UK inspectors on island to assess schools
Government is spending almost $300,000 on a pair of reviews that will look at the quality of teaching and leadership in all Cayman Islands schools and evaluate the overall standard of the education system.
A team of six inspectors will visit all 16 government schools as part of a comprehensive “baseline inspection” already under way.
That process will take place in tandem with a more general review of the governance of education in the Cayman Islands, which will also evaluate alternative models, including the possibility of putting some schools under private sector management.
Mary Bowerman, a former chief inspector of schools in the Cayman Islands, has been contracted to lead the “baseline inspections,” which will focus on student achievement and quality of teaching and leadership, with a specific focus on mathematics and English.
The inspectors will produce individual reports on each school, as well as an overarching review, to be tabled in the Legislative Assembly at the end of the school year.
It is the first time such a comprehensive review, involving every government school, has been conducted.
A team of consultants from U.K.-based Independent Schools Inspectorate, which is sanctioned by the British government to inspect independent schools, has been hired to work with Ms. Bowerman on the $230,000 review.
Government’s own internal inspection unit has been effectively disbanded after staff numbers dwindled to zero. No full school inspections have been conducted since 2008.
Education Minister Tara Rivers said the unit would ultimately be revived, with possible policy or legal changes introduced to ensure its independence from the Ministry of Education.
In the interim, she said, the baseline inspections, which are more narrow in scope, would provide a general overview of where the system stands.
Councilor Winston Connolly said the aim is to provide a “warts and all” analysis of life in Cayman’s schools as the starting point for improvement.
Ms. Bowerman said inspectors will spend two to three days in each school watching lessons, interviewing teachers and students, and examining samples of pupils’ work. Their reports will be published by the end of the academic year, in June 2015.
A separate, but simultaneous review of the structure of Cayman’s education system is expected to be published in January.
Roland Meredith, a U.K.-based education consultant with KPMG, has been hired to lead the $45,000 review, which will look at ways to introduce private sector innovation into the school system.
His review will assess how Cayman’s students are performing compared to overseas counterparts and review potential new models of school governance, including potentially putting some schools under private sector management.
Mr. Meredith, who is on island on a two-week fact-finding mission, said his review will present a list of options for the ministry, with pros and cons of each model.
Ms. Rivers said government will act swiftly to implement any recommendations, with some changes likely by the start of the 2015 school year.
Mr. Connolly dismissed suggestions that increasing private sector involvement in schools could result in an unequal system, saying any changes would maintain free and equal access to education for children of all abilities.
“To say we are concentrating only on the academically inclined or the rich would be far removed from anything I personally would be a part of,” he said.
The KPMG review, supported by the firm’s global center of excellence in education based in the U.K., will evaluate the standard of the education system in terms of student performance and ministry policies. It will also review the curriculum and evaluate its effectiveness for the demands of Cayman’s economy.