December 12, 2019

Speeches to open the Cayman Islands Annual Education Professionals’ Welcome

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Education Welcome - August 2015Annual Education Professionals’ Welcome – 2015/16 Academic Year

Hon. Tara Rivers, Minister of Education, Employment & Gender Affairs

Introduction

I would like to start by thanking the dedicated, hardworking teachers for their commitment to the children of the Cayman Islands, and to the invaluable service you provide to this country. We all know that the progress of our students is greatly dependent on their teachers. Your dedication to the teaching profession is to be commended.
A special welcome to our new teachers joining us this academic year and to the newly qualified returning Caymanian teachers, – thank you for joining our team.
As educators, your job is truly monumental, as you are currently preparing our students for jobs and careers that, in many cases, do not yet exist. Teaching is no longer just about imparting knowledge; instead, it is much more about helping our children learn to become critical and adaptive thinkers, helping them to develop the skills to synthesise and analyse the amount of information which is often readily accessible at a click of a mouse.
Teachers – you have an awesome responsibility. Where you fail to carry out your ever evolving responsibilities in an effective manner, our children fail; and where you succeed in doing so, our children succeed. It’s that simple.
Principals – you have an even equally great responsibility. You are responsible to ensure that our children that are entrusted in your care at your school do not fail. If you do not effectively manage and deploy the resources available in and to your school, you fail our children.
If the Education System as a whole does not provide adequate resources to meet the needs of our children, then as a country, we fail our children. We cannot afford to fail our children. If we fail our children, we condemn our Nation.
Over the past two years the Government has demonstrated our commitment to pursuing what can be described, in its essence, as a singular focus – raising standards in education and addressing the educational needs of all our children. Over the past two years the Government has also demonstrated the value we place on the viewpoints of all education stakeholders through on-going consultation. In particular, I have met with school staff, parents, students, employer groups and the wider community to listen to their feedback about the Cayman Islands Education System. From this on-going consultation, school visits, reviews of school data and assessments conducted, it is evident that, whilst there were some areas of good practice being carried out throughout the schools and the education system generally, major improvements are still needed.

“The Journey” (since May 2013)

2013/14: “A Year of Continuity and Discovery”
At this event in August 2013, as the newly elected and appointed Minister of Education, I gave a commitment to follow through with the key initiatives previously underway in Education, i.e. the Strategic Plan for Education 2012-2017, which, by in large, was a continuation of the Education Reform efforts started during the previous PPM administration and administrations before. Education is a process.
What was evident from stakeholder consultation which started very early on in our tenure as Minister and Councillor for Education was that the education system needed focus, even given the Strategic Plan for Education 2012-2017. In order to streamline processes and fill gaps in the Strategic Plan, as Minister, I therefore introduced six strategic priorities for Education:
1. Focus on International Competitiveness and Raising Standards
2. Focus on strengthening provision for children with Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND), including provision of Gifted and Talents Students
3. Focus on Conflict Resolution Training & Crime Reduction Strategy
4. Focus on strengthening provision for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) to be obtained within the Secondary School system
5. Focus on Information & Communication Technology (ICT) Integration to support teaching methodology and pedagogy
6. Focus on enhancing Private Public Partnerships in Education and Training
These focus areas acted as a guide for the Education Team in the Ministry to develop a number of strategies and initiatives designed to provide the system with the necessary support and direction to raise standards and to address the educational needs of all our children.

