The one year of pre-primary education known as reception, which was removed from schools over 10 years ago, is being reintroduced into the Cayman Islands’ edcation system.
Essentially, the development will establish four years of age as the entry point into reception and raise the age for entry into primary school to five years of age.
The addition of new classroom blocks in the primary schools were a key factor in facilitating the undertaking, with a new block being opened at the George Town Primary in May and another others scheduled to be ready for the beginning of the new school year. These provided the space needed for the reception classes.
“Nine new reception classes mean that 200 more children and families will benefit from access to one year of free education,” explained Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush. He added that his government was intent on supporting the programme despite financial challenges.
The new classed will be distributed between Sir John A Cumber Primary in West Bay and Savannah and Bodden Town Primary schools.
Prospect and Red Bay Primary will not be included at this point, though new blocks at those schools are on the government’s long term agenda, according to education officials. They noted that North Side Primary, East End Primary and Creek, Spot Bay and West End Primary schools never did away with their reception programmes.
After a pilot project reintroducing reception at the George Town Primary School, Education Minister Rolston Anglin said the government was so encouraged that it was decided to do a wholesale introduction of the programme in all the schools.
“We are changing the age of compulsory education to be in line with the rest of the world. Research that has guided that rest of the world should guide us also,” explained the minister, who called the reintroduction of reception classes in the primary schools in the Cayman Islands “the most important education policy change in the last several decades”.
Sir John A. Cumber Principal Joe Wallace explained why the reintroduction was so important for youngsters.
“We noticed that children were entering Year 1 not ready socially and their listening skills and such had not been developed to a level that would allow them to get the most out of their primary school experience. Reception allows them to transition to Year 1 better and the benefits flow right through the system.”
Simple skills such as lining up can take up much of the children’s learning time if they do not learn these skills at an early stage in reception and their transition is impeded as a result of having to learn very basic skills before they can get down to the business of learning. In Finland, where the education system is touted as one of the highest rated in the world, children do not enter primary school education until the age of seven.
Minister Anglin noted that, “Early Childhood Assistance Programme funding will continue for parents who meet the criteria and the age for this will be lowered to cover children 3 years and 6 months of age for September, 2012.
The work of the Early Childhood Care Unit, which has been in existence for one year now, in developing a national curriculum for children has assisted work of the ministry, schools and private centres for early childhood care in defining age appropriate learning, assessment of centres, as well as providing formal training to teachers and staff in respective institutions.
Registration for reception classes began Wednesday 13 June at the Department of Education Services at 130 Thomas Russel Way in George Town. This is in addition to special registration sessions planned at selected schools.
Enrolment in reception is not compulsory at this point but officials said it was highly recommended.