EDITORIAL — Why care about school inspections?

If we want the best for our children, we must demand the best from our schools.

To that end, school inspections offer a critical perspective and valuable information about what schools are doing well and where they need to improve.

In the case of Clifton Hunter High School, which recently received its second “weak” rating from the Office of Education Standards, the ‘to-do’ list may seem daunting. Certainly, it was disappointing to learn that inspectors found the school had failed to make satisfactory progress addressing most of the deficiencies identified last year.

We hope school administrators, teachers, students and parents take the report’s findings and recommendations as a call to greater action. As the saying goes, ‘failure is not an option’. Transforming Cayman’s schools to 21st Century centres of educational excellence will not be easy, but it must be done.

For years, many of our government schools have struggled with low expectations, academic under-performance and lukewarm commitment from students and families – evidenced by chronic absenteeism and behavioural issues. Although performance gaps have been slowly closing, our local public school students continue to lag behind UK peers in performance on standardised tests.

Particularly troubling to us has been the fact that so many prominent Caymanian families, who have access to government education, choose instead to send their children to one of our islands’ private schools. This historically has even been true for leaders in Cayman’s public sector, including the education ministry.

While one cannot fault any parent for making decisions they feel are in their child’s best interest, all our children deserve access to the best possible education – one which gives them a firm foundation in core skills and concepts, encourages them to explore aptitudes and interests, and nurtures their development as our islands’ future citizens and leaders.

Education is one of the largest and costliest functions of our government, and with good reason. An educated and qualified workforce is the cornerstone of our continued collective success. In an increasingly global economy, our students must be fully equipped for competitive employment not only here but around the world.

The new school inspection framework, completed late last June after months of discussions and feedback from government officials, school teachers and administrators and the public, sets appropriately high expectations for our school communities. Now it is up to us to reach the bar.

Every two years, inspectors will assess schools and rate their progress on a four-point scale ranging from weak to excellent, with poor-performing schools receiving additional reviews.

With this road map in hand, school communities – including administrators, teachers, students and families – must uphold their end of the bargain. Aim high, act boldly and strive for excellence. Nothing less will do.

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