2014/15: “A year of critical analysis and laying the foundation by addressing the gaps”
An internal assessment of the behaviour management system was conducted by Ministry staff during the 2013/14 year to determine the effectiveness of the system. In 2014/15 we began to address gaps by doing the following:
• Creating a revised Student Code of Conduct, a teacher guidance handbook, a national Home-School Agreement for high schools, a national use of cell phones and other electronic equipment policy, and a revised national uniform and dress code policy.
• Launching a new Behaviour Support Team and strengthen the relationship and define expectations through service level agreements between the schools and the special support units (such as Stepping Stones and Corner Stones)
• Pastoral Support Worker: PSW programme was developed in the Summer of 2013 shortly after taking office and initially piloted in 2013/14 academic year in response to the need for personnel on school sites who could interface with students positively to reduce and de-escalate events. Pastoral support workers helped to guide students in need of additional support during the school day with the aim of ensuring they engage with learning and access educational opportunities. They are particularly visible during arrival, lunch and at the end of the day. This was also an employment initiative to enable suitably qualified Caymanians into work. As a result of the positive feedback received from the pilot, the programme was continued and supported by the Ministry in 2014/15.
• Strengthening the role of the Special Needs Coordinators: In 2015/16 academic year, every school will have access to a non-teaching SENCO who will be responsible for assisting with the coordination and oversight of provision and services for students with SEN/D in the schools.
• Hosting a national educational conference in February of this year, with a focus on effectively dealing with behaviour challenges and inclusion. The conference involved all government school staff and private schools were invited. The conference included a key address by world renowned educator Dr. Avis Glaze. Educators took part in professional development workshops to improve their skills and be better equipped to develop inclusive learning environments and experiences for students.
Another critical area of feedback received from stakeholders during the 2013/14 academic year was the need for independent evaluations of the education system. Therefore, during the 2014-2015 school year two important evaluations of the education system took place. The Ministry of Education commissioned baseline school inspections of all government schools as well as a review of the governance model for education. The inspections have been completed and the reports have been delivered to the Ministry.

2015/16: “A Year of Increased Accountability and Strengthened Reporting Mechanisms”
The overarching goal of the work to be done this academic year will be on raising standards of education through increased accountability. There must be a relentless and unequivocal approach taken to raising standards and increasing accountability at all levels of the education system. There can be no excuses in this regard!
Baseline inspections of all government schools have been conducted and the results are in. I will speak briefly regarding the outcomes of the inspections before discussing education governance.
The overall finding of the inspections is that most government schools have had improvement in terms of student performance across the board; however, these results are still significantly below the expected minimum when compared to international standards. Generally, in English, mathematics and the practical aspects of science, overall achievement is significantly lower than UK norms by at least one year.
The inspections revealed a number of other shortcomings in the system, including: several HR related issues in regards to recruitment, retention and deployment of high quality teaching staff; need for better appraisal and performance management practices for underperforming staff; the need to increase resourcing and improve training and support for the management of Special Education Needs and behavioural issues; and the need to ensure that teaching assistants are effectively deployed and supervised; need for better collection and use of assessment data, and monitoring of performance trends over time; more targeted induction and Professional Development (PD) programmes to meet the needs of teachers and support staff; and the lack of inter-school support and exchange of ideas, good practice and successes, which is believed to help improve the overall performance of all schools. The inspections overview report also recommends that the criteria for success for the secondary schools be expanded beyond that of targets for the proportion of Level 2 passes.
One of the key recommendations of the Governance Review was to enhance accountability in the education system through reporting of key performance indicators and more detailed regular reporting by each school. The Review also highlighted the fact that many stakeholders in Education – including parents and the Principals themselves – believed the schools needed more autonomy in their day-to-day operations.
There has been some overlap in the findings from the inspection reports and the education review, and importantly the findings have been consistent. These reports will be made public once schools have received their final reports.
This means that there is still a lot of work to be done and whilst it is important to recognise some improvement year over year in recent years, it is also important to recognise that it is to a standard that is simply not good enough. However, it is also important to recognise that the issues facing the education system did not “arrive here over night”. These problems have been “a long time coming” over many, many years, which have been compounded by a number of factors over the years.

Proactive Not Reactive

It is important to point out that while the baseline schools inspections and the education governance review were taking place, the education teams were tasked with implementing strategies and initiatives to address the 6 strategic areas of priority discussed previously. Once I was able to get a decent “lay of the land” from my own assessments from meeting with internal and external stakeholders during the 2013/14 school year, as Minister, I didn’t want to just wait until the inspections were over before putting much needed improvements in place. In fact, now that I have received and have seen the results, the reports themselves validate the importance and appropriateness of the strategic priority areas of focus established and the initiatives undertaken since taking office in May 2013.
In addition to what was discussed previously, I would like to share some of the targeted work that has taken place during the 2014-2015 academic year, after which I will speak to the plan going forward in the 2015-2016 school year. (In the interest of time, I will only list a few examples of each of the initiatives developed and implemented since this Government took office to address the issues and to support positive reform. A full list will be available on the Ministry of Education website in a document titled the “Education Progress Report 2014-2015” in the next few days.)

