All government schools in the Cayman Islands underwent a “baseline” inspection by the UK-based Independent Schools’ Inspectorate Consultancy (ISIC.) Taking place between November 2014 and March 2015, the inspections were intended to provide baseline information on the overall quality of education and outcomes for students between the ages of five to 18. The inspections covered ten primary schools, three high schools, one special needs school and one further education centre. The reports were released by the Ministry of Education at a press conference on 10 September.
According to the overall review of the inspection reports, “The schools present a varied picture of quality, including some that include good features and demonstrate diligent work to improve the students’ achievement. However, students’ achievement overall is below age-related expectations and represents significant underperformance at all stages of education.”
In an ongoing series, the Cayman Reporter brings you the findings of each school report.
Prospect Primary School
The inspection of Prospect Primary School took place from 24 to 25 November 2014 and involved a team of five inspectors. Prospect Primary School is one of the three International Baccalaureate (IB) Schools in the Cayman Islands. The school has 354 students from the ages of four to eleven, with slightly more girls than boys. Students start in Reception at the age of four, and in Year 1 when they are five. There are 12 classes in Years 1 to 6, with an average size of around 27 students. Additional support is provided for 123 students who are identified as having special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND). Those for whom English is an additional language, mainly Spanish speakers, are supported in learning English. The school offers the primary years programme (PYP) of the International Baccalaureate (IB). The school has been an accredited IB school since 2013, and has recently had its tenth anniversary. The principal at the time of the inspection had been at the school for eight years. “The ability profile of the school is broadly in line with the UK average, although some year groups have a profile slightly below average,” the ISIC report said.
The inspectors looked at standards achieved and progress made by students in Years 1 to 6, particularly in English and mathematics; the effectiveness of teaching and its impact on learning; and how well the school is led and managed.
The inspection team gathered evidence by observing 29 lessons, or parts of lessons, particularly in English and mathematics; scrutinising school documents, including teachers’ plans, curriculum guidelines, school policies and students’ work; listening to students read; and having discussions with teachers and with the school principal. The inspectors also held discussions with students and observed their activities in lessons and outside the classroom. Comments from parents and staff were taken into account from pre-inspection questionnaires.
The inspectors used a standard grading scale to evaluate all schools. The grade of “very good” means the school is good in all respects and exemplary in some significant areas. The grade of “good” means the school is “good in most respects. Weaknesses are minor and not in significant areas.” The grade of “adequate” means there are no significant weaknesses, but no major strengths, and that improvement is needed. A grade of “unsatisfactory” means there are some significant weaknesses that have a negative impact on learning and achievement, and that there is “cause for concern.”Inspectors use the following grading scale to describe aspects of the school’s work.
The overall effectiveness of Prospect Primary School was judged to be “good.”
The inspectors noted, “Students entering Year 1 from Reception have acquired a positive attitude to learning and already have basic number and phonic knowledge.”
Attainment was judged to be particularly good in English.
“Students make good progress and are broadly attaining in line with the norm for their age, and exceeding this in English,” the inspection report said. “Students throughout the school make better progress in English than in mathematics.”
Overall, the inspectors noted, “progress accelerates in the older year groups.”
The inspection team had a positive view of school management and leadership.
“The school is well managed and careful evaluation of progress and of the school improvement plan directs the way forward. The principal has a clear vision for the school’s development. All staff are involved in this process and staff expertise is both valued and used in bringing about improvement and change,” the ISIC report said.
With regard to management’s support of student learning and achievement, the inspectors said, “The school is active in seizing all avenues of support for its pupils and a range of interventions supports students’ learning.”
The school was also given high marks for gathering data, but could use it more effectively according to the inspectors.
“Assessment data is plentiful and is beginning to be used regularly to track students’ progress. Although it is carefully analysed and levels of achievement noted, the results of this analysis do not sufficiently inform lesson planning and the needs of specific groups or individuals,” the inspection report said.
The inspection team found a number of areas where the school performs well.
These included the involvement and development of staff.
“The senior leadership involves all staff in the evaluation of the school’s improvement plan, encouraging input and insight into the future needs of the school and the identification of the steps needed to achieve these,” the inspection report said.
The inspectors also noted that, “Staff strengths are recognised, valued and used to support staff and monitor teaching.”
The school’s focus on literacy was lauded.
The inspectors said, “The school has high standards in literacy and creates a stimulating environment to encourage reading.”
The school was also praised for its use of resources.
“The school makes effective use of classroom assistants in supporting pupils and ensures that training for classroom assistants is available,” the inspection report said.
Additionally, the inspectors said, “The school makes good use of the Primary Years Programme (PYP) to promote inquiry and engagement in learning and to encourage pupils to reflect on their learning.”
There were also areas that the inspection team felt required improvement. These related to the use of assessment data, adapting lessons for different abilities and also the overall teaching of mathematics.
“Information from assessment is not sufficiently used to guide teaching and show students how to improve, and to close the gap when students are falling behind,” the inspectors said.
They noted that, “Teachers do not regularly adapt work in lessons to address the needs of different abilities within the class.”
And overall, “Staff need to develop their knowledge, understanding and teaching of mathematics.”
In terms of how well students achieve and make progress at the school, the inspectors said, “Students’ achievement is good overall because they make good progress through the school and, from a low base, reach standards that are broadly in line with expectations for their age.”
The inspection team also found that, “The quality of teaching is good overall.”
The inspection report said, “In the best of lessons across all year groups teaching demonstrates a brisk pace, good subject knowledge and clear learning objectives; this enables students to acquire new knowledge and make progress.”
The inspectors said taking differing ability levels is important for effective teaching, but did not always occur.
“Particularly good teaching is evident in lessons where teachers have planned effectively to meet the needs of the different abilities within the class. In these lessons students behave and co-operate extremely well and demonstrate notable enthusiasm for learning. However, this provision is not seen consistently,” the inspection report said.
The inspectors noted, “When pupils of higher ability or pupils with learning difficulties are not given appropriate challenge or support, their progress within lessons is limited and their concentration wanes.”
With regard to the management of the school the inspectors said, “Leadership and management are good.”
The inspection report said, “The strong vision and the purposeful direction for the success of the school are reflected in the progress of students and their attitudes to learning. There is a strong sense of purpose and community spirit. Students are proud of their school and of their successes across a wide range of activities.”
The inspectors continued, “This extremely positive ethos is well secured by a cohesive leadership, which is well supported by a committed team of teaching and non-teaching staff, many whom have been in post at the school since the principal was appointed.”
Out of all of the areas assessed at Prospect Primary, the quality of teaching and learning in mathematics was the weakest.
“Outcomes for pupils are adequate in mathematics, although their achievement is lower than would be expected for students of average ability. More able students are not sufficiently challenged or encouraged to be independent thinkers and the less able pupils are not consistently given appropriate support,” the inspection report said.
The ISIC inspection team had a number of recommendations for improvements at Prospect Primary School to address its weaker areas.
These were to develop a process to observe and review the quality of teaching; to provide regular and clear direction for improvement when marking and assessing students’ work; to link direction for improvement to the individual student’s targets; when planning and teaching lessons, to use the information from assessments and evaluation of lessons to provide for the different abilities of students; to increase the pace of lessons so that students complete more work in the time available; and to ensure that teachers understand that students need to have a secure knowledge of tables and a full range of strategies needed to tackle mathematical problems.