Report: Continued problems at George Town Primary

Evaluators have determined that George Town Primary has done a poor job in addressing the shortcomings identified in a 2014-2015 inspection report.

The report issued last week by the Office of Education Standards found continuing problems with such things as poor lesson planning, classroom management and continued low test scores. In the 2014-2015 report, the school was given six areas to focus on for improvement. Inspectors for this most recent report rated the school’s progress as “weak” in all six areas.

Among those, the report finds continued problems in student performance. It noted that while there has been some progress in earlier grades, Year 6 scores in reading, writing and math continue to be below average. Only half the students at that age level are working at expected levels and “there was no indication that results in 2018 would improve,” the report said.

Shortcomings in the classroom were also noted.

“In over one third of lessons, the quality of teaching was judged to be weak,” the report said. “These sessions were characterised by poor lesson planning and weak classroom management skills.”

Inspectors observed teachers leaving classrooms unsupervised and said a “minority of students” with poor behavior often interrupted and slowed the flow of lessons. Mechanisms for improving the behavior of troublesome students – detention during lunch and recess – are not working, they said. The report suggested that the school needs a full-time counselor to deal with such students.

The report noted that Principal Sharon Campbell-Danvers and Deputy Principal Danielle Duran came to the school at the start of this academic year.

“They had quickly established a positive working ethos in the school and had ascertained an accurate view of the school’s strengths and areas requiring improvement,” the report said.

Such leadership may account for the seemingly contradictory high marks given to the school in a survey of parents. Of the 35 parents who completed the survey, 86 percent said they believed their children were getting a good education at George Town. A similar survey of 15 faculty members showed 93 percent felt the school is doing a good job.

This is Ms. Campbell-Danvers’ first job in the Cayman Islands. She spent over 20 years in education in Jamaica, both as a teacher and an administrator. She said she and her staff are working hard to address the issues noted in the report.

“A key part is getting the teachers on board,” Ms. Campbell-Danvers said. “We said to teachers, ‘This is where we are and, as a group, what are we going to be doing to move George Town forward?’ We’re pulling out all the stops.”

Groups of teachers have been formed to address all six of the issues inspectors looked at, she said, and plans are in the works to improve the curriculum and student performance. Some of the steps being taken include:

  • Identifying students performing just under the standards and providing additional support to bring them up to speed, with such things as early morning and Saturday classes;
  • Employing literacy and numeracy experts to help low-performing students;
  • Adding libraries to each classroom and making sure every class visits the school’s main library once a week; and
  • Strategically placing strong teachers where their peers who need improvement can observe and learn from them.

Ms. Campbell-Danvers said she has also been given assurance from Department of Education Director Lyneth Monteith that the school will have a full-time counselor to deal with students with behavioral problems.

The current counselor is at the campus only 3½ days a week.

She said the school has just completed meeting with the parents of Year 6 students to discuss the report findings and will be meeting with parents of the earlier grades in the coming weeks.

“We want to partner with the parents,” she said. “They’re a key link in achieving the expected standards.”

Office of Education Standards inspectors said they will be revisiting the school within the next six months to do a follow-up report.

The office also issued a report on Red Bay Primary last week. In the 2014-2015 inspection report, 12 areas needing improvement were identified. Evaluators found that the school had made good progress on nine of these and satisfactory progress on three.

A survey of 91 parents found that 82 percent were satisfied with the quality of education at the school, while 92 percent of teachers felt the same way. They also reported some problems.

“Teachers expressed concern regarding the level of staffing, particularly in helping address the needs of students with special educational needs,” the report said. “They felt that students with challenging behaviour required more support than was currently in place.”

The full surveys can be found online at www.pocs.gov.ky. Click on the Publications link under the heading Freedom of Information. Then click on the Office of Education Standards link.