| 09/07/2014

The Coalition for Cayman is calling on the country to adopt the ARK System of education, much loved by the UK’s Conservative education minister, Michael Gove, along with other corporate owned “free” schools and academies. But Britain’s Association of Teachers and Lecturers says they are destroying the education system “through corporate greed”.

"Our schools and colleges are proving to be a lucrative host to those who seek to bleed them dry. The number of private companies queuing up to get in on the act has trebled since 2011. Time and time again we are met with yet another scandal: whether arising from blind dogma, profiteering or just plain corruption,” Mark Baker, a senior vice-president ofATL, said earlier this year.

Nor are they the panacea that the C4C pretends. According to figures from the UK’s Department for Education, 60% of students in non-academy schools attained five A* to C-grade GCSEs in 2011, compared tojust 47% in the 249 sponsored academies that existed at that time.

Commenting on this in The Guardian in January 2012, Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of Ofsted and former head teacher of the much-acclaimed Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney, east London, conceded, "Last year alone 85 schools serving the most deprived communities in our society were judged to be providing outstanding education … let me be clear: the vast majority of these schools are not academies. They are simply schools with heads and staff focused on the right things, striving every day to provide the best possible education for their young people."

Some academies are doing well, others … not so much. Nevertheless, the C4C group paid for a 2-page ad in The Cayman Compass, the Coalition’s go-to media mouthpiece, to slam the current education system and to promote the idea of academies, and in particular ARK, which coincidentally holds 40 to 60 percent of its funds in the Cayman Islands (managed by a Cayman Islands ARK company AMML).

Of particular note is the C4C’s claim that “not charging for Pubic School Education means little value is placed on it by parents in terms of ensuring attendance or requiring satisfactory results”. It seems clear where this is going.

Among its condemnation of the public school system is the move towards the widely respected IB/PYP system in the primary schools because it “eliminates text books and relies on the internet for the students to get their information. Possibly the worst decision made in the History of the Cayman Islands,” the C4C stated in a diatribe aimed at ministry and education department heads.

Clearly they are not aware that this is where the ARK System is heading. Ark Pioneer Academy, due to open in London from September 2016, will be an all-through school where students will spend a significant percentage of their school day being taught by computer software packages, which, it is said, may provide savings by cutting the number of teachers.

But the real inconvenient truth for the C4C is that the independent and empirical gauge of student achievement in the Cayman Islands – external exam results – is showing real signs of improvement. According to the National Data Report released earlier this year by the Ministry of Education, the percentage of students achieving 5 or more level 2 passes by the time they leave school increased by 159% between 2007 and 2013. In real numbers, 88 students left Year 12 with five or more Level 2 passes in 2007. In 2013 that number was 267.

Any academy in the UK that could boast of such success would be hailed in the media. However, the Coalition for Cayman, the group that financially backed the current education minister during the elections, makes no mention of these positive developments, merely labelling education “a disaster”.

It should also be noted that this remarkable improvement in external exam results happened during a period of economic downturn, rising crime and increasing social problems, all factors that you would expect to have a negative effect on education. However, the C4C have apparently decided to ignore all facts that get in the way of the group’s agenda.

In its 2-page ad, the ‘non-party’ advocacy group invites readers to compare the results of the public school system to the private school system, forgetting to mention that private schools are inherently selective: they do not accommodate special needs students who are included in the public school statistics and whose specialist teaching is included in the public school budget.

Private schools generally do not include children from socially dysfunctional families, children who live on chips and soda, children whose parents want to do what is right but must work several jobs to survive, or children who simply do not meet the academic criteria to enter in the first place. Again, all of these needs must be met by the public schools, resulting in additional costs and a lower average exam scores.

Comparing the systems is simply demonstrating how far removed the C4C is from reality – one of the reasons most of the candidates it backed lost in the elections.

Instead of a very costly “revolution” in our education system, which would inevitably require another slew of consultants and experts and would suck up the time and energy of our education staff from top to bottom, it surely makes sense to fill in the gaps and improve the revolution already in progress rather than upend a system that is showing real results.

Everyone knows that there are areas of the education system that need to be improved but investing into the social needs of the community (such as paying people a living wage, government hiring more social workers) might have a more dramatic effect on the education results than just blaming the schools.

One point the C4C is right about is the need to restore the inspections unit, but not as they envisage as another private sector committee (a bunch of well-meaning people who think they know what they’re doing) but as it was before, made up of educators drawn from the local system as well as those recruited internationally – and no affiliation or favours owed to any ‘advocacy group’.

