say we are weak and I didn’t see anyone saying that the rating was hash when we got our judgement. I say this to say stop being a bloat and accept the judgment of the inspectors

  16. Anonymous says:

    Hmmm. A PE teacher (yes, she was) is running our Education Ministry and everything that comes with it!! That says it all!

    Speaking of which, I’m curious how Government inspectors can grade St. Ignatius’ standards as declining yet no Government school has ever reached the standards which the Catholic school once held and they are still not improving. Yet seemingly, Government, specifically the PE-teacher-led Education Ministry and its agencies, are paying no attention to that!!

    • Anonymous says:

      This is very misleading, she was also an attorney in private practice before getting elected.

      • Anonymous says:

        And also failed miserably as an Attorney in the same manner she is failing as Education Minister

      • Anonymous says:

        And a good PE teacher can teach myriad social and life skills re teamwork, fairness, punctuality, motivation, facing challenges, etc. I am not saying she was a good one, I do not know, but don’t downgrade PE. We have an excellent PE teacher at my kids school who has successfully taught other subjects but he feels he has more impact teaching PE.

    • Anonymous says:

      As Jack Black said in School of Rock
      Those that can’t, teach.
      Those that can’t teach, teach PE.

      We need a new line
      Those that can’t teach PE become Principals.

    • Anonymous says:

      Funny that you think a PE teacher isn’t qualified enough because the secondary side of Ignatius is run by one.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I think the fees you quoted are per annum & not per term, according to their website,

    CNS: You are correct. The article has been updated.

  18. JMNJSH Agenda says:

    This is what happens when you let outsiders come to this island and tweek your immigration rules and laws over 156 times undesirables cannot be remove from our shores when they turn up here with their religious bias and disrespectful destructive and disruptive agenda’s and are protected by the law that is supposed to protect these islands and our children’s future. The problem is not them it’s us and those who allow them to do it.

  19. Anonymous says:

    A job for the new government is to amend the Education Act to ensure that any church school after X amount of years must be a separate financial entity with its own board and qualified educational leadership and administrator. This will ensure financial transparency, that school fees are not exorbitant and it is not a profit centre that sends its profits beyond our shores, and separates the church finances. It will also minimize the cronyism that is so obvious and favouritsm in employment practices.

    • Anonymous says:

      Totally unnecessary. They are doing better than any government school.

      • Anonymous says:

        That’s not saying much.

      • Anonymous says:

        Apparently not. I went there for 5 years and rarely if ever did governance and staffing issues spill over into the student world. Certainly we never heard of governance issues, and staffing issues were always isolated, like the sudden loss of one teacher. If staff morale was low, we had no idea. For the majority of students to report that they’re aware of these things and being impacted by them is extraordinary. That school is poorly run but the teachers and students make up for it – that’s the heart of the school. The rot started when the decision was made not to have a Principal for the whole school anymore. Embleton wasn’t doing too badly in that role; he was growing into it but they abolished it and demoted him to Head of Secondary alongside the Head of Primary, then years later appointed a Head of School over both of them who – I wouldn’t know necessarily but have done some volunteering for the school recently – appears to have achieved absolutely nothing. And none of the three of those posts have the authority they should because of the control of the church, so they can’t make necessary decisions. The present situation is not sustainable. The school needs a Principal again, for all students, whose only job is to lead the institution and ensure and promote its health, and the church needs to let the school run itself.

        • Anonymous says:

          Spot on 11:37. The Church here and worldwide is so into “control” from the centre that it is constantly, sometimes through the priest, sometimes through the Parish Council, trying to run things and force their will on the school, even when it is not in the best interests of the principals, teachers, students and parents. The inspectors have highlighted this but, despite the comment above which is obviously from the inspectorate, past or present, I still feel the overall grade given is unfairly deflated, given the very positive findings (other than the two main weaknesses noted) in the main report.

          • Anonymous says:

            I agree. They could have said the school was ‘good’ with specific weaknesses. Hopefully the downgrade is to prompt quick meaningful action. It wouldn’t do for the church to be running a merely satisfactory school would it.

