Changes in store at George Hicks

George Hicks High School Class of 2006 will be the last graduates to receiving leaving certificates under the present school.

According to Education Minister Alden McLaughlin in his graduation address last Thursday, George Hicks will soon become ‘schools within a school’.

The new concept, Mr. McLaughlin said was only done after serious debate and consultation helped identify some key issues, which clearly required urgent redress at the school.

He said from information gathered they had discovered staggered days were not working for the students, there was little use of the Family Life Centre, the school site was too large, and excessive movement around it had a prohibitive effect on teaching and learning.

It was also discovered that more opportunities to build relationships between students and staff were required, as well as between the students themselves, and a more competitive environment was desirable.

‘These are the ideas which have brought us to where we are now, ushering in the dawn of a new concept – schools with a school for the Cayman Islands,’ said Mr. McLaughlin.

‘The division of the existing campus and resources into four autonomous, self-sufficient learning centres of excellence, each designed to reap the benefits of increased efficiencies, expertise and productivity is a solution tailored to the needs of the students and staff of George Hicks.

‘The new format will see each of the four new sub schools or subunits, acquire its own identity, its own name and its own uniform.

‘There will be increased accountability for school leaders on the delivery of results, which will lead to higher standards of teaching and learning. Leaders will also be supported by the means to monitor and measure performances.

‘We are building a model for the future, setting an example of best practices in the delivery of education, and giving learning institutions across the nation an example to aspire to. The vision is to give our education system and its product -our students – a global footing from which, the Cayman Islands will become a competitive participant on the international stage in all its endeavours.’

‘Contrary to a minority of ill-informed newspaper articles,’ said Mr. McLaughlin, ‘the concept of schools within a school for the Cayman Islands has been researched extensively and chosen as a solution only after very careful consideration.’

The concept was based on the premise that small schools posses qualities and advantages for their students, which larger schools are more challenged to provide.

‘Smaller education units provide an increased sense of community and identity among their users, and ultimately better results in the education of students,’ said Mr. McLaughlin.

The concept had been tried and tested in New York, Philadelphia and Chicago among other places. Improved attendance rates, behaviour and self-esteem among students are all reported results of the use of the smaller autonomous learning units within schools, as well as improved student achievement and performance overall.

‘The adoption of this solution for GHHS is not some sort of experiment or cheap-import. Quite to the contrary -after a great deal of investment in research, we are 100 per cent committed to using the concept of smaller learning communities as a model (with a proven track-record) for the development of future education institutions in the Cayman Islands to follow and aspire to. This model is the shape of the future of education in our nation, and we are absolutely committed to it over the long term,’ he said.

Despite all of this Mr. McLaughlin said the successful implementation of change also required strong leadership.

He said they were moving away from the limitations of traditional school leadership models, where principals were routinely distracted from the core focus of teaching and learning by routine administrative demands, by the introduction of a campus director.

The campus director would attend to facilities management and routine tasks.

Also appointed are four new school leaders: Steven Clark, Lyneth Monteith, Marlene Ricketts and June Elliott along with deputies Ian Godet, Evelyn Rockett, Brad Taylor and Mellony Bryan.

Four reading specialists have also been appointed to address literacy concerns.

Since presenting the idea Mr. McLaughlin said the plans were met with nothing but unanimous encouragement and open mindedness from the community.