Despite being locked down since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sir John A. Cumber Primary School received an overall performance rating of satisfactory after its most recent inspection.
However, the Office of Education Standards noted in its report, released Monday, that Cayman’s largest government primary school has key areas where improvement is needed, specifically in relation to local and international standards in English, mathematics, and science.
“During the Covid-19 pandemic when students were learning at home, a significant proportion was unable to participate in on-line learning due to a lack of internet access or the required hardware. As a consequence, students’ progress was hampered,” the report states. “Senior leaders and staff delivered learning packets to students weekly to ensure their continued access to education during the lockdown.”
Overall, students’ progress in English, mathematics, and science was found to be satisfactory, though the pandemic did affect learning.
“The school reported that rates of progress [in mathematics] had been adversely affected by the Covid-19 lockdown,” the report states.
Other areas deemed to be satisfactory included students’ behaviour, civic and environmental understanding, and teaching, learning, and assessment.
The West Bay school’s key strengths, according to the report, are:
• The curriculum was broad and balanced and was enriched by innovations such as virtual experiences in science and music which enhanced students’ learning experiences.
• The premises were safe and secure and there were effective arrangements in place to ensure the health and safety of students and staff.
• The school was well resourced with qualified staff and a wide range of resources which effectively promoted students’ engagement in their learning.
The most problematic aspect was attainment of international standards, where students were judged to be weak in English, mathematics, and science. But the report said senior leaders were taking steps to address the areas requiring improvement.
An example from the report regarding mathematics states: “In the Reception class, attainment was weak because no children reached the expected level in the latest assessments. Only a minority of students were able to count to 10 although a few were able to add single-digit numbers together.”
In science, the report states, “…current external tests in science indicated that most students did not demonstrate age-appropriate scientific knowledge and understanding.”
And in English, the report found that “Results from reading assessments, including phonic screening tests, showed almost all students to be well below age-appropriate expectations. There was a similar picture in writing.”
Among the report’s recommendations are raising attainment scores across core subjects “by holding teachers more accountable for the rates of progress made by their students.” It also suggests ways to improve the quality of teaching and recommends raising teachers’ expectations about what students can achieve; improving self-evaluation processes to enhance strategic planning; and centralising and analysing data to set more-focussed goals for the school.
With its overall rating of satisfactory this year, the primary school has come a long way. An inspection in November 2014 judged the school to be unsatisfactory.
“It received three subsequent follow-through inspections which focused on the progress the school had made in addressing the 16 recommendations from the baseline inspection. The most recent of these, in October 2019, found overall progress to be satisfactory,” the recently released report states.
The school has 505 students enrolled, 60 teachers, and 27 teaching assistants.
In a survey of 180 parents, most responded that they believe their children are making good progress in English, mathematics, and science, the report states. The overwhelming majority believe that their child is treated fairly at school, and that the school is well led.
A follow-through inspection will be scheduled within six to eight months to evaluate the school’s progress, the report states.
The full report can be read here.