Poor teaching blamed for school failures

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.”

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  1. After a damning report such as this rather than plans of action and target setting, Cayman schools need root and branch reforms with the introduction of inspirational teachers with a proven track record and leadership that will tackle, head on, the discipline issues.

    It also needs the parents of ALL children at our schools to take responsibility for discipline.

    Is it any wonder record numbers of these parents are choosing to send their children to private schools?

  2. Well to declare, if this is not the worse report I have heard concerning the schools, I don’t know what else can be coming. The report speaks for itself, so what can one say, beside the standard of education is very poor.
    Some people may not like what I am going to say, but generally speaking, no one likes to hear the truth. Imagine, 95% of the schools were given this bad report, So where does one lay the blame; I can understand if it was one or two schools, but all of them?, and this report will go no further than just a report to catch dust on a shelf. Not a thing will be done about it. You see, any business, whether it be a school, a bank or a supermarket, and it does not have the proper supervisor who gets up walks around and makes sure that things get done, instead of sitting behind a desk/computer until closing time; your business will fail, your school will fail, your children will fail. To report that teaching assistants do not provide effective support and are not suitably trained or deployed? Someone is to take the blame. We need to stop giving these positions out just because "we know you", you supported my political campaign, and no consideration given that the assistant does not even know where to put the T. in teaching. "kisses still going by favors sliding under fences. Imagine under performance at all stages of education? Someone has to take the blame for this. Some readers may not like the comments or the report but it speaks for itself. So hiding behind a disagree tick will only high-light the truth.

  3. You have got to admire Government/Tara for their immediate response to these problems. Their solution? – hand out pay rises to a number of long serving teachers, regardless of their performance.
    To be fair however, this situation is not unique to the Education Dept, it is simply standard procedure for our Civil Service which operates outside all accepted norms of the private sector.

  4. This is how it s done in Finland:
    Teachers are selected from the top 10% of graduates.
    All teachers in Finland must have a masters degree.
    In 2010, 6,600 applicants vied for 660 primary school training slots.
    Teachers are effectively given the same status as doctors and lawyers.
    Teachers only spend 4 hours a day in the classroom, and take 2 hours a week for "professional development".
    Finnish children don’t start school until they are 7.
    Compared with other systems, they rarely take exams or do homework until they are well into their teens.
    The children are not measured at all for the first six years of their education.
    There is only one mandatory standardized test in Finland, taken when children are 16.
    30 percent of children receive extra help during their first nine years of school.
    66 percent of students go to college.
    The difference between weakest and strongest students is the smallest in the World.
    43 percent of Finnish high-school students go to vocational schools.
    Elementary school students get 75 minutes of recess a day in Finnish versus an average of 27 minutes in the US.
    The national curriculum is only broad guidelines.
    Finland’s school system has consistently come at the top for the international rankings for education systems.

  5. Over and over, we are kicking the same dead horse! We have enough Caymanian educators who are still viable and able to revise and provide curriculum of all of our schools. We continue to pay advisers who tell us that our education system is bad!Here is a thought and a possible suggestion…put together a team of Caymanian educators, from retirement if necessary, put together a training system that helps teachers to teach and students to learn. Get the lawyers and accountants out of the Education Department (send them to Legal and Finance, where they belong) hire an Education Minister who has a plan and nothing to do with politics! Please don’t forget the onus on parents….send your child/ren to school ready to learn! Not hungry, unclean, tired and sleepy, no supplies, in other words, not ready for the school day!

  6. Cayman Brac high school is one of the worst what happen they were one of the best a year or two back? What happen???? What happen????

    ***Editor’s Note: Layman E. Scott High School on Cayman Brac was one of two schools to get positive reviews.***