Archive for July 3rd, 2014

41 Cuban migrants wait out weather in Brac

| 03/07/2014 | 2 Comments

(CNS): As the numbers of Cuban migrants passing through Cayman waters continues to increase, officials are urging residents to report all sightings of vessels carrying the migrants. On Wednesday evening a boat with 41 Cuban migrants aboard arrived in local waters. When the vessel arrived in Cayman Brac, the eight woman and 33 men asked for safe haven  for just 24 hours to wait for a weather system to the southwest of the Cayman area to pass. This is the second boat in less than week and officials said it demonstrates the increase of Cubans on the move.

Residents across all three Cayman Islands are urged to report any possible migrant boat sightings to 911, as government struggles to deal with the mounting pressures between the increase in numbers and the delays in repatriation by the Cuban authorities.

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Brac graduates blaze a trail

| 03/07/2014 | 35 Comments

(CNS): Demonstrating just how far the education system in the Cayman Islands has progressed in less than a decade, 69.2% of students who graduated from the high school on Cayman Brac already have five or more high level passes before the results of external examinations taken this summer are known. Even under the new graduating criteria, in which the bar has been set higher so that those five passes must include maths and English for a Level 2 Diploma, 65.4% of the Layman Scott High School Class of 2014 have already reached that goal, and when the full results are known in a couple of months it is expected that these students will be the highest achieving year group in the history of the Cayman Islands. (Left: Valedictorian Leshontae Missick)

Level 2 passes are grades 1‐3 at CXC, A*‐C at GCSE or IGCSE, or the equivalent for other examination boards. 85% of the 26 Brac 2014 graduates already have a Level 2 pass in English, 65.4% in maths and 85% in science, which does not include any exams taken at the end of Year 12.

Across the system, results have been dramatically improving year on year, jumping from less than 25% getting five or more Level 2 passes by the end of Year 12 before 2007 to 70% in 2013, and while the final results for this year are not yet known, Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler told CNS that they are hopeful that they will be at the same level.

Already across the public school system just from the Year 11 results, 73 students (14 on the Brac and 59 on Grand Cayman) have achieved a Level 2 Diploma with Honours, which is seven or more Level 2 passes including maths and English, and 21 students (two on the Brac and 19 on Grand Cayman) have achieved a Level 2 Diploma with High Honours, which is at least nine passes with grades 1-2 at CXC, A*-B at GCSE or IGCSE, or the equivalent for other examination boards. One student from Clifton Hunter High School, Diarra Hoyte, already has 16 Level 2 passes.

Watch Education Minister Tara Rivers comment on the exam results.

The CEO said that in 2005 Cayman Brac High School students set a new standard when 49% of the Year 12 graduating class achieved 5 or more Level 2 passes, which at the time was the highest percentage ever in the government system.

“That taught us that the children could achieve at that level,” said Wahler, who was principal of the school at the time. By 2012, students across the Cayman Islands public school system reached the 49% mark set by the Brac students in 2005 and last year broke all records with a 70% rate achieving 5+ passes at Level 2.

The students graduating this year from the Layman E. Scott Sr. High School (formerly the Cayman Brac High School) have set a brand new standard of achievement, where 65.4% (17 out of 26) received their Level 2 Diplomas at their graduation ceremony, reflecting what they had achieved by the end of Year 11, whereas all statistics for exam results up to this point have been on the results after Year 12. Notably, this class was the first on the Brac to graduate under the restructured Year 12, which has been in place on Grand Cayman since September 2010 with the introduction of the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre (CIFEC).

A significant factor in the remarkable improvements in exam results in the Cayman Islands has been a complete change in expectations. In 2007, Wahler said, most children were not entered into five exams so they could not possibly reach that level. There were some subjects, such as social studies, where just 20% of the students were entered because the system looked bad when the children failed. However, the result was that the Level 2 standard was only accessible to 20-30% of the school population and there was an expectation that the majority of students were not capable of reaching O Level standard, she said. Now the system is geared towards giving as many students as possible access to take those exams and raising expectation levels, an approach that has had startling results.

The Cayman Islands is the only English speaking country in the Caribbean that publishes reports on external exams by cohort, which means they include the students that did not take the exam as well as those that failed, in order to have a percentage of the population as a whole. “We’d love to have those statistics from other countries to compare ourselves to,” Wahler said.

The only statistic that they have that offers any kind of comparison is from the CXC board website, which states that in 2009 just 21.2% of students had 5 or more passes, but this is out of students who have been entered, not of all students, so it was a selective group in the first place, Wahler noted.

