Nurseries & Preschools
Most of the schools featured in this section accept children from newborn to four years nine months of age, offering full-day programmes and half-day options. Children will traditionally begin Kindergarten (UK system) or a Pre-K class (US system) of their chosen primary school, in the year in which they turn five.
If you intend to send your child to one of Cayman’s private primary schools and you are offered a place in their Kindergarten or Pre-K class (i.e. the reception year), you are strongly advised to take it. Keeping your child back in preschool so that they miss this first year at primary school has significant consequences: a) firstly, your child will be assessed by the primary school before they are offered a place in Year 1, to see if they are up to par with the school’s expectations for a five year old (many fail this test and are not accepted) b) children at primary school start learning to read in earnest in Kindergarten and those who have not started in their preschool may feel behind in Year 1; c) your child’s new classmates may have already made firm friends among the students; d) adjusting to “big school” and its lack of freedom (to play and choose what you want to work on) can be challenging for some children, and they will have missed the transition with other children in the same boat; e) on average, only five places become available in Year 1 at the top private primary schools, which means that the chances of your child being offered a place are slim at best.
As one very much-loved owner of a pre-school once said, “The role of pre-school is to allow abundant social outlet, to stimulate the imagination, to bake, create, problem solve, perform, to laugh, to form friendships, to plant, to build wigwams, to run, to climb and to be free. Cayman society places quite some pressure and elevated expectations on the academic performance of such young people, and in turn on the institutions entrusted to care for/educate them. Children develop in greatly varying time frames, and we must trust the system and trust that our children will learn each skill of physical, intellectual, linguistic, emotional and social readiness in their own good time”.
If your child’s preschool covers such things as the correct pencil grip and the phonetic sound of the alphabet, then this is a bonus and will definitely help your child transition to reading and writing, but if they don’t, then your child’s primary school will teach them these things and it should not be cause for concern. Most of the primary and high schools which have Kindergarten and Pre-K classes are listed under the Primary Schools section. Below are the majority of Cayman’s preschools.
Improving Standards in Preschools
In 2013, the Ministry of Education’s Early Childhood Care and Education Unit began conducting inspections of all Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Centres. Their goal was to introduce new national standards and a national curriculum, for young pre-school children, ultimately shifting the schooling culture from one of child minding to one of child learning, so that children were better prepared for their entry into primary school at the age of four. The new standards not only included health and safety regulations but also how the staff were managed, how they interacted with the children and ensured that the children were being properly stimulated and taught age appropriate activities. Teachers were also taught how to identify children who might have learning difficulties and then how to better help the child so that they will be better ready for primary school.
This process is now ongoing and every preschool is inspected prior to their licence being renewed. If the school is not up to the required standard, then a three months’ period of improvement is given and, as has been the case in 2015, if the school has not improved it will be closed down.
The Government has chosen to focus on preschool education in an effort to address the problems in the public school system with reading, writing and behavioural issues. Therefore, to ensure that all children have access to Early Years learning, there is funding available for families on lower incomes. In order to qualify, children must be three years old as of 1st September and meet specified financial criteria. For more information and to see how to apply, see the Department of Education Services (DES) website on www.education.gov.ky.