          • Anonymous says:

            What does a church know about 21st century education anyway? What value can the priest or Parish Council etc. actually provide? They’re there to give the school its ethos and its culture and Mass and all that and to be the overlording presence of the Archdiocese, but otherwise, IT’S A SCHOOL! Preaching and teaching are two very different things. When I was at the school the priest was happy with his free house and free car, held Mass and seemingly spent the rest of his time chain-smoking. Meanwhile the school was going from strength to strength under professional leadership. I repeat: Peter Embleton was not doing badly as Principal at all. He was my PE and Life Skills teacher when he became Vice Principal and sure we sniggered about that but I for one saw that while he was never going to be an inspirational leader, he would make a committed and competent administrator – and that’s not damning with faint praise; when I say competent I mean for a Principal – so competent at the hard parts of the job too. I remember an assembly soon after he became Principal where he said he wanted to take the school from good to great. Instead it is now satisfactory thanks to church meddling and refusal to empower the professional leadership, so that they in turn can take care of all the other staff. Bring back a Principal, get the church out of everything except very broad strokes policy, major issues, hiring the Principal etc. The church needs to understand that the school is an ‘if you love it set it free’ thing, not a box of toys for their idle hands to play with.

            • Anonymous says:

              Excellent post, 10:29, especially about Embleton/role of the Church etc though your “chain smoking priest” was actually VERY involved in wanting the school to be better but had to constantly deal with interfering persons on the Parish Council, members of two “prominent Caymanian Catholic families” who thought things were not holy holy and “Catholic” enough in the curriculum.

      • Anonymous says:

        Not a good reason enough not to do so, hope you are not saying that is because the government schools have active PTAs. A separate entity and structure is required so that the leadership and governance is as consistent as possible, and therefore independent of the whims and fancies of any parish priest, who is replaced from time to time. In short more accountability and transparency.

    • Anonymous says:

      Don’t like it? Pull your kids out.
      Don’t have kids there? Not our problem. Stop hating on churches you anti-Christian bigot.

      This is a private institution in a competitive business field. If their management structure isn’t up to snuff they either change it, or their customers go elsewhere and they go out of business. Its not for the ‘Education Act’ to tell them how to run their private entity.

      • Anonymous says:

        Private institution in a competitive business field is a funny way to describe a self proclaimed not for profit organisation

      • Anonymous says:

        The job of any government is to have its people educated, and they must ensure that there are policies in place for this objective. The suggestion applies to any church affiliated school and NOT just the topic school. You make the assumption that this a suggestion from an atheist or agnostic person. This is not the case.

        • Anonymous says:

          So now you’re suggesting that the Catholic school is not turning out educated graduates? Proves my point. This isn’t about the report or the necessary fixes its an opportunity to attack a church. My comment stands validated. Thank you.

  20. Anonymous says:

    This is because recently they are more concerned with the bottom line than the Educational benefits of the school. More than PE teachers as the principal – but devolving the board having the priest in charge of the school and not listening to the concerns of the parents.
    Guess they’ll soon understand that somehow or the other there has to be accountability.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Let the pastor man preach and stay out of stuff he has no knowledge of. HE is the reason for this decay. My boys go there and the teachers are excellent and so is the curriculum. Can CIG not force the school to have an educator lead versus a preacher?

    • Anonymous says:

      No, they can’t. That’s like having CIG force Foster’s Food fair to fire MR. Foster. – If you don’t like the management structure send your kids to another school that does it the way you want. Simple solution to what is not a problem.

  22. Anonymous says:

    If our government schools had the same comments about them as are contained in the “strengths” section, the education system would be producing many excellent students and the sort of year on year criticisms of our public schools would not exist. The grade “satisfactory” given to the Catholic School seems to be a bit severe given the many many comments about excellence in the body of the report. Leadership and governance are “weak” and that seems to have unfairly tarnished or brought down the overall image of the schools performance which the inspectors and majority of parents are very positive about.

    • Anonymous says:


      That is true, they could’ve gotten Good. Maybe government needs to look into why the inspectorate judges the schools so hard. Oh wait, they need to keep their jobs!

    • Anonymous says:

      The satisfactory result is important as it highlights concerns. With leadership the way it is, the working environment is terrible for staff morale. Successes have been achieved despite of leadership and on the back of the teachers and staff who are continually given an unfair workload compared to their superiors. A good result in the inspection would have let it all been swept under the rug.

  23. WBW Premier. says:

    Well I’m sure they are doing the best that they can.

  24. Anonymous says:

    When you let PE teachers run schools….

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