Teacher training for safer schools

Current alternative education provisions for schoolchildren who constantly misbehave are sufficient to handle the relatively small number of students who can’t be kept in school, according to senior education officials.

Reforms of behavior management will instead focus on additional training for teachers to help them handle problem students.

Pupils will also get more instruction on behavior issues, while greater consistency in implementing sanctions and improved management of support staff have been highlighted as areas for improvement following an internal review of the behavior management system in the public schools.

The review, led by senior policy adviser Annita Cornish, comes amid teachers’ increasing concern about the level of discipline in schools.

In March, a 15-year-old pupil was arrested after reportedly punching his teacher to the ground in a classroom assault.

Sean Cahill, policy adviser for safer schools, said assaults or threats of violence cannot be tolerated in local schools and have to be dealt with by police.

But he said the number of serious or persistent offenders is still relatively low. He cited a student survey, which is ongoing as part of the current review, that shows that 54 percent of students have received no sanctions at all. A further 16 percent get sanctions, for example a detention or demerit points, a maximum of once a term.

“You have maybe 2 percent – 20 students at John Gray, 15-20 at Clifton Hunter – of kids who might give more trouble. If that starts to rise and is causing major issues, we might need to look at expanding our alternative provision.”

Mr. Cahill sits on the secondary school alternative placement panel, which meets monthly to review referrals from Cayman’s high schools to the alternative education unit – a small facility for children who persistently misbehave.

He said the panel had 16 referrals since last June and placed 12 students in the program, some on a short-term basis only.

He said schools need to exhaust their own disciplinary measures before a student can be referred for transfer to alternative education.

The aim, where possible, is to keep children in school. “If we keep kids connected with the school, there are better outcomes,” he said.

Ms. Cornish said tweaks to the system would focus on equipping teachers to manage problems within the school. “Training and support is very much the focus of what we are doing, based on this needs analysis,” she said.

A pilot program offering “de-escalation training” to teachers to help them diffuse flare-ups has begun and could be rolled out throughout the school system.

Mr. Cahill added, “For anybody involved in working with kids, there is a potential risk. If we know there are kids that potentially pose a risk to us, we need to put some training in place to manage it.” Students will also get more direct instruction in how to behave, amid concern that some lack basic coping mechanisms.

“Just like we have kids who are poor at maths and English, we have kids who are poor at behavior, and that is something we have to explicitly teach. That is something we are going to be looking towards,” added Mr. Cahill. He said preliminary results from a survey about the schools’ system of sanctions and rewards for bad and good behavior suggests most believe the current code of conduct is fair, though there are some issues around implementation. “We are working with staff for the start of the new school year to strengthen consistency,” he said.

Another recommendation, says Ms. Cornish, is to “strengthen governance and structure” of existing resources, including teachers and counselors, to provide better coordination and communication on behavior management issues.


  1. Maybe the first thing that should happen, is does the child want to go to high school? Not every child wants to go . Maybe another way of dealing with this problem is what does johnny want ? He may want to be a plumber or a mechanic ? Our problem is we need other choices . We don’t have vocation schools so maybe an internship working on the job? It might be a better alternative then psychology. Maybe the simple solution is he doesn’t like school.

  2. The behavior issue is one that is taught in the home. Respect for our teachers, elders has been deteriorating for years and has only gotten worse. As parents it’s your responsibility to make sure your children are a reflection of what they are expected of at home…If your child is free to do whatever in the home, what do you think will happen when they are not in view of Mom and Dad

  3. I was disappointed with the comments from the Education officials. Citing the numbers of problem students as being low is really a nonsolution to a serious problem.
    The level of disruption a problem student can cause in the school environment ought not be minimized so my mind is not put at ease to learn there are at least 20 at each of the high schools.
    The problem students need to be removed from the classroom until their problems are identified and dealt with.
    As for de-escalation training, the teacher was having the unruly student leave the classroom when they were punched in the face and kicked on the ground. How do you de-escalate on you knees being kicked by a student?

  4. With all due deference to Mr Cahill, and not being one to shoot the messenger, usually, what statistics do you have for the other 30% of the pupils that don’t fall into the no, or low levels of bad behaviour? The numbers quoted leave a significant portion of the pupils somewhere between bad and really badly behaved, at least on my scale of acceptable.

  5. David Miller made a good point.
    Education boosters bizarrely think that providing everyone a high-quality education will somehow magically result in them all having good-paying jobs. This turns out not to be true. Apparently, it’s not possible for everyone to simultaneously hold jobs as well-paid upper-class professionals because at least some people have to actually do real work. A modern economy requires a whole army of lesser-skilled jobs that just don’t pay that well and the necessity of those jobs doesn’t go away simply because people are well-educated. The fixation on education as a solution to poverty, inequality or any other distributional problem is totally wrongheaded. Maybe someone in charge of education here wants to look at Finland’s school system.

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