School restructuring aims for continuity

Further details concerning the significant overhaul of Grand Cayman’s local secondary education have been announced by the Education Ministry.

Following last month’s announcement of the change from the current middle school/high school arrangement to two ‘all-through’ high schools, it has now been stated that students Years 7 – 11 (ages 11 to 16) within each high school will be organised in academies, each with 250 – 300 students in Years 7 – 11. A student will normally remain in the same academy throughout the secondary years.

Under the new plan, effective September 2010, almost all Year 7 – 9 classes will be conducted in the academy group, allowing younger students to experience the security of a smaller setting within the larger school.

As students move into Years 10 and 11, they will have more opportunities for joining classes alongside students from other academies across the whole school, particularly in option subjects. This plan allows older students access to a greater range of specialised subjects and helps prepare them for the challenges of further study and the world of work.

Students will sit their CXC/GCSE examinations at the end of Year 11 from 2010 onwards. For the mandatory Year 12, students will choose a personalised plan of study at the redeveloped George Hicks Centre for Further Education. Further details of this programme will be released shortly.

‘This reorganisation of secondary education will offer a number of advantages for students’, Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler said.

‘Most importantly, it will remove the disruption in education many students currently experience in changing schools from middle school to high school – a shift that occurs just as students are preparing for their critical examination years,’ Mrs. Wahler added.

She said that the continuity provided by all-through secondary schools enables teachers to get to know and nurture their students over a longer period, allowing for better knowledge of their needs. It also permits a smooth transition to examination preparation in each subject area, as the same teachers are involved with students throughout their secondary studies.

Education Ministry Chief Officer Mary Rodrigues explained that the smaller size of the academy groupings will ‘help to foster strong relationships and a sense of belonging for the students’.

Education Minister Rolston Anglin emphasised that this restructuring of school organisation is not dependent on the building schedule of the new campuses. ‘If the new school buildings are not yet ready at the start of the 2010 school year, the move to all-through school will still happen using existing facilities. We need to decouple construction from much needed educational improvements,’ he said.