Following a Freedom of Information request, the Compass has obtained the scores from last spring’s GCSE exams for Year 11 and Year 12 students.
The results are a bit of a mixed bag.
Scores rose in most categories for Year 12 students. But almost all Year 11 scores dropped, many substantially.
Statistics provided by the Department of Education show significantly more modest gains for Year 12 students and substantial declines in the scores of Year 11 students taking the GCSE. In the six categories measured, the average gain for all Year 12 students was 5.3%.
The greatest single increase was a 7.4% improvement in the number of students passing level 2 maths, with 56.6% of students scoring C or above. The smallest improvement was in the 71.4% of students who passed level 2 exams in five or more subjects in 2017. That figure rose 0.4% to 71.7% in 2018.
GCSE exams are UK-generated tests that are used to measure competancy in multiple subject areas. There are individual tests for many different subjects. Cayman students have historically scored well below their UK counterparts, although the gap has narrowed in recent years.
For Year 11 students, benchmark scores were down in nearly all categories compared to the previous year. The only rise was in those passing seven or more level 2 exams. That figure went from 33% in 2017 to 33.2% in 2018. The biggest drop came in level 2 maths, where the pass rate dropped from 45.8% to 39.6%, a 13.5% decline.
Female students had the biggest impact on the overall rate. While females have consistently scored higher than their male counterparts over the years, their 2018 scores dropped an average of 10% in 2018.
The biggest drop came in the benchmark measure of five or more level 2 subjects, including maths and English. This has long been the international standard for measuring student achievement on the GCSE. The Year 12 score that is considered the minimum for success is 75%. Year 11 scores are typically lower.
In 2017, female Year 11 students scored an average of 52.1% on the benchmark exam. That score dropped 15% in 2018 to 44.3%.
John Gray High School Principal Jon Clark said Cayman schools continue to struggle to bring students up to international standards. The biggest problem, he said, is chronic under-performance of Year 6 students. The high schools, he said, have a lot of ground to make up when those children arrive as new Year 7 students.
“They come in very low,” Clark said.
The biggest gap between expected and actual performance is in maths, he said. He thinks a big part of the problem is that primary teachers are generally stronger in their knowledge of English than mathematics, something that may not be unique to Cayman.
John Gray added an additional period of maths this year for all students in an effort to address the weakness in the GCSE scores, he said.
“We must be above 50% and we’re still working on that,” Clark said.
The school hit just 36% in maths in 2018.
John Gray’s scores were significantly lower than either Clifton Hunter or Layman Scott high schools, but the declines in year-to-year scores were greater at the other schools.
At Layman E. Scott High School, the average decline over all six measures was 36.2%. However, the Cayman Brac school’s population is small – just 21 students in 2018 – so its numbers are susceptible to greater swings. It has consistently outperformed the other two high schools in its test scores and did so again in 2018.
Scores at Clifton Hunter dropped an average of 8.1%, while John Gray was down just a single percentage point.
Clark said he is encouraged by the progress he’s seeing in John Gray student performance this year.
The school already has 40 students who passed their level 2 maths exam at the end of Year 10, so he’s expecting to see the overall score increase in 2019. But he knows it will not be enough.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” he said.