Cabinet has approved additional funding for 50 new posts across the public school system, Education Minister Tara Rivers announced Wednesday.
The new personnel, a mix of teachers, behavioral support staff and literacy and numeracy specialists, will work primarily with students with special educational needs.
Ms. Rivers said the new funding was “above and beyond” what was approved during the budget process. She said recruitment would begin immediately with the goal of having the new staff in place by Christmas.
Speaking to the entire Cayman Islands teaching body at the Annual Education Professionals Welcome at Mary Miller Hall in Red Bay, Ms. Rivers said government had listened to concerns about lack of resources.
The additional allocation represents an injection of around $1.3 million specifically for new personnel, the Cayman Compass understands.
Ms. Rivers said, “Government realizes there is a need for additional support for the most challenging students. We’ve read the inspection reports. We have heard from and listened to principals, teachers and parents …
“In June we gave a commitment to look at how we could increase resources in education and we have done that.
“We have listened to the pleas for additional resources and we have responded.”
The additional funding allocation follows intense debate during the summer Finance Committee hearings about government’s budget. Several legislators raised concerns at the time that the marginal increase in the education budget would not be enough to deal with multiple weaknesses highlighted in a series of school inspection reports. Overall standards at 10 of 15 government schools were deemed “unsatisfactory” in inspection reports – the lowest option on the grading scale used by the inspection team.
During the Finance Committee debate, Christen Suckoo, the chief officer in the Ministry of Education, said there were multiple positions, including teaching assistants, education psychologists and occupational therapists, that had been identified as necessary for improvement if funding was available.
After those discussions, government made a commitment to seek to shuffle its resources to fund some of those positions.
Ms. Rivers said that Cabinet had now unanimously approved new funding for multiple positions.
She said, “Having that discussion at national level in the Legislative Assembly helped to make my job of advocating for resources that much easier.”
She added, “Year on year we have already been ramping up our resources as relates to students with special educational needs and behavioral concerns.”
She said the large-scale injection of cash this year would enable the expansion of a successful literacy intervention program for young students below their expected reading level.
The Responses to Intervention Program helped lift the ratio of students reading on age group level in Year 1 to 86 percent last year. Ms. Rivers said the program was now being expanded to Year 2.