According to the 2021 Education Data Report, there are 1,780 children enroled in the 43 preschools, and a total of 8,434 children enroled in the 27 private and Government schools spread across the three Islands with 772 teachers teaching these students. On this page you will find more information on Cayman's current school statistics and new developments.
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In primary and secondary education there are 3,755 students in private schools, 2,306 in Government primary schools, 2,373 in Government secondary schools and 115 students enrolled in the Lighthouse School, the country’s school for students with the most significant special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Most children with SEND are enrolled in mainstream schools with varying levels of support. Approximately 160 children are homeschooled.
The Cayman Islands have excellent schools all the way from preschool through to high school and university, and although a few new schools have opened over the past few years, there is still a severe shortage of available spaces in the early years/preschool sector and historically there has been a huge shortage in primary school places, however, this should ease after Island Primary opens their new campus in September 2023. Parents are strongly advised to put their child's name down prior to birth at their chosen preschool, and within days of birth at their chosen primary school. Do not forget subsequent children! However, if the school is heavily over subscribed for the year that your child is due to start, then they will usually advise you to also put your child's name down at a second school.
The last two years of high school are also at maximum capacity as there are only 105 places available for children wanting to do A Levels, with many students from Government high schools also competing for these places. However, this may change in a few years as it is the Government's wish to reintroduce A Levels to Government high schools. The problem of space also extends to Government primary and high schools.
Parents interested in sending their children to Government schools may apply online to the Department of Education Services (DES) website at https://schools.edu.ky/registration/ between 1st April and 30th June. Government schools are open to all students, but preference is usually given to Caymanians, followed by those with Permanent Residency and the children of Cayman Islands Government workers. Expatriates who arrive in the Cayman Islands outside of the regular registration period may monitor the DES website and apply for a space between July and August.
There have been many improvements in schools in Cayman over the last 12 months. These include the Government having invested heavily in information technology and providing each student in their primary and high schools with a laptop for use at home and school. There has also been a strong focus on child nutrition, and the Government now provides free school meals to all Government school students. Other Government education goals over the coming years are to have a teaching assistant in all classes up to Year 9, to continue implementing learning support centres in each school, increase and strengthen early education, reintroduce A Levels in public high schools, improve the graduation criteria to end social promotion, and, amongst a host of other goals, integrate non-Caymanians back into the Government school system.
There is also lots of good news in the world of private schools in Cayman. Cayman International School (CIS) has finished their massive expansion and their 61,000sq ft campus is now home to over 900 students. They have also renamed and expanded their scholarship to the CIS Cayman Citizen Scholarship Program, offering a mix of partial and full tuition scholarships for up to 12 students in Grades 9 to 12. St. Ignatius Catholic School is in the process of building a 23,000sq ft multi-purpose sports hall that will include six new classrooms. Grace Christian Academy in West Bay has just completed a new high school block, an early years centre and a new art room and music room. Island Primary are well underway in building their 30,000sq ft school on 4.3 acres in George Town. They are aiming to be open for September 2023 and will have 350 available class spaces for children from Reception to Year 6. Footsteps Primary School are also about to break ground on their new purpose-built facility in South Sound. This is scheduled to be open in January 2024 and will cater to children from Reception to Year 8. Clever Fish have received permission to accept 30 children, up from their current 25, and have a waiting list far longer than their intake.
Enrolment Age & Requirements
In the Cayman Islands, it is compulsory for all children aged five to 17 years to attend school or be home schooled. However, the reality is that the vast majority of children enter primary school at the age of four and do not leave until they are 18. For preschool, your child can usually start at age two, or sometimes as young as 18 months. A handful of schools will take infants at six weeks, if they have a dedicated nursery room, but at this age the adult/child ratio of 1:3 makes it either very expensive, or the staff are paid painfully little.
For primary school, the starting age is almost universally four, across the Cayman Islands, other than for expat children who are entering the Government school system who are not allowed to start until they are five and ready to enter Year 1. If children are going into the British school system (Cayman Prep, Footsteps, Island Montessori and St. Ignatius) they will enter Kindergarten at aged four. If they are starting at a school following the American system Cayman International School, First Baptist Christian School, Grace Christian Academy and Triple C) then your child will start in Pre–K3 at the age of four. If they are Caymanian and they are going to a Government primary school then they will start in Reception at the age of four.