Highlights from the “Education Progress Report 2014-2015”

International Leadership Certificate through Ontario’s Principal’s Council
This past year all Government School principals and deputy principals began the certificate programme of the International School Leadership Certificate facilitated by the Ontario Principals’ Council (OPC), using a framework which was contextualised locally but based on international best practice. This programme supported Principals and senior managers in developing strategies to more effectively manage their schools. New principals and deputy principals, as well as “emerging leaders” in the schools will also have the opportunity to participate in the PD programme this coming year, and training for existing principals and deputy principals will continue this year as well.

Standards Based Writing and Reading Guidance for Key Stage 1 (Years 1 – 3)
Guidance on Effective Writing and Reading Instruction is a professional learning tool that has been developed to provide support for teachers’ planning and practice in Key Stage 1. The document explores the essential components necessary for the development of an effective early years writing program that will set the foundation for future student achievement.

TVET Strategy and Action Plan Developed
Technical and Vocational Programmes are geared to students with a range of academic abilities and interests. This is a strategy to develop pathways for students while still in compulsory education by building on and expanding school TVET qualifications, and mapping into post-secondary education and university. There is an emphasis on partnerships with the private sector through apprenticeships and work experience. Government is in the process of convening a National Training Council and appointing a TVET coordinator to assist in further developing and implementing this strategy.

New Graduation Criteria adopted
Students graduate at the end of Year 12. A formal graduation criteria was introduced for the 2014 public school graduating cohort. There are criteria that need to be met in order to graduate based on attendance, behaviour and academic achievement. The criteria are being further reviewed with a view to include aspects of citizenship and community service. This directly aligns with and addresses a key recommendation made in the inspections overview report regarding broadening the success criteria at secondary school level.

We have also focused on developing greater public private partnerships during the 2014-2015 school year. Some examples of these partnerships include:

Literacy Is For Everyone () Ltd
In addition to the other partnerships with LIFE Ltd. aimed at the Primary School level, in September of 2014, LIFE Ltd, in partnership with the Department of (DES), John Gray High School (JGHS), and the Ministry of Education, launched a reading intervention program to support struggling readers in Year 7. LIFE is an independent charitable organisation dedicated to addressing literacy issues in the Cayman Islands.
The Levelled Literacy Intervention (LLI) program being used by JGHS was selected as an effective program for schools because it is a supplementary small group intervention program that encapsulates three keys to successful literacy instruction: (1) expert teaching; (2) quality levelled books; and (3) good instructional design. Students have shown improvement and have responded well to the intervention.

We have also established a public private partnership with:

Cayman Finance
The Ministry of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs, the Ministry of Financial Services, Commerce and Environment and Cayman Finance developed and worked in a cooperative partnership to offer an education and work experience initiative to participating year 12 students in the dual enrolment government system (i.e. those attending the first year of A’ Levels or UCCI as part of the Year 12 programme).
The programme began in May, 2015 and:
• provided one-to-one coaching, networking and relationship building with a professional in the financial services industry;
• provided real world work experience to high performing students who are interested in a future career within the financial services industry;
• educated students on the various aspects of the financial services industry, making them aware of the different careers available; and
• aligned interested students with the largest industry in the country to enhance potential future employment prospects.

This past academic year, we continued the public private partnerships with:
• Cayman Islands Society of Professional Accountants (CISPA) for the provision of critical support for the teaching of mathematics and numeracy initiatives in our primary schools;
• Hedge Fund Cares – for the provision of financial support to facilitate child abuse prevention and appropriate interventions in the schools.

As you can see we have not sat back and waited for the outcomes of the inspection reports. The Ministry team was tasked with and has been making efforts to improve the education system whilst being externally evaluated. I have only listed a few of the initiatives undertaken during the 2014-2015 school year. In the coming days a full list can be found on the Ministry of Education’s website in a document titled the “Education Progress Report 2014-2015”.
It is important to stress that even though initiatives have been put in place over the past year there is still a lot of work to be done. This upcoming school year will not be business as usual. As representatives of the education system, you have a duty to be even more responsive to the needs of our students and ensure that each child in your care reaches their fullest potential.

“Children First – No Excuses, Just Solutions!”