Meanwhile, although the minister was quick to defend herself and correct what she claimed were inaccuracies in the CNS report, she has yet to defend her staff in the education ministry or department from the demoralizing dismissal of all their efforts and successes in the C4C’s grossly misleading advertorial.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Viewpoint

About the Author ()

Comments (58)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    Mr mclaughlin your silence on the matter is deafening.  One can only assume that your failure to reign in your rookies, tara rivers and winston connolly, means that you are in agreement with their stupidity and naive stance on fixing the education system.  Leadership seems to be a problem not only in schools but in government.

    • Anonymous says:

      Cayman compass yesterday with its biased poll on ark academies and today with its article once again on the subject has shown itself for what it is…..a support of c4c who, whilst sending their children private schools are willing to play dice with our childrens future.  Because our education system is flawed does not mean we support your alternatives.  By the way ark when they move in usually sack a quarter of its teachers and change the management within the school. Are these people in c4c ready for the fall out?  Is minister rivers prepared to return to her associate lawyer placement when we finally throw her out.  In any other countey a minister briefing against its premier would be sacked.  The compass is manipulating us into believing the only way forward is ark in Cayman when we all know that this would be just another new initiative and way of creating more sink schools.  

  2. Anonymous says:

    There is a simple solution.  Send you kids to private schools.  Then they get a great education and they don't have any friends from the underclass of society.

    • Anonymous says:

      Please someone explain how privatisation of the school system is going to improve things.  Same pupils, same teachers, same heads.  If its not to be the same teachers and heads then many caymanians and status holders are going to lose their jobs.  Who on this island has the guts to make this happen when there is already whinging and whinimg about how foreigners are taking jobs away from locals.

      Also why would anyone endorse the creation of yet another system when the biggest detriment to the current state school system was the forcing of expat children into private schools.  Also private schools cream off the top 20 percemt of caymanian children so its little wonder they do better than state schools.

      By all means scrutinize your state system, celebrate the obvious improvements made over recent years, acknowledge the hurtles that still have to be jumped and help teachers to realize their potential.  No one sets out to do a bad job, especially in teaching.  However there is obviously, as someone else wrote, a problem of leadership.  The buck stops at the top in schools and quality leaderships is sadly missing.  You clearly realise this or there would not be a need to employ SSIO's.  Imagine in my private businessif I was not capable of doing the job i was employed to do, my company employing someone else to help me.  Its a business model that the private sector could not sustain before it impacted on its business.

      • Anonymous says:

        The problem is not the schools. It is not the administrators. It is not even the students. The problem is very easy to see. It is the parents. 

        • Anonymous says:

          The parent that sends the child(ren) to school dirty, hungry, tired, homework incomplete/untouched/not reviewed and no snack/lunch money. The parent that has never visited the school and has taken no interest in the child(ren)'s education. The parent that is too busy for the child(ren) because of xyz reason.  The parent that doesn't care. 

      • Anonymous says:

        Just for the record, SSIOs in Cayman's public school system do absolutely nothing but collect a big pay check.  These persons have much to say but do not walk their talk.  Since the change in the setup of Cayman public schools, to include a post such as SSIO, there has been very little to no change at all.  Staff morale is at its lowest, student behaviour at its worse and increase in head teacher frustration obvious. 

        Please note that ALL of these post are filled by Non-Caymanians who think that they are God's gift to the Cayman Islands and truly have nothing but their fat bank account(s) in mind. 

        Like ALL who come to these shores to increase their personal wealth, SSIOs will too jump ship when the SHIP finally sinks leaving it up to us Caymanians to clean up the mess within the school system.

        • Anonymous says:

          If this is true then their caymanian bosses have a lot to answer for in hiring them in the first place and in failing to.ensure that the post is an effective one.

  3. Anon says:

    Anyone pushing the academy system on the Cayman Islands should first read this report on the Academies Commission. A lot of very worrying stuff here.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The criticisms of the valuable reforms in England come from heavily left leaning unions or union funded thin tanks who have a primary prupose of protecting teacher's jobs and maximising their income.  These militants will do whatever is necessary to stand in the way of brave reforms, and misleading reports and data are one of their tactics.  Putting any credence on such "studies" is very dangerous.

    • Slowpoke says:

      You are absolutely right.

      But there are also right leaning "funded thin tanks who have a primary prupose"   and who will "will do whatever is necessary to stand in the way" as well as providing "misleading reports and data are one of their tactics.  Putting any credence on such "studies" is very dangerous."

      I am not an educator and am not in politics, but I have read a number of independent studies, clearly indicating that some educational systems are producing significantly superior results.

      Spoiler Alert:  Academies and Charter Schools are not among them.

