There is a ‘clear link’ between economic disadvantage and academic outcomes in Cayman’s schools, according to government’s chief schools inspector Peter Carpenter.
But he believes good teaching and parental engagement can help change that dynamic.
“In Cayman, as in anywhere else around the world, economic hardship can be a barrier to academic success,” he said, “but it is also the case that good quality education can offer a successful route out of disadvantage.”
The 2019 annual report from his office, titled ‘Every School a Good School’, found significant disparity in the quality of support for children who were falling behind.
Carpenter said staffing levels are “generous” in public schools but, at least at the time of the 2019 report, arrangements for interventions for struggling children were inconsistent and, in some areas, ineffective.
Even in some private schools, he said, measures to help children with special educational needs varied, because of a lack of trained staff.
The Office for Education Standards, in a 2020 report on how well schools managed to deliver online learning during the COVID lockdown, also highlighted concerns over inequality of access to laptops and the internet.
Carpenter said it is the duty of the school system to try to bridge the economic divide and provide a good education for every child.
“Though there is a clear correlation between achievement and economic deprivation, we know that good quality teaching and effective schooling can positively overcome barriers to learning,” he said.
“In Cayman, students from different backgrounds can and do succeed. It is highly dependent upon how well they are taught and how involved parents are in supporting their children’s academic development.”
Though schools in less-affluent areas are likely to have greater social and economic issues, he said, all schools are judged to the same standard. The inspections assess student performance, attendance and behaviour, as well as teaching quality, school leadership and partnership with parents, among other measures.
“We apply the same measures to all schools regardless of the community in which the school is located or served.
“Some may consider this unfair. However, as we believe that all children in Cayman, regardless of home background and financial status, are entitled to a ‘good’ quality of education, then we should report equitably on all schools about outcomes, regardless of the school’s setting.”