Please be aware that a few of the private schools now have Pre–K2 years (St. Ignatius Catholic School, Cayman International School and Grace Christian Academy), which means that their students can start at two or three years old and will automatically move up to Kindergarten/ Pre–K3, leaving less space for incoming students. If you intend to send your child to one of the major private primary schools, make sure to register them early, and then accept the offered place in Kindergarten/Pre–K3 when your child is four. Deferring the place to Year 1 is never advised as it reduces your changes of getting your child into the school down to almost zero.
Most private schools in Cayman will only test your child for placement if they are entering after Kindergarten/Pre–K3. If your child is transferring from another school, they will likely need official school records from the previous school(s). If transferring at the high school level, an up-to-date medical record, that includes vaccination details, is also required.
How the Grade System Works
Learn about the differences in the grade system between American curriculum schools vs British curriculum schools in the Cayman Islands.
In the Cayman Islands compulsory education must start by 5 years of age.
|Age||Gov. & Private British Schools||Private American Schools|
|6-7||Year 2||Grade 1|
|7-8||Year 3||Grade 2|
|8-9||Year 4||Grade 3|
|9-10||Year 5||Grade 4|
|10-11||Year 6||Grade 5|
|11-12||Year 7||Grade 6|
|12-13||Year 8||Grade 7|
|13-14||Year 9||Grade 8|
|14-15||Year 10||Grade 9|
|15-16||Year 11||Grade 10|
|16-17||Year 12 (Lower Sixth)||Grade 11|
|17-18||Year 13 (Upper Sixth)||Grade 12|
All schools in the Cayman Islands are regularly inspected by a dedicated team of education experts who are part of the Office of Education Standards. These school reports rate schools by various criteria but their overall grading falls into either a Excellent, Good, Satisfactory or Weak category. We highly recommend you read the reports and make a bee line for the schools with an Excellent or Good rating. Failing that, require your child’s school to improve their standards! Your children deserve the best education they can possibly get!
Caymanian students have the option to go to a Government school (it is decided by catchment area) or a private school. If a Caymanian chooses to send their child to a Government primary or high school then the Government has an obligation to educate that child from the age of five to 17. All three Government high schools end at Year 11 (age 16), but because the Government mandates that education is compulsory to Year 12 (or the age of 17), all children who go through the Government school system will officially be enroled in the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre (CIFEC) for Year 12 where they can take CXCs, GCSEs or a BTEC work experience programme.
However, if your child wants to go to a private school (overseas or in Cayman) so that they can get sufficient external exams (SATs, A Levels, APs or BTECs) to get into an overseas university, then their move must be approved by the Director of Education Services (DES) and they will be given what is called 'Dual Entry'. Without this designation, their previous time at a Government high school will not apply to their graduation criteria.
It is the Cayman Islands Government’s stance that expatriates employed in the private sector who qualify to have their dependants on-Island with them (i.e. earn over CI$3,500 per month and have two dependants on their permit), should educate their children in private schools. If the Government employs an expatriate, then the employee has the option of sending their children to a Government school, if there is space. However, most Government schools are at capacity and the Lighthouse School is completely full.
Expats are advised to work out carefully what their budget plus buffer would be, and whether they can realistically afford to school their children in Cayman. Sending your child to a private school and then asking the Department of Education Services if your child can move to a Government school because you cannot afford the school fees is not an option. If you find you cannot afford to educate your child at your chosen private school then the only options are to choose a less expensive private school, ask the school for financial assistance, home school your child, or have your children leave the Island. If they are between the ages of five and 17, they cannot live in Cayman and not be in full time education.
If an expat cannot find a suitable place for their child in a private school, and home schooling is not a viable option, then ask the Department of Education if there is space in a Government school for your child. They will try and find a space for your child if it is possible. However, no expat child can join a Government primary school in the Reception/Kindergarten year, when they are four years of age, the earliest they can start is Year 1 when they are five.
