Sixty-one teachers in government schools will not return in the fall.
Responding to a question form Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush in Finance Committee recently, Minister of Education Alden McLaughlin said the number includes 20 teachers who have not been offered new contracts; 14 who have resigned; 11 who were not seeking contract renewals; and 16 who are retiring.
Not all of the teacher posts have been filled for the school year starting in September.
‘A lot of the resignations have come very late in the day, so it poses a challenge for us,’ Mr. McLaughlin said. ‘But we are confident that all the posts that will become vacant at the end of the school year will be filled by the beginning of the next school year. We’ve made major inroads already.’
Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler said afterwards that because of all the various issues surrounding teacher recruitment here, the process is usually started much earlier than support staff recruitment.
‘We actually advertise for teachers in November for the following September,’ she said. ‘Support staff, on the other hand, are recruited locally and are therefore hired on local contracts in accordance with personnel regulations.’
Some of the teacher posts will not be refilled, Mr. McLaughlin said, noting that the Ministry of Education has concluded some of the schools were overstaffed. He said the overstaffing was a result of a previous practice of increasing the numbers of teachers and other staff in an effort to fix problems with the education system.
The time to make staffing reductions to attain the proper staffing quantities is when teacher vacancies arise, Mr. McLaughlin noted. However, the Education Department can not simply fail to replace certain teachers when vacancies come up.
‘It’s not as easy as that,’ he said. ‘It depends on the discipline. We can only achieve [the proper teacher staffing adjustments] over years, not in one fell swoop.’
Mr. Bush asked why the Education Department would start eliminating teacher positions if it would just have to find replacements when the three new high schools were completed in 2010.
Mr. McLaughlin explained that the three new high schools would really only create one additional facility because the new John Gray High School would replace the school already there and that the George Hicks campus would be closed, with its students sent to one of the three new high schools.
Mr. Bush inquired into the teacher-student ratios at the government schools.
He was told by Mr. McLaughlin that in Grand Cayman, the ratios were 13.7 students to every teacher in primary schools and 9.4 students to every teacher in secondary schools, for an overall ratio of 10.9 students for every one teacher. The ratios cited were not necessarily for every class, but an average, Mr. McLaughlin explained later.
Mr. Bush asked how many students attended government schools and was told 4,637.
The enrolment is expected to expand by about 200 by the 2010 school year, when the new schools are scheduled to open.
Mr. Bush asked about the need to build three new expensive high schools if enrolment was only increasing by 200 students.
Mr. McLaughlin said that schools like John Gray and the George Hicks campus were ancient and very cramped.
‘Both are over-capacity and have been for years,’ he said.
He also explained that under the new education model, school academies -separate modules on campuses – will ideally have no more than 250 students. In addition, the new schools would allow for future growth.