‘Partnership schools’ on back burner

A recommendation to introduce U.K.-style academy schools run by boards of business leaders, parents and former students is off the agenda for now, according to Education Minister Tara Rivers.

Education Minister Tara Rivers said the new system would be a framework for managing behavior in schools. - PHOTOS: JAMES WHITTAKER
Education Minister Tara Rivers addressed Cayman’s teachers before the start of the school year. – PHOTOS: JAMES WHITTAKER

A KPMG report on the Cayman Islands school governance model, published last year, suggested “Cayman Partnership Schools” funded by government but controlled by private boards of governors as the new model for the education system.

Similar to charter schools in the U.S. and academies in the U.K., such schools have had a mixed record in other jurisdictions.

Ms. Rivers said the concept, also recommended in the EY report on government cost cutting, is still being reviewed, but would not be pursued before the election, anticipated in May 2017.

“As it relates to the partnership school,” she said, “we are going in to a crucial year and we don’t want to introduce something else into the pot before we give a chance for what we have put in place for the last two years to start to bear the fruit.”

She said an increased focus on improving school leadership and the quality of teaching and learning in Cayman’s schools are key to improvement, regardless of who runs them.

“We haven’t actually come to a firm position on that as yet. We are seeing the progress we are seeing now because we are being targeted and focused in specific areas. Irrespective of the model, these fundamental things won’t change,” she said.

“The actual model, if it is a hybrid model, a public model, a charter model that in my mind, is a bit of a red herring that people are using to make claims about what should or shouldn’t happen.

“We are focusing on fundamentals and not getting caught up in what the model should look like at this stage.”

She said the KPMG report made a number of other recommendations, including the better collection and use of data in fueling policy that had been taken up.

“Even though that report came to an ultimate proposal of the partnership school, it was very informative on a number of levels. It gave us a good picture of what the parents were feeling at the time about the system.”

She said the report is still being looked at with a view to potentially introducing more of its recommendations in future.

The KPMG report suggests that schools should be moved out of direct control of government.

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

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 re-take opportunities.

Christen Suckoo, chief officer in the Ministry of Education, said the concept of publicly funded, privately run schools is still being examined as part of the Project Future initiative stemming from the EY Report.