Adding a Child to a Work Permit
If you are an expatriate on a work permit, the process is as follows:
1) apply to your chosen school;
2) get confirmation from the school by letter that your child has been accepted "pending Immigration approval";
3) take this letter to the Department of WORC (formerly Immigration) along with your work permit application;
4) take a copy of the letter verifying that your child has been added as a dependant to your work permit to the school prior to attendance.
Reserving a Place
If you would like to send your child to a private school, visit the school's website as early as possible after the birth of your child and apply online. The usual process is as follows: fill in the application form online, the admissions officer will then write back asking for a copy of your child's birth certificate and a deposit, and then closer to the entry date they will ask for a photo and your child's immunisation record. You will then be on the school's waiting list. It is worth noting that although school waiting lists are notoriously long, Cayman is a transient place and parents often put their child's name down on two different schools, so places do often come available with patience and time.
Schools will place your child on their waiting list on a first come, first serve basis, starting in September and finishing in the summer. Therefore, those born from September to February definitely have an advantage of gaining a place at their first-choice school. Please note that siblings, children of alumni, and members of the affiliated church (if it is a faith‐based school) are usually given priority at private schools, so even if your child is on a waiting list, enrolment is not guaranteed. Do not overlook enroling your subsequent children.
All students entering Government or private schools in the Cayman Islands for the first time are required by law to have a health screening. The Education Department mandates that these screenings must be completed before the new school year begins in September. The screening includes a growth and development assessment, screening for vision and hearing, a dental assessment, the administration of necessary immunisations and obtaining a student’s personal medical history. Public Health Department staff will conduct the screenings, which are free to all students.
Appointments can be made at the school the child will be attending. Parents and guardians need to accompany their children and they should also bring the child’s immunisation record. Vaccines will be offered to children whose immunisations are not up-to-date. Parents may have their child’s health screenings done by a private doctor, as long as that doctor completes the forms provided by the Public Health Department.
The completed forms should be handed in at the John Gray High School Medical Centre (Nurse’s Office) from 4th July to 16th August, between 8.30am and 4.30pm. Once the record has been received, the child will be issued with a health screening certificate, which they must then take with them to school in September. For those attending schools in Cayman Brac or Little Cayman, appointments can be arranged through Public Health Nurse Kedine Hyde at Faith Hospital on (345) 244 7643 or (345) 948 2243.
There is a general perception however, that these tests are undertaken far too late in the education cycle to identify any special education needs in children. Over the years this has put an enormous strain on Government schools where up to 50% of children have been identified with a special education need (SEN). Most SEN problems can begin to be identified from the age of 18 months and are glaringly obvious from the age of 2.5 to 3.5 of age. If spotted early enough many issues can be resolved before the children enter primary school. This should be an easy fix for the Ministry of Education to identify and begin to resolve.
While most preschools do not have school uniform, all primary and high schools in Cayman have specified uniforms, as well as shoe and hat policies. Read more to find out how to organise your child’s uniform correctly.Read More
School Fees & Scholarships
Caymanian students do not pay school fees to attend Government schools. In the instance that a non-Caymanian student is given a place at a public school, then the school fees are CI$750 per year for primary school, CI$900 per year for middle school and CI$1,200 per year for high school. The fees for private schools vary widely from school to school.
The fees for private schools vary widely from school to school. The top preschools charge in the region of CI$1075-$1400 per month, but you can find many daycare centres that charge CI$650 per month (for keeping your children from 7.30am to 6pm). However, when it comes to preschool you definitely get what you pay for. The top preschools have the most magical environment where children learn through play and they come out at 4.5 years of age believing that learning and school is fun, they are eager to participate in lessons, with beautiful manners and they have been exposed to endless opportunities to learn about nature, animals, shapes, colours, numbers and early Maths concepts, and they have been taught the look and phonetic sound of the alphabet. Day care centres do not prepare young children like this. According to Peter Carpenter, former head of the Cayman Islands Office of Education Standards, "The lack of preparation in preschool is a fundamental problem. The largest number of ‘weak’ evaluations are in our early years private sector provision."