“So we know that we are doing far better than the region,” she said. Comparing the Cayman Islands with England and Wales, she said, “We are where they were in 2009.”

This year, for the first time, they have raised the benchmark yet again and set new graduation criteria, so that students must achieve high level passes in maths and English plus three other subjects in order to graduate with a Level 2 Diploma.

Under the restructured Year 12, those students that achieve 5+ Level 2 passes (now with maths and English) in Year 11 can begin studies at UCCI in their Year 12 towards their Associates degree or begin A Level or International Baccalaureate Diploma studies in other schools, as part of the dual entry programme. The CEO said that this gives students another huge incentive to get their Level 2 Diploma early and more students every year are reaching for and attaining this goal.

Watch Education Minister Tara Rivers discuss CIFEC's Year 12 programme

One of the challenges the Department of Education Services faces is that the entry age for Year 1, which is five years old in the UK, was four years and nine months in the Cayman Islands and this was often stretched to four years and eight or even seven months, so the Cayman children are often significantly younger than their English year-group peers. In 2012, the Cayman Islands policy changed so that entry age for Year 1 was set at 5 years old by the 31 August, as it is in the UK. However, Wahler pointed out that that those children who started school in 2012 will not be taking their exams in Year 11 for another nine years.

She also noted that many people are under the misconception that they have added a year to high school, whereas there has been a Year 12 included in the public high school system since 1988, when an additional year was included so that students essentially repeated Year 10. What they have done now is to keep the same number of years but restructure the high school to offer more options to the students.

Firstly, the opportunity to do re-sits creates a safety net. “Those children who reach the goal of five or more passes at Level 2 now have the opportunity to move ahead and they have a year head start. This encourages them to excel if they are ready,” Wahler explained. She said that failing to reach Diploma Level 2 acts as a reality check for some children, who then get a second chance. Others have a bad experience in the exams and have the opportunity to recover within the school structure.

Importantly though, the new system accommodates those young people who need something other than the traditional school subjects and gives them, in their final year, an opportunity to take vocational and technical courses with internationally recognized qualifications at the end of it, as well as getting real work experience.

Watch one employer talk about CIFEC’s work experience programme

The Year 12is a fluid and responsive programme that can be adapted each year according to the needs of the students, Wahler told CNS. She noted that, with the rising standard, they have already been asked to introduce Level 3 BTEC programmes in Year 12 in Business and Creative Media, a very practical and applied study area that ties into emerging technologies.

While the improvements so far have been outstanding, the chief education officer said that they are always looking to the next goal, which has once again been set by students on Cayman Brac.

“Where we aim to be is where the Layman E Scott Sr High School already is,” she said.

Watch more of the interview with Education Minister Tara Rivers

See related story on CNS:

Numeracy focus in schools (May 2014)

Local kids break exam records (October 2013)

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Brac cops net burglar and stolen loot in bush

| 03/07/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A 44-year-old man was arrested yesterday on Cayman Brac on suspicion of stealing a TV from a house last Friday. Cops arrested the man Wednesday following an investigation into the burglary, which happened in the Bight area and where a 40-inch Panasonic Plasma TV was swiped from the home. After the arrest, officers from the RCIPS, customs, immigration, the fire service and the special constabulary conducted an extensive search of the bush area along the Ashton Reid Drive and the TV was recovered. “Fortunately burglary is a rare occurrence in the Sister Islands and we aim to keep it that way,” said Chief Inspector Owens said.

“Iwant to praise the work of my officers and the assistance of the partner agencies on the Brac. I only have to pick up the phone and the response is immediate from the departments involved. To search a thick bush area in the middle of the day for an extensive period is not easy but they just get it done,” he added.

Anyone with information in relation to criminal activities  is asked to contact the Cayman Brac Police Station on 948-0331, the RCIPS tip-line or Crime Stoppers 800-8477 (TIPS).

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Government IT worker receives monthly CS gong

| 03/07/2014 | 15 Comments

(CNS): Although the computer services department has been in the firing line recently over the loss of significant police data following a computer crash at Citrus Grove, at least one worker in the department has nevertheless received a pat on the back. Support Administrator Jeremy O’Sullivan was named best civil service employee in April after just four months on the job. Since joining the department on 6 January, O’Sullivan has proven an asset not just to the department but the whole of government, officials said.

In a release about the award, his bosses said he is equally skilled and knowledgeable dealing with hardware problems or software solutions. Admired for being a “very quick learner”, O’Sullivan is also undergoing an advanced IT training programme as his bosses have plans to move him to the department’s Operations Team in the near future.

Described as punctual, always courteous, professional and providing timely service in dealing with all clients, including the Cabinet Ministers, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said he was a “role model” for all civil servants.

