Inspectors were highly critical of teaching standards across Cayman’s schools in a series of damning reports that recommend substantial changes across the islands’ education system.
Overall standards at 10 of 15 government schools were deemed “unsatisfactory” – the lowest option on the grading scale used by the inspection team. Only Layman E. Scott High School on Cayman Brac and Prospect Primary School got positive reviews.
An overview of all 15 reports highlights “significant under-performance at all stages of education.”
It states, “The weakness in achievement is notably related to teaching quality.”
The report adds that teachers generally have low expectations of what students can achieve, many struggle to manage bad behavior, and some arrive for lessons late and under-prepared.
It also criticizes leadership and management at Cayman’s schools, which in most cases was deemed unsatisfactory, and says data on student performance is not used effectively to improve standards.
The baseline inspection reports, produced by the Independent Schools Inspectorate Consultancy, were released Thursday alongside a national “Plan of Action” aimed at addressing some of the issues raised.
Education Minister Tara Rivers said improvement plans were being designed for each school, with specific targets for the coming year.
“This government has no intention of having these reports sit on a shelf,” she said. “The results are in and the work continues. Improvements need to be made. We are shifting to a system of accountability for all.”
The plan includes mentoring, coaching and training for under-performing teachers as well as more rigorous monitoring of lessons and evaluations of teaching quality. New targets have been set for reading levels, particularly at primary schools, and special educational needs staff have been employed in all government schools.
According to the inspectors’ overview report, there is currently insufficient support for teachers in the classroom.
“Teaching assistants do not provide effective support and are not usually suitably trained or deployed,” the inspectors wrote.
At John Gray High School, inspectors also highlighted a lack of resources to deal with students with severe behavioral difficulties.
“Behavior presents a significant challenge in too many lessons, although the reasons for poor behavior are often linked to the quality of teaching,” the inspectors wrote.
The inspectors said there was room for improvement in more than half the lessons observed at John Gray and the standard of teaching in one in five lessons was deemed a “cause for concern.” The number of students achieving satisfactory exam results is improving but is still “very low” and very few students achieve top grades, the report notes.
Standards at the new Clifton Hunter High School were also judged to be “unsatisfactory” and teaching was a “cause for concern” in a quarter of lessons observed.
Inspectors were also critical of the open-plan layout of the new Clifton Hunter school building, which they said was a “barrier to improvement.”
Across the high schools in general, the inspectors said: “In too many lessons, the teaching is uninspiring, students become disinterested, behavior deteriorates, and little is accomplished.
“Teachers have low expectations of what students can achieve and present them with low-level, mechanical tasks which offer little challenge, especially for the most able students, who become bored.
“Conversely, students with special educational needs are frequently expected to complete the same work as everyone else, and there is insufficient additional support to enable them to make progress.” The report highlighted similar issues in primary schools.
“No school provides teaching that is consistently good across all age groups and subjects. Teaching does not often reach a dependable standard that would support and sustain students’ progress.”
Standards in mathematics were a particular cause for concern generally, and the inspectors noted, “results in assessments show that across all schools standards in mathematics are low. Attainment is well below that expected for students’ age and ability, particularly for the younger age range.”
The reports indicate that achievement overall is “below age related expectations” and falls behind U.K. norms in all subjects by a year or more.
“The level of attainment both in primary and in secondary schools indicates that students make insufficient progress in relation to the U.K. average for students of similar abilities,” it adds.
Christen Suckoo, acting chief officer in the Ministry of Education, said the ministry’s response focuses on providing schools with the additional support they need to improve. The “Plan of Action” also focuses on strengths highlighted in some of the inspection reports and seeks to spread these “best practices” throughout the system.
The introduction to the plan, posted in full on the ministry’s website, states that it “will specifically seek to improve the quality of teaching through the provision of effective support for existing staff in the form of mentoring, coaching and training.”