Schools & Education in Cayman
For the 2015-16 school calendar year, there were 2,456 students enrolled in government primary schools, 2,252 students enrolled in government secondary schools and 109 students enrolled in the Lighthouse School, the country’s school for special needs.
There were 4,998 students in private schools (1,785 under the age of 4 years 9 months in preschools, 1,804 in primary schools and 1,409 in secondary schools). In Cayman, it is compulsory for all children from the age of four years and nine months to age 17 to attend school or be home-schooled.
HOW THE GRADE SYSTEM WORKS
|age 4 turning 5|
(during that year)
|age 5 turning 6|
|1||age 5 turning 6||age 6 turning 7|
|2||age 6 turning 7||age 7 turning 8|
|3||age 7 turning 8||age 8 turning 9|
|4||age 8 turning 9||age 9 turning 10|
|5||age 9 turning 10||age 10 turning 11|
|6||age 10 turning 11||age 11 turning 12|
|7||age 11 turning 12||age 12 turning 13|
|8||age 12 turning 13||age 13 turning 14|
|9||age 13 turning 14||age 14 turning 15|
|10||age 14 turning 15||age 15 turning 16|
|11||age 15 turning 16||age 16 turning 17|
|12/Lower 6th||age 16 turning 17||age 17 turning 18|
|13/Upper 6th||age 17 turning 18|
Caymanian students have the option to go to a government school (it is decided by catchment area) or a private school. All three government high schools end at Year 11 (age 16), but the government mandates that education is compulsory to Year 12 (age 17).
Many children then either move to a private high school in Cayman or to boarding school in Canada, the US or the UK. There is a huge culture in Cayman of children going away to boarding school. If they stay in Cayman, they can do a two-year A Level course (the UK system), and depending on the child’s exam results, the parents can apply for all or part of the school fees to be paid for by the Ministry of Education.
Alternatively, they can go to the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre (CIFEC) and take a BTEC vocational course or, depending on their GCSE results and age (must be 17+), apply to attend the University College of the Cayman Islands (UCCI) and take an Associates degree.
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 the expatriate, then the employee has the option of sending their children to a government school if there is space.
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 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.
Many private schools in Grand Cayman are in the enviable position of having long waiting lists for places in every year, particularly in kindergarten and Year 1.
As early as possible, and definitely before your child’s first birthday, place their name on the list of your two preferred primary schools, and at birth for your preferred preschool. Siblings, children of alumni and members of the affiliated church (if it is a faith–based school) are usually given priority, so even if your child is on a waiting list, enrolment is not guaranteed. Do not overlook enrolling your subsequent children. The school will require a copy of your child’s birth certificate (which they will photocopy and return to you), a passport sized photograph of your child and a completed application form. Many also require a deposit.
For preschool, your child can usually start at age two or sometimes as young as 18 months. For primary school, the starting age depends on whether you will be educating your child through the British school system (Cayman Prep and High School (CPHS), St. Ignatius and government schools) or the American school system (Cayman International School, First Baptist School, Grace Christian Academy and Triple C).
In the British system, your child can enter Kindergarten if they are four by September, while in the American system, your child must be five by September. Please be aware that many of the private schools now have Pre-K years (e.g. St. Ignatius Catholic School and Cayman International School) which means that their students can start at 2 or 3 years old and will automatically move up to Kindergarten, leaving less space for incoming students. If you intend to send your child to one of the major private primary schools, make sure to secure and accept their place in kindergarten or you will find it very difficult to get them into the school in Grade 1.
Most private schools in Cayman will only test your child for placement if they are entering after Kindergarten (or Pre-K4). 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.
All new students entering either private or government schools for the first time must have a school medical exam before the new school year begins in September.
For students entering schools in West Bay and eastern districts, health screenings will take place at district health centers from June1-30. For all the other students, health screenings will take place at the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre Campus from July 6th to August 22nd. Appointments for screenings can be made at the school the child will be attending.
However, after term ends, you will need to call one of the school health coordinators yourself on one of the following numbers: (345) 244 2734 or (345) 244 2648. For Cayman Brac and Little Cayman please contact (345) 948 2243 or (345) 244 7643. The health screenings done through the Public Health Department are free, but you can also have a health screening done through a private doctor, as long as the medical exam is inspected and stamped by the Public Health Dept. Completed forms should be handed in at the CIFEC Campus no later than August 22nd, outside this date the forms can be taken to the Cayman Islands Hospital’s Public Health Clinic.
Almost all preschools do not have a school uniform policy but they encourage parents to bring children in clothes that they can easily play in and shoes that they can take on and off themselves. They will also require that your child brings a backpack to school with a change of clothes in it.
All primary and high schools, whether government or private have specified school uniforms and you are advised to organise them early or your child’s size may well get sold out. Most of the schools sell their own or will let you know where to buy them. They also have a very specific shoe policy – make sure to ask! Usually shoes must be black and have no special features on them. Black sneakers cannot be substituted for formal black school shoes. Many of the private schools also now, very wisely, have a hat policy. No hat, no play!
School fees quoted in this chapter are for the 2016/17 calendar year and are subject to change.
Caymanian students do not pay school fees to attend government schools. All non-Caymanian students attending one of the public schools pay CI$750 per year for primary school, CI$900 per year for middle school and CI$1,200 per year for high school. This is considerably less expensive than current private school fees.
The fees for private schools vary widely from school to school. The top preschools charge in the region of CI$850-$985 per month, but you can find many daycare centres and nurseries that charge only CI$400 per month (for keeping your children from 7am to 6pm). The top primary schools charge between CI$8,500-CI$17,870 per year and the top high schools charge between CI$9,800-CI$19,200 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.
All Caymanian students accepted at a private school to take A Levels or an Associates degree at UCCI, can apply for a scholarship to help pay for their school fees. If a student is accepted from a government school, they get the first year’s fees paid in full (plus text books) and then either CI$7,000 or CI$5,000 paid for the second year (it is decided on a points system based on the student’s GCSE results). They also must have higher passes in GCSE and/or CXC (Caribbean Examination Council) English Language and Mathematics to secure funding. Current Caymanian students of either CPHS or St. Ignatius can apply for funding when they enter Year 12 (and 13). All students must obtain a minimum of 2 Cs and a D 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 section of www.education.gov.ky.
Many Caymanian students leave the public school system and go to a private school for A Levels. At the same time many expat children leave the private schools in Cayman and leave for boarding schools in England, Canada and the USA. The three main years of entry into a private school in Cayman, or a boarding school overseas, are at the beginning of high school (Year 7), at beginning of Year 9 (a year before GCSE’s start) or at the beginning of Year 12 (for the start of A Levels). Since many parents in Cayman send their children to boarding school we have been reliably told that equal numbers of children leave for the start of years 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9, the final push being the year before children start GCSE’s. When these pupils leave, places in private schools in Cayman are freed up and the places are quickly snapped up by Caymanian students leaving the government high schools.
Places at Cayman’s two private schools which do A Levels (CPHS and St. Ignatius) are few and highly sought after. On average, there are no more than 10 places available for the start of 6th form (Year 12) and each child is expected to get an A or a B grade in the GCSE subjects which they have chosen to do at A Level. More public school students can gain a place at either of these private schools if they are willing to enter in years 7, 8 or 9. In all instances, the child will be interviewed and expected to meet the school’s evaluation criteria.
If you do want to enter your child into either of these private schools, you must apply no later than January of the year in which your child wishes to start. By the start of the Easter term they will have effectively closed their lists to new applicants.
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.