Education ministry to track student ‘learning loss’

Distance learning

The Ministry of Education is implementing methods of tracking ‘learning loss’ for students who have spent the last several weeks being schooled at home during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The ministry, in a statement released Tuesday, said it was “essential” that all primary and secondary schools develop a ‘COVID-19 Education Response Plan’ for the 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 academic years which addresses the loss of learning that will have occurred whilst schools are physically closed to students.

Last week, the ministry officially announced that educational facilities in the Cayman Islands would remain closed until at least the end of the current academic year.

“Monitoring of student progress and achievement during this pandemic is critical. It is
recognised that the quality of student learning will not be consistent across households
and may not be of the same high quality as provided in schools,” the ministry said in its statement Tuesday.

It added, “Monitoring student progress and achievement will provide the foundation for understanding students’ needs and methods required to address them.”

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The ministry is requiring principals of each public and private school to provide “a template to monitor students throughout the pandemic”. These reports must be completed and submitted by each principal by 5pm every Friday, from 1 May to 26 June.

Public school principals are being asked to submit the reports to their respective senior school improvement officer, while the heads of private schools should send them to the education strategy officer in the Ministry of Education.

Once those reports are submitted, a combined report will be presented to the chief officer for education in the Ministry of Education by the following Tuesday of each week.

“The necessary social isolation measures implemented will disrupt school-based education for an extended period of time and will limit opportunities for students to learn in a classroom setting during the period of the shelter-in-place and social distancing orders,” Lyneth Monteith, acting chief officer in the Ministry of Education, said in the statement.

She added, “Recognising these unfortunate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry is moving into the next phase of our education continuity planning. Learning loss for students is a crucial area to address as we navigate this pandemic.  As this pandemic continues to impact the world, it is essential to attend to the educational needs of our children and youth.”

The ministry has issued a policy guidance document to each school.

The guidance from the ministry also addresses ensuring children who regularly received free meals at school can continue to do so, especially at a time when their parents or guardians may be newly unemployed or struggling to provide nutritious meals for their families.

“Monitoring students throughout this pandemic is essential for ensuring students receive meals,” the ministry said.

The ministry also urged schools to make “every reasonable effort to track every student enrolled” to check on their health and welfare. If students cannot be contacted or tracked, the schools are being advised to email Department of Educational Services truancy officers, who may refer cases to the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) or Department of Children and Family Services, if necessary, the ministry noted.

The ministry also addressed preparations for the reopening of schools “to ensure operational readiness once the ‘all clear’ is received from all relevant government authorities”.

Checks would include staff planning, enrolment changes, school sanitation, staff awareness training and provision of special resources to support a range of behaviours displayed by staff and students that are associated with negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ministry stated.

The statement also quoted Edna Moyle Primary School principal Danielle Duran, who said, “As a full-time educator and  mother of two school-aged children, I wholeheartedly empathize with parents and families in relation to the challenges they now face with supporting distance learning at home. However, I do believe it is crucial that we do our very best to continue providing opportunities for distance learning. We were already pushing extremely hard to get our students up to speed prior to the pandemic.

“Now we are losing critical face-to-face learning time and therefore cannot afford to suspend all activities. Our teachers are working diligently to support students while also maintaining their own personal obligations. We have had a number of changes over the last few weeks and it is still a work in progress. With this policy guidance, we have added support to review the efficiency of our online learning platform and to provide parents with as much support as possible. Most importantly to ensure the well-being of our students remain our top priority.”

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