    • Anonymous says:

      The report referred to by the original poster was put together by a group involving  a former head of Ofsted., whilst the current head (much more right leaning) has also expressed reservations. The bottom line is that it is not the structure of a school system which makes a difference, it is ALWAYS the quality of the leadership. This is where the investment is needed in Cayman.

  5. Anonymous says:

    While there are no social, cultural or demographic barriers that absolutely prohibit widespread aceademic achievement,some of the reasons given in this article for lower average exam scores in public schools such as: "Private schools generally do not include children from socially dysfunctional families, children who live on chips and soda, children whose parents want to do what is right but must work several jobs to survive…" is wrongly stating that these factors are indeed  barriers to achieving good academic results in public schools in Cayman.  Why should these reasons affect a student's academic achievement – whether they are in public or private schools?  If they do, then it is the "parents" who need to be educated in "parenting", esp those parents who use schools as free day care facilities and don't care about their childrens studies at all.


    • Anonymous says:

      There are the deadbeat dads out there that not only do not care about the child but are on a vengeance against the mothers. There's the drug heads that have nothing better to do than do drugs and destroy the rest of the world.  Yet  these  influences (deadbeat farher) are forced upon the  innocent chilldren by  law . Yes the mothers made the mistake and the to fix they want better for the children. How does that get resolved when the law states visitation is mandatory? ? 

      How can you feed your child healthy and then provide healthy snacks and healthy lunch, when the school sells chips, soda and fried food? 

      Is the several jobs related to not receiving child support? Or poorly educated parents that cannot move up in the career? Or is it too many children and lack of family planning? 

      As the original writer said these are not issues the school can resolve on it's own. These are issues that require social services, psychologists, modifications of laws, parenting classes, longer classroom days and maybe a different outlook. 

      What about boarding school for these children? There is a boys home and a girls home? What about boarding the children that are having difficulties and putting them in intensive 24 hour learning homes? If the truth is the parents don't really want them anyway, the parents won't complain. Maybe the exception is when the holidays roll around and they have to go home to their parents. 

  6. Anonymous says:

    Whether people like it or not, nicky's article is factually correct unlike the c4c ad in the cayman compass.  I worry when education experts on the island are ignored who have vast experiemce of the arc and academies in general, and those with no experiemce of education pursue such a discredited system.  Oh wait….tara rivers and winston connolly do have bags full of experiemce……they visited one arc school whilst in the uk.  

    People, you need to be contacting your local representative and making it very clear that privatization in any guise they want to dress it up in, is not acceptable.  Print leaflets, hold public meetings, get up off your chairs and galvanize your friends and family to stop the dessimation of the school system.  Create a face book page called "save our schools".  Make tara rivers and her c4c cronies sit up and take note.  Lastly lobby the premier and lambast him for failing to reign in his education minister and counsellor.   They need to go back to law which is something they DO know something about unlike education.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Nicky for this well written article!

    I do not agree with the privatization of the puplic education system. I agree there are many socio and economic needs that can be addressed and financially supported to help improve lives together with the necessary improvements to the education system and the schools inspectorate section.

    I believe that the more people who support and assist withimproving the current education system without an unnecessary overhaul and implementation of a completely new system we will reap real benefits and so will our children.

    We are one small nation, and I just wish we could be more supportive ofeach other, Acknowledging where there is wrong but committing together to make the necessary improvements. Constant tearing down will get us no where.

  8. Slowpoke says:

    Another example of taking the absolute worst ideas from the UK/US and trying to implementthem here.  Please stop the magical thinking that everything in the private sector is automatically superior and look at the research as to which countries are getting the best results, and replicate that. 

    Hey Tara, use the Google Machine or have one of your assistants do it for you.

  9. Ed says:

    17:59, Rolston deserves no credit whatsoever.

    The progress that has been made in Cayman’s public schools since 2007 is because of the input of certain technocrats working in the ministry since that time. 

    It was they who introduced the National Curriculum, the IB Primary Years Programme and trained teachers in these new methods, techniques and procedures.  Since 2007 it is the teachers who have delivered these improved results, supported by the technocrats and the education department. 

    Rolston Anglin contributed nothing and nor did he have any influence at all in this impressive advancement.  

    • Anonymous says:

      He didn't get in the way? – I don't know if he didn't or not, I'm, asking. Because as Tara is trying to prove a bad idea is worse than no idea.

    • Anonymous says:

      He deserves credit for the Early Childhood program.  I'm no fan of his but Rolston did seem to really care about that and if you don't get the children assistance from the beginning there isn't much you can do once they are in high school.  In a lot of cases, high school would be too late.