Going into the 2015-2016 school year, the vision for education is simple. “Children First – No Excuses, Just Solutions”
This statement takes us back to basics, “Children First.” As it relates to education, every decision we make as a Government, every decision made in the Ministry of Education, every decision made at the Department of Education Services and every decision made at each school must be made for the benefit of our children. It is that simple!
It is only through this unwavering conviction that we will continue to raise our standards to (and hopefully exceed!) an acceptable level, and be able to offer a world class Education System. Educators, under your leadership and tutelage, our young minds progress in their journey in education, and they rely on you to consistently provide them quality teaching to enable their learning and development. Therefore, it is essential that you embrace this vision of “Children First – No Excuses, Just Solutions”.
For some of you this is also your vision for education and has always been. For others, this may require a shift in thinking, but it is an essential one to make. Starting now!
At the recent professional development education conference held earlier this year, you had the pleasure of working with Dr. Avis Glaze, a world renowned educator and leader in education reform efforts worldwide, and I will share with you a few words that resonated with me and that speaks to the vision of putting children first. She said (and I may be paraphrasing), “parents send to school the best kids they have – they are not holding back or hiding the better ones at home”. Keep that in mind as you begin the school year as our children deserve the best you have to offer as educators, and they must be afforded every opportunity for success. You have to ensure that from the time they reach your classroom door to the time that they leave, you, as their teacher or as their support staff, have facilitated a world-class education each and every day. Anything short of that is simply not good enough.
Like I said, for 2015-2016 it will not be business as usual. The education system needs to reform. I recognise that system-wide reform that strives to raise student literacy and mathematics levels to the highest international standards is a daunting challenge. Yet, as educators, there remains a moral imperative for you to work together and take decisive action immediately to overcome the challenging conditions currently being faced by our schools.
According to Michael Fullan, “Change is a process, not an event,” and that in order to embark on this process of change requires a commitment from all stakeholders to join in the journey to actualize sustainable educational reform.
As Minister, it has always been my stance that students need to come first. This is a value that I’m sure is shared with the vast majority of educators in this room. Whilst it is important to acknowledge success (and we have many shining examples of very successful students attending and leaving our schools – year over year!), we know that there still remains a segment of students who leave compulsory education at the end of Year 12 without obtaining the literacy and numeracy skills they require to be successful in life. This reality has become even more evident in the wake of the baseline inspection reports. Without a doubt, there are some key system changes that need to be made to make sure that all students come first.

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

It is time to get back to the basics; it is time for the education system to focus on the fundamental tenants of any successful school – 1) teaching and learning, and 2) school leadership and management.
So, it is with great anticipation that I announce the launch of the Cayman Islands Teaching and Learning Strategy 2015 – 2019, which is a 14 point multi-year plan. The strategy will build upon the strengths of the education system, while also providing specific tools and objectives that are required to navigate the change process and create the kind of educational system that will enable all our students to achieve at the highest international standards, and certainly to their highest individual potential.
The initial focus of the Teaching and Learning Strategy will be on literacy, as literacy is the building block, the foundation, for all other learning; but successful implementation of the objectives outlined in the Strategy will improve student achievement in all subject areas. Every objective outlined in the Teaching and Learning Strategy is rooted and anchored in a body of research that has been made to fit within the Cayman Islands context.
To reach that goal of raising standards and meeting the educational needs of all children, we must plan ahead and set S.M.A.R.T. targets. Targets that are Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic and Time-bound.
Keeping with the focus on literacy, the specific, measurable target for the Cayman Islands is: “By the end of the 2019/20 academic year, all students will read and write on level by the end of Year 2”.
Specific, measurable target for the end of this 2015/16 school year is to have 85% of students leaving Year 1 who are reading on level.
From the 2016/17 school year and for every year thereafter, there are specific, measurable targets for Year 1 and Year 2 students, culminating with 100% of students leaving Year 2 reading and writing on level. The detailed strategy will be presented and discussed with the schools in the coming weeks, and will be made available on the Ministry of Education website thereafter.
These are ambitious targets, I know, but they are totally able to be accomplished. No excuses! We have focused on Year 1 and 2 as these are crucial years in a child’s learning that will create the foundation for their success. Principals – this means that you will have to think very carefully about the resources made available for Year 1 and 2 and the support you put in place for those year groups.

