Students who are being enrolled in a Government primary or high schools must register with the Department of Education Services (at 130 Thomas Russell Way, George Town, Grand Cayman), or the Cayman Brac Teacher’s Centre, between March 1st and June 30th.
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You will need to complete an application form and upload a copy of the child’s birth certificate, immunisation card, and documentation showing the child’s residency category (i.e. a passport or status letter). Parents must also supply two forms of proof of their street address by presenting a utility bill and lease or a notarised letter from a landlord if renting. Catchment areas determine which school your child will attend.
Priority for entry into a Government school goes first to Caymanians/Status holders, then to dependants of Caymanians, thirdly to dependants of Cayman Islands Government employees, then to permanent residents and lastly to all others where space is available. Class sizes are capped at 24 students per class for Reception and Year 1, and at 28 students in other years.
Please note that not all primary schools have enough spaces in the Reception class (eg West Bay Primary has 3 Reception classes but 4 classes in Year 1), and although the Ministry of Education is trying to resolve this problem, a considerable percentage of children will not be able to start primary school until they are five. The Government are very strict on keeping children in their age groups, so if your child does not get into primary school when they are four, they will go straight into Year 1 at the age of five. This has caused significant problems if the child is not socially, emotionally and academically ready for the rigorous pace of Year 1. If this is your child, be very mindful of the importance of preparing your child for the fact they will have missed that foundational Reception year (when they learn the look and sound of their letters and numbers and start reading and writing). The onus will very much be on you, and in some part, on their preschool, to make sure they are up to speed so that they do not get stuck in a loop of feeling they are behind and always playing catch-up. The Government could resolve this issue by making full-time education mandatory from the age of four, and making sure there are enough Reception classes in their schools. Parents can also help by insisting their children start primary school in the year that they are four (turning 5 that year) and that they go into Reception, and not Year 1.
All eight of Grand Cayman's Government primary schools and both primary schools in Cayman Brac have a Kindergarten/Reception year, however, they do not all have enough Reception classes for all the children that need to go to school, so make sure to register early. Therefore, Caymanian children who are four by August 31st can start in Reception/Kindergarten (the same as the private schools) and stay in the primary school system until the end of Year 6 (aged 10, turning 11).
There are three Government high schools in the Cayman Islands: two in Grand Cayman (Clifton Hunter High School in Frank Sound and John Gray High School on Academy Way in George Town), and one in Cayman Brac (the Layman E. Scott Snr. High School). A new Cayman Brac high school will be built over the next three years, and there is talk of building a Government high school in West Bay. It is very much needed as all West Bay high school students have to travel to John Gray High School in George Town to attend school. Clifton Hunter and John Gray serve Years 7–11 for students aged 11–16, while Layman Scott Snr. serves Years 7–12, for students aged 11–17. Currently, Clifton Hunter and John Gray students complete a mandatory Year 12 either at CIFEC or UCCI, or they complete Years 12 and 13 at a private school (usually Cayman Prep or St. Ignatius) where they take A Levels, although places are few and competition is fierce.
Across all three Islands, government primary and secondary schools accept students based on catchment areas. See what catchment area your home falls under.
Literacy in Government Schools
Government schools have their own literacy, behavioural, English as a Second Language (ESL) and special needs departments, but there are simply not enough specialist teachers and the need is so great. An independent charitable organisation called LIFE Ltd. (Literacy is for Everyone) has been set up to try to improve literacy levels. They have a team of people that work in preschools, to try and train the teachers on the importance of reading to the children, and they have been working with the accounting firm, EY, who have donated the funds to buy thousands of books which have been donated to preschools and Government primary schools to ensure that they all have a library.
They are looking for volunteers for many roles that they have open, including their weekly one-to-one paired reading sessions. If you have 30 minutes per week and want to make a significant difference to a child’s life, then email: email@example.com for an application form. LIFE also has a book donation programme and fun literacy events in the community.