      • Anonymous says:

        No progress made since 2007 in secondary schools is anything at all to do with the Early Childhood Program.  Anglin didn't introduce it.  He just gave the go-ahead to others who then did all the work.  He was too busy with his late night entertainment activities to know much about what was going on in his department..

        • Anonymous says:

          I spoke to him directly so I can guarantee you that he knew about what was going on in his Department.  He definitely knew more than Tara.  It takes awhile to see the results of the Early Childhood program on the high school level.  I didn't have to wait till high school though as my Year 3 son Math and reading level is at Year 4 and 5.

      • Anonymous says:

        So right at 11.31 on 10/7, he went to Russia and discovered that early childhood  education was important . Give credit where it is due.

        • Ed says:

          Wow!  You are right.  What a breakthrough.  

          It's a pity there isn't a Nobel Prize for Education.  Discovering that early childhood education is important.  Who'd have thought it?

          • Anonymous says:

            He could have found that out with 5 minutes on Google.  But in Russia they serve vodka in business meetings, so it was no brainer for Rolston.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Streaming.  It focuses resources and means the bright ones are not dragged down to the level of the masses.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Great viewpoint.

    C4C are irrelevant anyway. Period.


  12. Anonymous says:

    Agree with Nicky here completely!

  13. Anonymous says:

    From the looks of this graph Rolston  should  be Knighted. But we know he won't be given any credit

    • And Another Zing says:

      I can't see where our Gt MLA W. Conolly, could subscribe to this obscene division of schooling hin coming from a family of educators. Tell me it's not true Winston tell the people of GT who elected you to represent "all the people in George Town," that this is not your thinking. If it is dearly beloved I'm afraid we wasted our vote,and that goes for MLA Joseph Hew as well. As for the rest of the GT representatives Cha a waste a time.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why is it attributable to Rolston? Just because he was in office as the Minister during those years? 

  14. Anonymous says:

    The good thing about the education debate is that when it reaches the Legislative Assembly, we have members from both ends of the spectrum to give their input.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Does Nicky Watson have children?  Where do her children go to school?

    Nicky: Both my children went through the government system on Cayman Brac from Reception on, with the exception of my youngest son's final year of high school as he received a scholarship to attend UWC Adriatic.


    • Anonymous says:

      That is the solution and not only for education!  The Brac has always produced better students. The Brac needs an economy boost.  Lets all move the the Brac and have our children educated there.    

      • Anonymous says:

        We all moving to the Brac would tend to destroy the ingredients of their academic success – low teacher/student ratios, few distractions etc.

      • Pharaoh's Slaves says:

        Yes, let's all move to the Brac under the iron fist of Kirkconnell. You people actually need to know what's going on over there before you comment.

    • Ayebeephor E. 'Ceptafta-Seeh says:

      Well corrected Nicky. I don't know why you are so selective on statements of truth on those damned freemasons. They are a scourge on our country. If you think you can ignore them, you might as well be one of them. Good luck.

    • Anonymous says:

      Did he go because he got a scholarship or because the education that UWC has to offer is better?

      Nicky: The question has no relevance. The UWC offers International Baccalaureate diplomas, the equivalent of A Levels. The government Year 12 programme has what they call a dual entry programme, so the students who need to do retakes or who want to take the vocational options available within the public school system do so. The students who have already achieved the required exam results either begin the Associates degree at UCCI or begin A Levels or IB elsewhere but can still graduate with their class. 

      Because the government schools do not offer A Levels they offer grants to those students who have been in the public school system and want to take these exams to attend private schools in the Cayman Islands that offer this.

      For students who intend to go to university in North America, going to UCCI might be more appropriate as they can do one or two years locally of their 4 year degree. For students who want to go to university in the UK, A Levels (and IBs, though these are, I believe, only offered in the Cayman Islands at CIS) are generally more useful. I think you can also get US college credit for IBs but I'm not sure about this.

      To recap: the IB offered at UWC is not a high school course but a pre-college course.

  16. Anonymous says:

    It is not hard to show signs of improvement when the system starts from a position substantially below the acceptable.

  17. marius voiculescu says:

    Excellent viewpoint!  The educational system in the Cayman Islands does not require wholesale changes, least of all this latest proposal.  What it requires are small, simple, but effective and pragmatic changes.  This proposal presents another opportunity for those in power to divert money into the pockets of "friends of friends" without any accountability and guarantees of improvement. 

  18. Anonymous says:

    If you had a chance to remove the polical football out of this editorial, one could actually think it might be a start to a good conversation on how to fix the problem.  Take the politics out of the picture (quit pointing who said what, who did what) and lets start talking solutiions. Some groups will have good points others better but unless we take out the group names and start discussing facts, the children will continue to suffer.  Ask any Caymanian, do a poll, if money were no object, where would you send your kids to school – private or government.?  Cayman is small enough that it could and should boast the best education in the Caribbean. 

