Underperforming schools can be placed under new management or closed down completely, under government’s new Education Bill.
The bill establishes an independent Quality Assurance unit that will be responsible for school inspections.
Any school that persistently fails to make the grade and does not comply with recommended remedial actions can be placed under new leadership once the Bill is passed into law.
The policy, similar to the U.K. system of “special measures” for schools that receive poor inspection results, was explained by Education Minister Tara Rivers during a public consultation meeting on the proposed law in George Town on Monday.
Minister Rivers said the law also included a last resort option of closing schools where there were health and safety issues or irredeemable deficiencies.
She said schools that received poor inspection results would be given every chance to improve through a school support plan and would only be taken over if they were unwilling or unable to comply with the measures suggested. The law also applies to private schools, which would be required to foot the bill for the new leadership.
Ms. Rivers said, “The law does give the government power to go in and manage the school to bring up standards if the remedial plans are not bringing expected results. It should not be needed but the law does provide for that. It shows we are serious.”
Government’s school inspection unit dwindled to zero, following the retirement of the sole remaining inspector early in 2014.
Consultants were hired in the current school year to carry out “baseline inspections” on all schools, while the new inspections team is in the process of being assembled.
Under the new bill, the office of Education Quality Assurance will be required to inspect schools at least every four years.
Ms. Rivers said, “By putting this in the law we have recognized that this is the kind of experience we have to have on an ongoing basis to take the temperature of our schools and make sure they are performing at the level they need to be at.”
Ms. Rivers, her councilor in the education ministry Winston Connolly and senior policy advisor Clive Baker are on the road this week for a series of public meetings across the Cayman Islands to explain the new bill and get feedback.
At Monday’s meeting at Mary Miller Hall in Red Bay, the officials fielded questions from a small but passionate crowd of around 15 people.
Suggestions from the audience included mandatory parental involvement in education, extending school age to 18 and adding sixth forms to the high schools.
Ms. Rivers said officials were looking at ways to expand the offerings of the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre.
More meetings will be held on Wednesday, June 24 at Sir John A. Cumber Primary School in West Bay, Thursday, June 25 at the Craddock Ebanks Civic Centre in North Side, Tuesday, June 30 at East End Primary and Wednesday, July 1 at Savannah Primary. All meetings start at 7:30 p.m.