Cayman’s schools under the microscope

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. 

Inspections-Bowerman

Mary Bowerman leads the baseline inspection team.

Inspection-People

Education Minister Tara Rivers and councillor Winston Connolly confer with KPMG education consultant Roland Meredith at a press conference on Wednesday. – PHOTOs: JAMES WHITTAKER

1 COMMENT

  1. I think this is a good idea, and do hope we get a thorough reporting on this. Because like any work place you will some working harder than others. Some more concerned and caring than others. To truly see what takes place we may need to send in Undercover Teachers.
    While being concerned about the schools, I would like to question the Education department about Creative art and crafts in the Primary schools. This area need to be investigated thoroughly. Having volunteered arts and crafts in many of the primary schools, I see the children like this subject, which is good for them giving a break from the daily 2 plus two in the class room. The children are not being exposed to Cayman Arts and Crafts, which has been a part of our culture. Why is this being taken away? Hopefully the coming year will reveal new things under the microscope.

  2. Does my memory serve me correctly, wasn’t there an education survey done within the past year that was uncomplimentary toward the education system and charges were made that the report had been altered or portions deleted.

  3. I agree with the first comment–this was already done and, if my memory is correct, the report noted a number of problems and then it was altered to be not so critical Imagine what 300,000 would do if were spent on the students and not another study. Also, does no one consider a former employee and inspector heading this up as a conflict of interest?

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