  19. Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately education will be like the dock, dump, airport etc…. Just another political football being kicked down the road for 4 years because of the negative media views like this one, which  are handcuffing our country.

    • Anonymous says:

      You can't blame the media.  The Education Department has always been a political football. Nicky is right.  The schools are showing impressive results. 

      • Anonymous says:

        where is the proof? while looking please see if you can find an audited account of our countrys books too:)))   

        CNS: Good grief! It doesn't seem to matter how many times this is said, it just doesn't seem to penetrate. The proof is in the external exam results – the setting and marking of which are not done in the Cayman Islands so they cannot be fudged by local educators. Below is an easy to understand graph. To view the whole report, click here.

        • Anonymous says:

          So all this analysis is based on that limited information?  What are the numbers of students involved?  Not very many, and 2013 could well be an outlier.  The evidence from this graph paints a very sorry picture of the education system.

          CNS: Well, you have to go to the enormous effort of clicking on the link provided for the full report. Note that the ARK academies have a mixed bag of results; one school actually dropped 17 percentage points (from 41% to 24%) in one year after ARK took it over in 2012. How impressive is that?

          • Anonymous says:

            That is only one school.


            What  about  the success of the others? Cayman would be an easy way to impliment this type of system especially with our smalll enrollment and geographical  size.

            • Anonymous says:

              WOW!!!!  Nicky I guess the only thing left for you to do is to go door to door and explain it to people.  How many times must we see the FACTS before we accept the truth.  The public education system is improving by leaps and bounds.  How can the 2013 results be an outlier when it is clearly at the end of a multi-year increase!  that's not how outlier's work.  A possible  outlier would be if the 2013 results were back down at the 25% level.  BTW the public education system's results are better than UK ARK and non-Ark schools performance – 70% for Cayman as opposed to 60% and 47% for the ARK schools.  So why aren't we celebrating this success?  And more importantly, how do our children feel when we constantly question and dismiss their efforts.  As alluded to by Nicky, if another education system boasted the type of growth that ours has it would be a celebrated by the country.  But God forbid that we look beyond our petty selves for 5 minutes.

              • MEM says:

                In Cayman we don't believe facts, we believe politicians giving away washing machines during the elections campaign…

          • Anonymous says:

            You must be reading the graph back to front if you think it paints a "very sorry picture". It sounds like you are willing the education system to fail. Thanks for responding to this moron, CNS.

        • Anonymous says:

          Great on the top end but could someone provide us with the failing numbers because that is where the problem is. Face facts Cayman High School as well as other schools on the islands have graduated students who have gone on to perform well in some of the top universities in the World. the problem is not the top end its the significany number falling through the cracks.

          • Anonymous says:

            Well, it is simple arithmetic. If 70% acheived 5 level 2 passes it means 30% did not.

            • Anonymous says:

              With all due respect that number has no value.

              4 passes stil represents a fairly good student who should be able to find a reasonable job in society.

              That is not the picture being painted of caymans education system. It is one of total failure. It is the number of students who have next to no passes you are interested in.

              • Anonymous says:

                OK. So you want the number of children who didn't pass any subjects at all? Or do you want it broken down (a) one subject, (b) two subjects etc.?

                A negative distorted picture is indeed being painted of Cayman's education system, mostly by some expats. Clearly, these pass rates belie the figure I have heard bandied that there is a 70% illiteracy rate among school leavers.   

              • Anonymous says:

                It doesn't matter what the figures of testing passes or fails are. The key question is: Are our public school students graduating with the educational skills to either succeed in tertiary education or in the local job market. Recent news from ICCI suggests the answer is now for the former and ask any employer to get an answer to the latter.  Those who argue Cayman's public education system doesn't need a transformational change are either part of the current entrenched system or delusional.

                CNS: How about this employer? 

        • Anonymous says:

          One swallow does not a summer make.

          • Diogenes says:

            Three successive swallows is a different story.

            • Anonymous says:

              Two out of the three show a failing education system that has made marginal improvements.

        • Anonymous says:

          Both GCSE and CXC have two levels. GCSE consists of core (easier) and extension (more difficult) papers, as does CXC – basic (easier) and general (more difficult).

          The question here is the variation of the exam which was taken by the students.

          Also, Key Stage II examinations (taken at the end of Year 6) are marked on island, generally by primary school teachers who attend moderation training prior to marking.

          CNS: Level 2 means the general exam.