All schools in the Cayman Islands closed with effect from March 16th 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and without any warning each school had to devise a home learning programme for their students. The Office of Education Standards has conducted a through review of how these programmes worked in both the government sector and the private sector, and here we summarise the results of the results from Cayman Islands Government (public) schools.
The aim of the report is to recognise the strengths of the home learning provision and to identify areas for improvement. We've summarised key positive outcomes and recommendations below. For a copy of the full report please see link here: http://www.gov.ky/portal/pls/p...
Inspectors reviewed everything from timetables, teachers’ lesson plans, their assessment information, monitoring information developed by school leaders and communication with parents. In addition, inspectors poke with teachers, parents and students through an online survey, and they observed a sample of on-line lessons delivered by teachers from each school. Inspectors observed English, mathematics, science, music, physical education and social subject sessions as well as small group interventions offered to a range of students.
Prompt Initial Response - Immediately following the closure of schools, teachers and school leaders acted decisively in developing home learning packs and arranging distribution to the students. Furthermore, in the few weeks following the Easter break, schools had started to establish a platform for home learning characterised by a blended curriculum incorporating a balance of paper-based tasks and on-line face-to-face teaching.
Appropriate Curriculum - Inspectors noted that the planned curriculum delivered through learning packs and on-line classes was well matched to programme requirements and year group expectations. In the examination classes at the secondary stage, changes to examination requirements by relevant authorities locally and internationally, required teachers to make a swift, appropriate response to course assessment demands.
Dedicated and Hard-Working Team of Educators - Teachers in government schools have, in almost all cases, demonstrated dedication and commitment to the challenge of teaching students based at home. From the document review and observations of ‘live’ lessons, inspectors noted that many teachers, who are parents themselves, effectively balanced multiple demands and multiple roles while supporting students’ learning remotely. There is, however, a need to ensure consistency in good practice across and within schools. Despite the significant efforts of all involved in the delivery of home learning, inspectors judged that a majority of students made less than expected progress when taught at home as compared to school. The current home learning arrangements offer an imperfect substitute to face-to-face education.
Partnerships help ensure students’ welfare - Effective links with local businesses and charitable organisations helped address immediate need during the pandemic, particularly in relation to vulnerable students. For instance, sessions conducted by the Family Resource Center provided parents with useful and helpful advice.
Improvements Needed in The Home Learning Arrangements - Issues were noted relating to inequality of access and unreliability of technology. Additionally, teachers demonstrated variable levels of confidence in using technology. Students’ attendance during on-line teaching sessions was noted to fluctuate and this adversely affected their learning and progress. Although the vast majority of staff were willing to have their lessons observed remotely, a few teachers did not collaborate with this review. In addition, principals reported that a few teachers did not provide regular on-line classes, as judged necessary. The irregularity and variable quality of on-line learning accounts for some inconsistency in progress. Clear guidance is required from the Ministry of Education to ensure all staff provide adequate teaching sessions to promote satisfactory learning and progress for all students.
Student Attendance - Arrangements to monitor the quality of home learning were variable and there was insufficient accurate monitoring of student attendance for each session. Likewise, the submission of completed work was not always systematically documented. On 1st May 2020, schools reported a total of over 180 students as ‘unaccounted for’ and as of 8th May 2020, there were 75 students who were ‘unreachable by all available communication means’. Schools reported that the inaccuracy of contact information and changes in family circumstances during the pandemic served as significant factors in limiting communication with those families.
Computers and Internet Access Needed - Staff from the Ministry of Education were proactive in loaning hardware to support students, as necessary. This helped to increase the number of students able to access on-line learning. However, at the time of the completion of this report on 22nd May 2020, the Ministry of Education reported approximately 300 students who had not yet been able to access online lessons because they did not have internet access or lacked the necessary hardware.
Not Prepared for External Examinations – a significant proportion of students writing examinations in the current academic year stated that they did not feel well prepared for their external assessments. Consideration should be given to alternative summer school provision, tutoring or extension of the school year, as is practical and permissible.
Students’ Progress Hampered - This home learning review has judged the current arrangements for home learning to be an imperfect substitute for schoolbased learning. Teachers and school leaders were noted to be working diligently. Nevertheless, students’ progress was not as brisk or as consistent across all subjects and in all classes as when the students were taught at school. Students are missing important opportunities to work collaboratively with their peers and require additional individualised feedback and direction from their teachers. Innovative practice makes student collaboration and individual feedback possible remotely and in a few lessons this was observed. However, this review has identified that such practice was not a characteristic of provision across all schools.
Curriculum Content Catch-up - The quality of students’ learning and their academic progress is of concern and there will be a need for curriculum content to be revisited and retaught in the next academic session/s. A common national strategy, as well as localised, school-level solutions need to be agreed, planned and financed.
A responsive versus a proactive strategy - In reacting to the challenges of COVID-19 and subsequent school closures, the Ministry of Education and the Department of Education Services responded promptly and effectively to help ensure the continuity of education for students in government schools. However, the lack of a pre-existing digital strategy in schools left too many students with limited access to learning and this has led, in turn, to some inequality of opportunity.
Special Needs Learning Support - Despite the best of intentions, there were several
challenges in successfully meeting the needs of students with special educational needs in an on-line learning environment. Although virtual sessions were organised for students, those with profound and multiple learning disabilities experienced difficulties engaging virtually due to attention and cognition challenges. Nonetheless, staff were creative in mitigating some of those challenges.
Data in Relation to Home Learning
In total 4,915 students from Reception age to the end of high school and CIFEC students were included in the data. It found that daily attendance in lessons was 88% but that approximately 590 students did not attend lessons daily. An astonishingly positive 92% of students were able to access their online learning but approximately 390 students could not. For those students who could not both the government and charities have stepped in to try and provide technological resources. Only 7% of students accessed paper-based learning only (approx. 325 students), and 9% of students (450 in total) who had no access to a digital devise or computer. Of the total 4% (approx. 200 students) had no access to the internet and in some cases this accounted for 20% of school students in some schools.