Rivers leads team to London for education forum

| 20/01/2014

(CNS): Backbench government MLA Alva Suckoo has been appointed temporary minister for education and employment minister this week, working alongside his brother, Christen Suckoo, the deputy chief officer in the ministry who will be acting chief officer, in the absence of Minister Tara Rivers and Chief Officer Mary Rodrigues. They, along with Ministry Councillor Winston Connolly and Deputy Chief Officer Dr Tasha Ebanks-Garcia, are all in London attending the Education World Forum. Rivers and her team will be in the UK until 26 January in order to participate in a number of meetings with ministers responsible for education and employment there and to visit a number of high performing schools and Jobcentre Plus locations. 

Rivers will also host a reception at government’s London office in order to meet and greet Caymanian students in the UK.

Officials said Rivers was invited by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office through the governor’s office to attend the forum, which runs until Wednesday. In a release the education ministry said the Education World Forum provides the opportunity for ministers with responsibility for education at all levels to discuss the challenges and opportunities faced in their education systems. 

“As the Education World Forum is in London it provides a good opportunity for us to visit high performing schools in the area and learn first-hand of the employment initiatives of the UK Government," Rivers said ahead of the trip. "The Ministry is currently reviewing the governance model of public schools in the Cayman Islands in an effort to explore methods to improve local education and raise standards. 

“We are also trying to develop the services provided by the National Workforce Development Agency, and are interested in reviewing similar agencies operating in the UK in an effort to better inform ourselves of the successes and ways to avoid the potential pitfalls of programmes geared towards addressing the issue of unemployment,” she added.

The delegation will visit high performing schools known as academies in England, which are publicly funded but independent schools. These schools must follow the law and guidance on admissions, exclusions and special education needs and disabilities like fully maintained public schools but they benefit from greater freedoms. These include: being independent from local authority control, having the ability to set pay and conditions for their staff, deciding how they deliver the curriculum and having the ability to change the length of their school terms.

The Jobcentre Plus location they will visit is the UK governmental body that assists in helping people find jobs. The plan is to spend time at a centre and meet with relevant senior staff to get a thorough understanding of the work that takes place through a Jobcentre Plus, both from an operational and from a policy perspective, officials said. 

Officials did not state who was paying for the trip or how much it would cost the public purse.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Ahem, we don't have farming.  Why don't we have year-round school?  Bill Gates says it works! So why not?  The answer because it has always been done that way does not cut it.  Luckily, we do not have teacher unions to block this.  Cayman could succeed on a charter-school program and run it for less than they do now!

    A tale of 2 schools:  Both in the past 5 years…..Take the local success of the $27 million dollar Cayman International School vs our $150 million new public school model.  Which one is sending 90% of grads to college?  (CIS) and before you say it is because of money…..eh,  Wrong!  Those teachers make LESS than Govt public school teachers and the cost per pupil in Govt School system is USD$14,000 per child per year (yes!!- YOUR tax dollars, look at the budget.  Numbers don't lie.) and CIS kids only cost $12,000 per year.  I'm not saying all schools need to become IB schools, but we cannot wait for another generation to fail.

    Do the math:  $2k less per child, teachers cost less, but kids succeed in this type of school.  They offer after school care until 5:30PM so this takes care of latch-key kids. 

    We cannot afford not to change our schools.  The cost of social services will counteract the cost of this.

    Forget The Port and airports, lets focus on where our money can really make a difference! 

    • Anonymous says:

      1) special Ed Classes (or whatever they're called these days)? The Government schools traditionally catered to a wider 'ability set' than the private schools.

      2) I graduated from the public school when they still had A-levels, i.e., the 'before college' classes. Our college entry rate was probabyl 90% as well. See point 1 above.

      3) Parental Involvement. Before you compare graduation rates, compare parental involvement rates. There is no better indicatorof a student's likelihood to succeed than (a) their parents success level and (b) their parents interest, nay involvement, in their childs success.


    • Anonymous says:

      With what they pay for school fees I expect  my child  to be the next Bill Gates.

  2. Work for it says:

    Interesting timing as the UK Employment Minister, Esther McVey tells young people to get a job in a coffee shop. Hear hear, ANY employer will be willing to hire an unemployed local with a degree in their profession (recent Uni grad perhaps) if they see they are slugging it out.  Entitlement for the young must go away.  If you are a parent then be a good one… Teach work ethics starting with chores and allowances, teen babysitting, and mowing lawns, and yes… A coffee shop or waiting tables. No shame in making a buck instead of moaning and this respect will get you a dream job. Register with the NWDA today and local employers please stop playing the expat permit renewals game. Hire a hard working local. (Immigration enforcement needs to make a few examples of companies flouting the system- fine them!) Puh-lease, there are qualified local accountants, teachers, IT peofessionals, drivers, all being passed over for your permit renewal dance?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Did she visit the University of Allen & Overy?  I've heard it is a great school.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I would hope that if the FCO extended the invite they are paying the tab.  