Plan of Action 2015-16

Although the Teaching and Learning Strategy primarily focuses on Years 1 and 2 that does not mean the other year groups can take it easy.
Over the summer representatives from the Ministry of Education, the Department of Education Services as well as the Lead Inspector have come together to review the inspection reports and to develop a Plan for Action for the 2015-2016 school year which includes actions from the Cayman Islands Teaching and Learning Strategy 2015-2019. It was essential that all three entities – Ministry, DES and quality assurance offered through the local Lead Inspector on the Baseline Inspections – came together to plan the way forward. Principals have also been briefed regarding the 2015/16 Plan of Action and, from what I am made to understand, are all on board.
I am also made to understand that, historically, this kind and level of collaboration has not occurred and marks a much needed shift in the working relationship between the key players in the education system. Based on your feedback (as expressed to me directly and as reflected in the outcomes of the governance review), strengthening this working relationship and dealing with the issues of mistrust between the various key players in the education system is essential in ensuring that the system is working towards carrying out the Government’s vision of putting “Children First – No Excuses, Just Solutions!”, and that the public education system as a whole is united in the aims for significant school improvement and greater student success.
The 2015/16 Plan of Action is this year’s concrete implementation plan for the Cayman Islands Teaching and Learning Strategy 2015 – 2019, and is linked to the recommendations from the inspection reports as well as to the findings of the education governance review report.
I must emphasise that, as Minister, I am committed to ensuring that the outcomes of the inspection reports are addressed and the recommendations implemented. And I can speak with confidence that the Government is also committed to ensuring that the outcomes of the inspection reports are addressed and the recommendations implemented. This means that you too, as educators, must make the same commitment because our children deserve nothing less.
During my consultation with educators, over the past two years, I received a lot of feedback about the level of autonomy, or perceived lack thereof, throughout the education system. The education governance review speaks to this as well. The Plan of Action therefore provides a framework which gives more autonomy to schools for improving student progress and achievement, and oversight responsibility to the Department of Education Services. This also means that there is an increased level of accountability at the school level as well. And as a Government, we have made it very clear to the Deputy Governor, and as Minister I have made it very clear to my acting Chief Officer, the Government expects greater accountability in our education system.
For the 2015-2016 school year, the “theme”, if you will, is establishing a system of accountability and strengthening reporting procedures.

The Plan of Action focuses on two key areas:
1. Strengthening leadership and management; and
2. Improving student progress and achievement.

The focus areas take us back to basics. We recognise the impact leadership and management can have on school success and we know from research that students’ progress and achievement is highly dependent on the quality of teaching. This is clearly emphasised from the school inspection reports.
We intend to publish the Cayman Islands Teaching and Learning Strategy 2015-2019 and the 2015-2016 Plan of Action that flows from it on the Ministry of Education website in the coming weeks, but prior to doing so we want to ensure that educators have an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the documents and that everyone knows their role and responsibilities linked to the Plan.
I know that I’ve given you a lot of information and I again want to bring your attention to our vision, “Children First – No Excuses, Just Solutions!”