“I am aware that your work ethic is outstanding and you are highly efficient and productive in actively addressing users’ issues with limited supervision,” the CS boss said when he handed O’Sullivan his award.

Noting his excellent team spirit, the deputy governor highlighted O’Sullivan’s willingness to assist co-workers both in completing urgent assignments and in resolving complex IT issues.

“Working extra hours in the evenings and over weekends to complete urgent assignments and projects demonstrates your remarkable level of performance and commitment to government,” Manderson added.

Chief Officer Eric Bush, whose ministry has already scooped a number of these awards, said O’Sullivan was the only nominee for the month among the 1,100 employees in the Home Affairs ministry.

O’Sullivan said the award came as a complete, albeit pleasant, surprise after “such a short time” on the job. He gratefully acknowledged all those involved in the selection process “for even thinking that I was worthy of this.” He said, “I will use this milestone to strive further and consistently raise the standard of my service in the future.”

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Bosses erecting job barriers

| 03/07/2014 | 126 Comments

(CNS): While government officials at the National Workforce Development Agency are working on trying to help local job hunters remove their own barriers to employment, numerous qualified job-hunting CNS readers have been contacting us to reveal the barriers erected by employers that they say are blocking their ability to find work. Of the many different tactics utilized by some bosses to renew permits rather than trying to recruit locals, one that is beginning to look increasingly obvious in the age of technological communication is the insistence that applications are made via post to post office boxes. However, the employment minister said she wants to see employers remove these barriers and make genuine efforts to fill jobs with qualified Caymanians.

An increasingly common problem faced by Caymanian job hunters is that where a genuine vacancy exists, employers ask for email or hand delivered applications or even offer a number to call but those that are tied to permit applications are limited to what many call “snail mail”, as they require all submissions to go to PO boxes and often with tight deadlines, creating further barriers to applicants.

The ploy is often more apparent when the same company is recruiting for what they see as a genuine vacancy where they make the application process as easy as possible as opposed to work-permit applications, where they are doing all they can to hold on to existing staff and deter local job seekers.

In the face of this tactic deployed by employers, the minister responsible for employment is urging bosses to stop the practice.

“The government expects that companies take genuine efforts to try to attract and hire suitably qualified Caymanians prior to applying or re-applying for work permits,” Tara Rivers told CNS. “The job ads in the local paper should contain enough information to facilitate this as best as possible. In this day and technological age, a PO box number is simply not sufficient in this regard. The ability to hand deliver the application should be made available to the job seeker at the very minimum, and the normal expected practice would be to provide an email and a physical address to facilitate this.”

While employers are clearly hoping that post office box applications only deter applicants and the tight deadlines should head off the more persistent candidates, the new interface between the immigration boards and the work agency could start to undermine that practice. While employers feel they can reject applications received after deadlines during the permit consideration, the boards will be able to see Caymanian applicants who made efforts to apply but missed deadlines or who submitted via email and were therefore rejected.

The minister is hoping that the new communication between the workforce agency and the work-permit boards will change the process and enable the members of these critical boards to make more informed decisions about bosses’ efforts to employ local staff.

“In collaboration with the Immigration Department, the NWDA has created a mechanism that increases the transparency of the work permit process and provides an efficient way for employers to communicate efforts to hire a Caymanian,” Rivers explained. “The hope and expectation is for more and more employers to choose to utilize this mechanism to assist with their recruitment process.”

Government remains between a rock and a hard place at present, as it depends very heavily on work permit fees for revenue. According to this year’s budget annual plan and estimates, the Treasury expects to bring in some $60 million from work permit fees. However, the local unemployment figure is still hovering around 10% and the belief that even well-qualified, experienced Caymanians are being marginalized from jobs persists.

Along with concerns about the barriers erected by employers over the application process, CNS readers are also noting the constant fob-offs to their applications, rude responses or a lack of response, and many recruitment consultants are criticised for not following up with Caymanians who have registered for work.

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First TS of season becomes first hurricane

| 03/07/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Tropical Storm Arthur became Hurricane Arthur at around 5:00am on Thursday as it headed north off the coast of South Carolina towards the neighbouring state of North Carolina. Located at around 300 miles southwest of Cape Hatteras, the storm is moving at around 9mph with winds in excess of 80mph. Forecasters are predicting that the season's first hurricane, just one month in, will turn toward the northeast and increase in speed and intensity later today and Friday. Arthur is expected to approach the coast in the warning area tonight. Hurricane-force winds extend up to 25 miles and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 90 miles from the centre. For more details visit the NHC website.

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