    But visiting a London Job Centre will be fun. Been there, done it, wouldn't do it again if you paid me. Most of them are like a zoo.    

  5. Anonymous says:

    It is not a very good photo of Tara.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Which passport did Tara use on the trip?

  7. Good news says:

    Happy to hear.  

    Tara should not be misled by Mary Rodrigues.  It may not be soley her fault, but 23 years with the Civil Service she has had a good run at fixing education and for whatever reasons has failed.  Again, not judging one person, but we have to admit the past decade allowed buidlings $$ and not books.  We now have bullies instead of brillance, and accountability was not only swept under the carpet, but senior political officials gave the wrong and misleading education stats to the Cayman Business Outlook group at the Ritz! We must face the poor test scores and take action for every child to succeed.

    Our education system (with so few students and such a high cost per pupil!?!) has been broken for a very long time.  I hope that Tara, Tasha, and Winston will form their own opinions and shake up the Education Senior Administration from the top down.  Education must rise above personal politics.

    Looking at best practices in the UK and gaining the support of the UK is key.  We do not need more bricks and new buidlings, we need a focused plan and an MLA with the guts to trim the dead wood.  We have a severe "pass the lemon" problem:  Watch the documentary, "Waiting for Superman" on Netflix as it will help to show the problem and better yet – hope and how to fix it!

    Again, we have less than 8,000 students, the size of a very small city so this problem is not insurmountable.  With better education and a move towards vocational training and actually using the NWDA (Hello good private sector citizen HR managers in the tourism and finance industries, are YOU regsitered with the NWDA?) we can fix these problems.

    We may only have 2,000 locals that need to enter the workforce every year – (probably much less.) But lets do the "Math" and see how we can work with and not against the 20,000 work permits and unemployment for locals.  We all benefit from a better education population and low unemployment.

    • Massias says:

      Thank you so much for stating the cold, hard, truth. I wish I could sit with you to discuss this further.  A clean sweep is necessary….pockets are getting fatter and fatter for the heads of that ministry .  The sugar-coating of the issues needs to stop.  We all know sugar is bad for us but they keep laying it on thick. Wake up  CIG….we can all see the problems, why can't you?

      • Reform will happen when we retire the Admin says:

        The obvious is that Reform cannot happen until Retirement happens at Dept of Education.

        Hopefully Winston will see this with his years of private sector business skills.  The org chart needs a shake up and he may just have the balls to do it.  Tara is sweet, but she is no pit bull and wants to please everyone. Mary has led the Govt down the garden path with empty promises and slight of hand year after year (No, wait Mr. Minister…THIS YEAR we have a new plan?) For how long do we allow the senior staff to collect FAT paycheques without being accountable?  Another lost decade and another generation put on the street without literacy and skills?  Again, dont bother to blame WHY, just make these changes and make them stick.

        Again, we are talking about a school population of 6,000 kids with a ratio in that department of 600? We could fix the problem if a true leader made some harsh changes.  

        We need was Geoffrey Canada!!!  His confidence that a charter school run on his model can make virtually any first-grader a high school graduate who's accepted to college. A good education, therefore, is not ruled out by poverty, uneducated parents or crime – and drug-infested neighborhoods. In fact, those are the very areas where he has success.

        Please watch this and demand better from our politicians, We CAN fix this!!!






  8. Hurrah says:

    Finally! A trip worth our money.  Ju Ju went cell phone shopping in Spain, who knows what Far East adventures the UDP had on their 4 year $$$ jollies, XXXX so I am glad to hear the new team is going off to learn about something we can use!  Benchmark education plans and how to run a job centre.  Well done Tara, Tasha, and Winston.  Value for money and good effort.  (I'm not a PPM voter and just happy that the top two real issues are finally getting some real attention!)  what could be more important than fixing our education system and having a true job placement program?  Hurrah!

    • Anonymous says:

      Speaking of JuJu seems like she's traveling again. Off to New Zealand I hear. 

  9. Anonymous says:

    As Tara knows, there is nowhere better than London to go to study people studying, everyone is at it.  The passport staff were studying to be passport staff, the taxi drivers were studying to be taxi drivers, the waiters were studying to be waiters.  Everyone in London with a job was studying in Tara's eyes, it was a miracle.  The Londoners did not even consider it studying, that was the incredible thing, they seemed to call it working.  Amazing place.

  10. Anonymous says:

    the junkets never end………

  11. Anonymous says:

    I knew Ms. Rivers won't let me down, lots of travelling.

    Thanks for just blaming Mr Bush and now PPM/C4C doing the same so Hon. Rivers since your governemnt still have refused to send 1-2 people, take notes, videos and bring home brochures, please, please let me go on next trip!!

    I am confident before the first year of being Minister you'll be taking you other 'reserach/best buddies' on government paid TRIP, so I'm all packed and ready to go, will give you a call when you return.


    P.S. I know you told those West Bay voters youhave answers but we can hear you need some, so all the best on the visit, especially at the Job Placement Centres in England.