The top primary schools charge between CI$9,250-CI$20,910 per year and the top high schools charge between CI$7,086-CI$24,960 per year, but lower fees can be found at other schools. Some schools offer a sibling discount. Most private schools also prefer fees to be paid per term or annually. However, Government schools only go up to the age of 16 (after GCSEs) which does not make for a complete education, so there is enormous pressure on any private school which has a 'Good' rating in their Office of Education Standard report and offers an education to the age of 18. These schools can then properly equip a child for entry to university or a vocational training course.
All Caymanian students accepted at a private school to take A Levels can apply for a scholarship to help pay for their school fees, although there is means testing for this. The full tuition fees are paid for both years of their A Level studies up to a total of CI$14,000 per child per year. However, the fees are paid directly to the school, they cannot be spent on incidentals including uniforms and the fee does not include the cost of external exams. Parent have to pay for each of those. Students must get higher passes in GCSE and/or CXC (Caribbean Examination Council) English Language and Mathematics to secure funding. All students must obtain a minimum of 3 x C passes in their AS levels at the end of Year 12 in order to get the funding for the second year of 6th form. The application period for local scholarship funding is March 1st to April 30th. Late applications will not be considered. For more information please see the Scholarships page of the Ministry of Education's website: https://moescholarships.gov.ky/.
Many Caymanian students leave the public school system and go to a private school either at the beginning of high school (Year 7), at the beginning of Year 9 (a year before GCSEs start) or at the beginning of Year 12 (for the start of A Levels). Many parents in Cayman also send their children to boarding school and we have been told that equal numbers of children leave for the start of years 6, 7, 8 and 9 – the final push being the year before children start GCSEs. When these pupils leave, places in private schools in Cayman are freed up.
Places at Cayman's two private schools which do A Levels (Cayman Prep and High School and St. Ignatius) are few and highly sought after. CPHS has 65 places available in Year 12 and St. Ignatius has 40 places. Every single student, regardless of whether they are existing students at the school or new students, must apply for a place on the A Level programme and must pass the prerequisites required for entry. This is usually a minimum number of IGCSE/GCSE/CXC all with A to C pass rates, and students are usually expected to get an A or a B grade in the GCSE subjects which they have chosen to do at A Level. However, it should be noted that two CXC subjects which are offered at Government high schools, Early Childhood Studies and Electronic Document Preparation and Management (EDPM), are not considered 'access courses' and do not apply to your five subject pass requirement. Also, students and their parents need to be aware that a pass (grade A–C) in English and Maths is a non-negotiable requirement. If you think your child may be struggling in these two subjects try and do everything you can to get them through those courses, including organising some tutoring.
If you do want to enter your child into either of these private schools, you must apply by January of the year of entry and definitely no later than March. This then gives the family time to apply to the Scholarship Secretariat for a scholarship for your Caymanian child. The Scholarship Secretariat's deadline for applications is 30th April annually. Quite a few students also switch between the private schools, but before a switch can take place, and in addition to the normal paperwork (assessments) etc., there is a transfer form, designed and managed by the Private Schools Association (PSA), that must be completed by the current school and forwarded to the new school. As well as a standard report on the child’s performance and behaviour, this form clearly states whether financial commitments have been met. It is an essential component of the acceptance process for students transferring within the private school system.
Child Safeguarding Training Requirements
All teaching staff and all those that intend to work in an educational institution, and could be alone with a child, must undergo Ministry of Education approved safeguarding training prior to starting work. What it involves, and how often you have to do it, is outlined on the Adult Education page. Volunteers, and those that have limited or no contact with children, can undertake some training but this is left to the discretion of the educational institution. Pre-employment training includes doing the Darkness to Light programme (modules 1 and 2), or a similar approved course. Once employed each employee must do the a) Child Safeguarding Workshop Online Module b) Child Safeguarding’s Skills Development & Practical In-Person Module which can both be organised by the Ministry of Education. Email Camila Ferreira on firstname.lastname@example.org to get started. Finally, ongoing mini training and refresher courses are required at the beginning of each new school year.
Cayman’s public libraries are a great place to inspire your child to read and to encourage their love for books.