Performance-based pay, better benefits, a culture of professional development, and recruitment of Caymanians into the field are pressing issues Cayman’s public education system must address as soon as possible, says a new report.
The Educators’ Conditions of Service Task Force report on teacher compensation and benefits was tabled in the Legislative Assembly last Friday by Education Minister Alden McLaughlin.
‘Overall, we found locally that educators are most concerned about feeling valued, having opportunities to develop, and trusting their employer,’ the report says.
Emerging from key action points arising from the National Education Conference in September 2005, the task force, chaired by Conor O’Dea, was charged with examining working conditions within the Government schools system.
Meeting twice a month in the latter half of 2006, the 12-member group reviewed the state of the Cayman Islands Government’s remuneration practices, policies and procedures, surveyed Cayman’s public service educators and conducted a review of other jurisdictions.
The task force determined that the 2001 moratorium placed on salary increments has hurt recruitment and retention of quality teachers.
In examining ways to bring salaries back to a competitive level, the committee argues against the reintroduction of automatic salary increases in favour of performance-related remuneration system.
‘The committee believes performance-based pay to be the most productive way of improving the quality of teaching and education,’ the report states.
In order to increase the number of native Caymanian teachers, the report recommends fast-tracking high potential educators with less than years of experience.
For those teachers already in the system, the report also found that pay, entitlements and job descriptions are not communicated well and that pay grades may not reflect the responsibility and essential role played by educators.
‘A priority is to have job descriptions reviewed and rewritten. Following this a full job evaluation exercise should be undertaken to ensure that educators are appropriately graded for pay scale purposes,’ it says.
‘The committee believes this will potentially lead to an upgrade in salary grade for educators…This will also help address the equity and parity within the system.’
Physical working conditions are also addressed by the report, which recommends that facilities and classroom practices need to cater to teachers so they can focus on teaching and learning
Also related to job outcomes, the report argues that the performance management system is inadequate and ineffective.
The introduction of a new performance management system consisting of regular appraisals, mentoring, oversight of disciplinary matters, professional development and other needs, the report argues, will ensure improvement in teaching quality.
‘Current professional development offerings are inadequate, and educators are not aware of the various programmes and not encouraged to participate,’ the report challenges.
The committee recommends financial assistance for further education, a system of financial reward for additional qualifications and specialist training, and development of a sabbatical program.
While it had favourable findings on pension and vacation benefits within the CIG system, the report makes recommendations for other benefits, including matching private-sector maternity leave and expanded health care options.
The report also found that the personal needs of teachers are not being met, recommending the development of a personal day policy and the opportunity to schedule personal hours in exceptional circumstances.