Accountability starts at the Top

I’m happy to report that everything that I spoke to you about this time last year (and more!), as the intended course of action and strategies to be carried out during the 2014/15 school year, has been accomplished or is the process of being finalised, namely:
• Revamping the Behaviour Management Structure (as discussed earlier).
• Carrying out the Baseline Inspections and Governance Review
• Developing a focussed TVET strategy and making provision for a TVET coordinator to help carry out and coordinate the strategy to improve alignment between school and the workplace.
• Development of strengthened education legislation to support the education reform and transformation process required.
As Minister, to the extent possible, I have held and continue to hold the Ministry team to account in order to deliver on this Government’s mandate to raise standards in education and to work to address the educational needs of all of our students.
There was one other commitment made and action called for last year which I have not yet spoken about, but of which I am sure many of you have not forgotten, and that is the fact that the Government had called on the Deputy Governor and the Portfolio of the Civil Service () to conduct a review of the pay and conditions for educators, and that the Deputy Governor and the had agreed to do so. In a recent meeting with the Deputy Governor and to present their findings, I am made to understand that has structured the work to be carried out in 2 phases: 1) conducting a review of the pay inequity that exists for those teachers who have not received an increment in a number of years and whose salaries have remained stagnant and lag behind as compared to the newer recruits to the education system; and 2) conducting a review of the pay and conditions for educators as compared to some of our “competitor” jurisdictions and other relevant leading jurisdictions in terms educational achievement.
I am very pleased to announce that POCS has completed Phase 1 of the review and has presented a proposal to address the stagnation inequity, and I am even more pleased to announce that the Government has agreed that, starting in this academic year, the salaries for those individuals who qualify will be adjusted.
This year everyone needs to do their part to ensure that our students succeed; but we realise that to keep people motivated, this long standing issue which has negatively affected morale among our long serving teachers and to move the system forward, these inequities needed to be addressed.
I would like to thank my colleagues in Cabinet as they have committed to help find the funds necessary to address the inequity starting this year.
During the coming year the Ministry and POCS will continue in their assessment as it relates to Phase 2 of the review, for Government’s further consideration once such review is completed. Rest assured that I gave you a commitment last year on behalf of the Government, and we have fulfilled that commitment to the extent possible given what has been presented to us to date in this regard.
Once again, I commit this year that, as Minister, I will push to see that Phase 2 of the review continues in a timely fashion. And you should know that I have the support of the Government in this regard.
At this time I would like to acknowledge the private sector participation in our Education System. As we continue on this journey to excellence, I would like to recognise and thank organisations like CISPA, LIFE, Cayman Finance, Hedge Funds Care, Special Needs Foundation and many others who have contributed to our education system through the partnerships that exist and through the donation of resources and volunteers. The value of private-public partnerships in education cannot be underestimated, and I believe we can do more to create meaningful participation with the private sector and non-governmental organisations. This is something we will continue to actively pursue in the coming year.
I would also like to acknowledge role of the Media in the Education System. Thank you to those members of the media who are here today. You play a vital role. As journalists, you can either help to get the message across or hurt by just focussing on creating the next sensational headline, at the expense of our children. I challenge you to also adopt a “Children First” approach when reporting on matters related to education. You have a responsibility to report responsibly, and I ask you to be mindful of how powerful messages portrayed in the media are to young, impressionable minds. Before you commit pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, or voice to microphone, think, “How is what I am about to say or write going to negatively or positively affect our children?”

Closing

In closing, education is the key to success in life. A good teacher inspires hope, ignites imagination, and instils a love of learning. On the other hand, a teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring students with a desire to learn is (in my mind) attempting to make water flow upwards. Teachers, if you take that spark of learning that every child has, you can take a child from any background, from whatever personal circumstance to a lifetime of creativity, curiosity and success.
“A teacher effects eternity; one can never tell where a teacher’s influence stops” (paraphrase Henry Adams). Remember that in your day to day interaction with our children. You create history!
Children will rise to the expectations set for them. As educators, if you have no or low expectations, then guess what, that is exactly what will be achieved!
As Minister for Education I am committed, and as a Government we are all committed, to the very highest standards of education for all our students in all our schools. However, we all recognise that none of us can rest, and that we must always strive to be among the best of the best. It is for that reason we need to continue to self-reflect, invite scrutiny, and be willing to face up to the hard questions and issues, and be willing to take responsibility to find and implement the necessary solutions for the benefit of our children .
I am sure you will agree that the education of our children is the most important gift we can give them to ensure their future success, and the success of our country. As your Minster, I will not shrink from this task, and neither will I fail to offer you my full and unqualified support as we strive to together provide the very best education for the children of this country.
Thank you and I wish God’s richest blessings for the forthcoming year and again I remind you of our vision, “Children First – No Excuses, Just Solutions!”
END

Annual Education Professionals’ Welcome – 2015/16 Academic Year
Remarks by Mr. Winston Connolly, MLA, Councillor

Good Morning Everyone.

