Bodden Town Primary School is the latest primary school to receive a new building as part of the Cayman Islands government’s efforts to make way for the reintroduction of reception before primary years.
The addition of new classroom blocks in the primary schools was a key factor in facilitating the undertaking, with a new block being opened at George Town Primary School in May to provide the space needed for the reception classes.
Other schools to receive new classrooms include Savannah Primary and John A. Cumber Primary in the District of West Bay in Grand Cayman.
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.
“Nine new reception classes mean that 200 more children and families will benefit from access to one year of free education,” said Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush. He added that his government was intent on supporting the programme despite financial challenges.
Education Minister Rolston Anglin said, “We are changing the age of compulsory education to be in line with the rest of the world. Research that has guided the rest of the world should guide us also”. He 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.”
Mr. Anglin explained that, “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.”
The reintroduction of reception will mean that 4 years old is now the entry point into reception, while 5 will be the entry point into primary school.
Education officials point out that 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. Also, their transition is impeded as a result of having to learn basic skills before they can get down to the business of learning academics. 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 age 7.
The new building at Bodden Town Primary broke ground on 2 June and was completed on 27 August at a cost $2.6 million. The two-storey classroom and administration block provides 10,710 square feet of additional learning and administration space. The facility contains six classrooms with self-contained bathrooms and storage rooms, as well as a library, an administration office and a disabilities elevator for special needs students.
The structure is designed to withstand category 3 hurricane standards.
All of the modular classrooms deployed by the Ministry of Education to temporarily quell overcrowding at the primary school have been removed from the site, resulting in more outdoor space and a larger play area for the children.
On Thursday, 15 October another new building was opened at Savannah Primary.