A planned new Education Law creates the framework for publicly funded, privately managed schools in the Cayman Islands.
The law, released in draft form this week, is a comprehensive update of outdated legislation underpinning the territory’s education system.
It outlaws strapping, enshrines the National Curriculum in law and establishes an independent schools inspection unit called the Office of Education Quality Assurance.
The law also contains provision for “assisted schools” – funded, but not managed, by government. Education Minister Tara Rivers and counselor Winston Connolly have previously floated the concept of introducing U.K.-style academies, known in the U.S. as charter schools, in Cayman.
KPMG has been commissioned to review the education governance system in the islands, including an assessment of the suitability of Academies, which are run by private sector boards.
Education Minister Tara Rivers said the law was broad and flexible enough to allow for different types of schools, depending on what policy direction government chose to go in.
The draft law, states, “The minister may make grants to assisted schools or those that are to become assisted schools.” It adds that Cabinet can make regulations dictating the terms and conditions of such grants for different categories of schools.
Ms. Rivers said, “It allows for a number of different types of schools in the country depending on the strategic direction of government.”
In practice, many of the provisions of the law, including the ban on corporal punishment, are already followed as a matter of policy.
Winston Connolly, counselor for education, said the bill was based on the 2009 Education Modernisation Law, passed in the last days of the previous Progressives government in 2009 but never enacted after the United Democratic Party took over.
“The current law has been operating since 1983. It was high time that this legislation, which is effectively 30 years old, was revised to meet the changes that have occurred in education over the years.”
The 1983 Education Law makes no provision for a national curriculum other than a requirement that religious instruction is included.
The new bill is open for public consultation until June 30 and a final draft will go to the Legislative Assembly in September, according to Mr. Connolly.
The bill also seeks to establish a professional standards unit for teachers and a new school’s inspection unit.
The office of Education Quality Assurance will be required to inspect schools at least every four years. Consultants were hired last year to carry out a “baseline inspection” of all government schools, which is expected to be completed in the next few months.
Government’s own internal inspection unit was effectively disbanded after staff numbers dwindled to zero. Prior to the baseline review, no full school inspections have been conducted since 2008.