By now, I’m sure you’re realising that even outside of the classroom, an enormous amount of work has gone into education during the last year. We’ve evaluated our system via two reviews: the Baseline Inspections and the Education Review, we’ve reviewed the Education Law, we’ve assessed our current programmes, we’ve added new interventions, we’ve moved resources around to better utilise people and funding, we’ve delivered on the much overdue increase in veteran teachers’ salaries, and we’ve implemented a whole new support system for our schools that allow for more autonomy and increased accountability for schools themselves. Outside of the Ministry, DES and schools, private sector organisations such as CISPA, LIFE and Cayman Finance have continued their investment in the public education system. It is my hope that the public interest in education will continue to grow, and with that there can be added partnerships and development of programmes that will support our education system. We in this room represent the team that administers public education, however, education does not start or end with us. Our jobs are so much more than to teach the student in our respective classrooms: The question we must ask is how do we create passion for education and the belief that if you want it, if you work hard, you can transcend humble beginnings? our jobs are to foster a desire for learning that transcends all classrooms and inspires a lifelong love affair with education. Our students need to leave your classrooms with the understanding that education is a necessary and recurring step on the way to success. This is the only way that they will be fit for the jobs our future holds for them – jobs that may not even be in existence at this time.

Engaging our students to this idea is no easy task, which is why, at the Ministry level, we’ve spent the last year adapting our internal system to better suit the kind of support you will need to begin to foster this kind of teaching. The monitoring in place this year will also let us know, right away, what is working and what isn’t. The expectation is that, with this level of autonomy, you will be able to recognise what isn’t working and adjust it quickly and as necessary but most importantly to get help when you need it. Each of your classrooms begins and ends with you, and our goal has been to start the 2015-16 year off empowering you to maximise your potential, and the potential of all your students, in that classroom. Our reviews last year have shown that the majority of our students have not been working to their potential, and we cannot accept this. From the reports and inspections it was revealed that our children have limitless potential. We now have to match our teaching and interventions so that they meet and exceed their CAT scores. I challenge you that no child be left behind-not on YOUR watch. Not on OUR watch. The commencement of the 2015-16 year marks the time when we pull out all the stops for our students, where we as educators stop at nothing to see our students succeed, and when we inspire all citizens of the Cayman Islands to get involved and make education their business.

The new year will no doubt bring new challenges, however, I truly believe that with the team we have today, and the support system that has been put together, we can overcome all of those challenges. Former American football coach, Lou Holtz, said “In this world, you’re either growing or dying”, and it is our duty to ensure that our students leave the sanctuary of our classrooms prepared to grow daily.

My mother was a teacher so I know a bit about the passion, the drive, the care you all have for our children. They are a reflection of you and you are their ‘parents’ for a significant part of their day. To our returning teachers: thank you for the jobs you have done thus far – you are an integral part of our education team, and we look forward to seeing you in even better action this year. To the NQT’s: welcome, officially, to the team and to this profession – we hope we’ve sufficiently prepared you for your first year on the job! To the teachers new to us this year: we hope that you’ve come in feeling that you are truly part of this team, and we look forward to seeing the fruits of your labour in due course.

To all teachers: thank you for your commitment as educators – I know that this is no easy task. I trust you are all waiting in anticipation to begin your new year, and I will therefore close by wishing us all a very successful 2015-16 academic year.

END

Annual Education Professionals’ Welcome – 2015/16 Academic Year
Remarks by Mr. Christen Suckoo, Acting Chief Officer

As Acting Chief Officer, it is certainly my pleasure to welcome you all to the Annual Education Professionals’ Welcome, and to personally welcome each and every one of you, whether you are one of our returning faithful, or joining our joining us for the first time; or one of our Newly Qualified Caymanian Teachers, to the beginning of what is sure to be an exciting school year.

This year’s agenda is loaded, as expected, with programmes, interventions and professional development opportunities coordinated with the intention that all members of our school communities have a successful 2015-16 school year.

During the 2014-2015 school year two important evaluations of the education system took place. The Ministry of Education commissioned baseline school inspections of all government schools as well as a review of the governance model for education.

The Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) Consultancy was chosen for the baseline inspections by a local Lead Inspector because of its extensive record of having conducted independent inspections in a number of countries, and for a proposal that outlined a very thorough inspections process. ISI Consultancy represents the largest independent schools inspectorate in the world. They sent a team of inspectors between November 2014 and March 2015 to visit and evaluate all 15 government schools.

In addition to the baseline school inspections, the Ministry sought to engage the services of an external and objective body to conduct an independent review of the government education system and invited all of the major accounting firms on island to tender for this review.

KPMG was chosen to carry out the review as it not only has a reputation of being one of the ‘Big 4’ accounting firms, but because it also has a Centre of Excellence in Education in the UK, which was utilised as a vital resource in this review process. KPMG contracted, through its Centre of Excellence, an education consultant who was brought in to lead the review.

