A salary and incentives review is planned in an effort to keep good teachers in Cayman’s schools.
Education officials say the civil service-wide wage freeze has disproportionately impacted the profession, where incremental pay increases based on performance, experience and additional qualifications are the international norm.
Responding to concern from legislators about an “exodus” of Caymanian teachers from the public education system, Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler said pay is a key factor. One concern is that there is no system to progress newly qualified teachers up the pay scale as they acquire more experience.
She acknowledged that some teachers were leaving to work in private schools in Cayman, while others were leaving the profession altogether. Around 50 teachers – both Caymanian and expatriate – leave the public school system each year, according to data from a previous Freedom of Information request by the Cayman Compass.
Ms. Wahler said pay in private schools has caught up with government schools, adding to the challenge of keeping good teachers.
Many private schools still offer incremental pay increases based on job performance and experience, she added.
“While the lack of annual increments or performance related increments has applied across the civil service, it is particularly challenging in the field of education, where increments are the normal standard international expectation as a way of rewarding successful teachers and encouraging them to stay in the classroom.”
Both Premier Alden McLaughlin and Education Minister Tara Rivers said they had asked the deputy governor to assist with a review of the situation to see if the rules that apply across the civil service could be amended for some professions, including teaching.
Mr. McLaughlin said he had received numerous complaints from Caymanian teachers about the “gross injustice” of the salary issue.
“I am aware of close to eight or nine Caymanian teachers who are considering leaving the public service because of the salary issue, of their feeling of not being treated fairly compared to teachers recruited for overseas.”
Mary Rodrigues, chief officer in the Ministry of Education, said a review is under way to look at salaries and perceived inequities in the system.
She said part of the problem is that newly qualified teachers were recruited on a certain pay scale and there is currently no option to move them up the pay scale as they acquire experience and additional training – a legacy of civil-service wide policies introduced in 2010 to cut the cost of government.
Ms. Wahler said the challenges of teaching in public schools are another factor that led some teachers to switch to private schools, irrespective of pay.
“There is no question that there are issues in teaching in a large public school with a comprehensive intake that make that job very demanding, and there are aspects of teaching in a smaller private school, particularly in a selective school, which may be easier and contribute to a decision that teachers would make in terms of where they choose to teach.”
The majority of teachers in the Cayman Islands are paid between $42,564 and $57,252 depending on experience, qualification and position within the system, according to a 2011 report on government salaries.