Academy-style schools proposed for Cayman

KPMG recommends schools be taken out of direct ministry control

Independent governing bodies made up of business leaders, parents and former students should be put in charge of Cayman’s schools, a consultant’s report on the islands’ education system recommends. 

The KPMG report suggests “Cayman Partnership Schools” funded by government but controlled by private boards of governors as the new model for the education system. 

The concept is similar to charter schools in the U.S. and academies in the U.K., though the report also references similar models in Sweden and Hong Kong, in what it describes as a Cayman-specific model. 

“It is clear from our analysis that change to an alternative model with a governing body who are autonomous from the government would make the greatest impact of progressing education in the Cayman Islands. Therefore, we recommend the Cayman Partnership School,” the report states. 

“The Cayman Partnership School model facilitates a greater degree of community involvement and integration which is proven to enhance the success of the schools. 

“Parents, employers and past students that have the ability and passion to make a difference in education within their community have an opportunity to become part of the governance board.” 

The report also recommends an end to social promotion, suggesting “stage not age progression,” meaning students would have to reach set targets to move through the system. 

Other recommendations include the transformation of the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre to a “level 3” college that includes academic options such as A-Levels alongside vocational qualifications and retake opportunities. 

KPMG was commissioned last year to review the governance structure of Cayman’s education system. 

The consultants’ final report was released last week alongside 15 public school inspection reports produced by the U.K.-based Independent Schools Inspectorate Consultancy. 

Both the inspections and the KPMG report raise concerns about standards in schools across Cayman. 

According to the KPMG report, Cayman Islands exam results suggest the system is currently at a level that fails to meet minimum “floor” targets set for schools in the U.K. Under the U.K. criteria, Cayman’s schools would be in “special measures,” meaning they would be deemed failing schools in need of extra support and funding. 

The report adds that the U.K. is “not a leading educational country” based on international test scores, and suggests Cayman look to other systems, including Hong Kong and Singapore, as well. 

It recommends greater operational control be given to school principals, with boards of governors put in charge of strategic direction and budgeting, and the Ministry of Education taking an oversight role. 

School leaders are currently not afforded enough autonomy and “professional respect” the report warns, citing micro-management by education officials as an inhibitor to improvement. 

“The professional practitioners demonstrated a willingness to change the way they work, but feel constrained to making changes that might not be ‘approved’ by the Ministry and Department of Education Services officers. This lack of autonomy was illustrated most clearly by a principal’s description of ‘interference’ by a senior DES officer in a minor operational initiative that the principal needed to solve urgently. Principals almost unanimously described such ‘interference’ as debilitating and creating a culture of ‘fear’ and therefore dependency on ‘direction’ from senior officers on almost every aspect of running their schools.” 

It recommends that the new governance model should remove schools from “direct control” of the ministry and department. The report suggests this would allow schools flexibility to structure their budgets and curricula to the needs of the students. 

It adds, “There are a growing number of learners identified with special educational needs and disabilities. However financial strategies for supporting children and young people identified are not fit for purpose as they are not targeted at the individuals. Schools are provided with a fixed sum regardless of the specific numbers identified with special educational needs.” 

The report also warns there is currently no “cohesive pathway” to higher education on leaving secondary school with Level 2 qualifications and recommends that CIFEC be developed as a “Level 3” college.