The outcomes of these separate and independent reviews had quite a bit of overlap, which gave credence to the results, and shed some light on some of our difficult realities in terms of Leadership & Management as well as Student Progress & Achievement. These realities are simply that while progress has indeed been made in our education system, we are still falling short in delivering outcomes that are in line with international results and best practice. In anticipation of these kinds of findings, during the 2014/15 school year the Ministry, DES and school teams put systems in place to foster more positive and successful learning environments for our students. This school year, additional initiatives along with some changes to our standard operations will begin as early as September 2015. Minister Rivers will speak more in depth about the programmes themselves shortly. However, I would like to touch on the modifications to the way we will be doing things operationally, which we found necessary in order to establish a system that best supports your success in your classrooms. These changes revolve mainly around accountability and responsibility, and while the Ministry is indeed here to support you on the ground, the expectation is that responsibility and accountability will be upheld in each classroom, and immediately supported within each school community. The Ministry and DES will provide support to allow for a more autonomous running of our schools while empowering school leaders with the tools, programmes and interventions to truly deliver a successful education product this year.

The changes being implemented are intended to improve our student performance outcomes. As we all know, the effects of sub-par student performance go far beyond the short-term external exam outcomes to the long term effects of being insufficiently prepared for the world of work, or even further, to being a member of society that is incapable of making equitable contributions. This therefore means that the commitment to change our student performance requires that we as a team change our approach. This commitment to improvement requires everyone’s support. We are all stakeholders in education, because the success of our education system affects us all.

In the next few weeks your school leaders will be equipped with a list of reports and analyses expected to be carried out during the school year and their respective deadlines. These include termly feedback regarding teacher performance, termly review of behaviour reports and termly reports regarding student academic progress. This reporting will be done to your respective Senior School Improvement Officers (SSIOs) who will analyse the reports accordingly, and work alongside your Principals and their Senior Management Teams to ensure that the relevant programmes and interventions are sufficiently utilised, depending on the trends reported. The SSIOs also have a number of regular reports to make to the Chief Education Officer (CEO), based on the data collected from school leaders, so as to ensure that each school and classroom are getting the attention they require, and that the outcomes are improving. The CEO will in turn keep the Ministry abreast of the overall picture of education in our system, and should any significant changes or support be needed, the Ministry will have the information necessary respond suitably and in a timely manner. This reporting requirement will ensure that student and teacher outcomes are the primary focus of all of our efforts, including policy direction and performance management. It will also ensure that our decision-making is driven by robust and accurate data.

The goal of the Ministry this year is to ensure that you – our team on the ground – are not only empowered to do the jobs we and the country expect of you, but sufficiently equipped.
The reviews done last year will not be in vain. We are using the findings of these reviews to solidify the resources we have available, and the expectation is that these resources – including the data collected – will be expertly utilised in order to facilitate steady and constant improvement for our students. You, our teachers, are more than capable of assisting students in reaching their full potential. It is your purpose, as educators, and as a team, it is our goal to make this purpose a reality. I would therefore like to pause to thank the Hon. Minister Ms. Tara Rivers and Councillor for Education, Mr. Winston Connolly for their leadership, as well as the staff of within the Ministry, the Department of Education Services and our schools for your commitment and hard work. I would also like to thank the Government and the Hon. . Franz Manderson, as well as the various Chief Officers and leaders within the Civil Service for their continued support of the Ministry’s efforts. These persons are all part of our team, because they recognise the importance of ensuring a high-quality education system, and they regularly demonstrate that when called upon to do so.

The 2015-16 year will be a pivotal one, as it marks the commencement of a new era of public education in the Cayman Islands. I welcome you all to the beginning of this new year, and new era, with renewed purpose and focus as we work together with our students, parents, and wider community to place the Cayman Islands Public Education System among the world’s best. I end in trust that you will view the work ahead as an opportunity to continue the journey of improvement, and to make real change for our students and their families.

As we quip you with the tools needed for a successful year, we expect you to partner with each student to ensure that they in turn are equipped to play active and positive roles in society. We expect you to make an investment in every child so that they know only their best is acceptable. We expect you to challenge them and stretch their limits so that they can reach their full potential. We are confident that you can do this, and we are supporting you all the way. Thank you and God Bless you all.

END

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