If you are new to the Cayman education system, or this is your first child, you might want to know that all schools are inspected regularly by the Office of Education Standards. This department is a division of the Cayman Islands Government, and their incredibly dedicated team produces highly insightful school reports. You can glean a wealth of insider knowledge about a school before you even call to get a tour! We highly recommend you scour their reports, read between the lines and either make a beeline for the schools with 'Good' or 'Excellent' reports, or hold the other schools accountable and require them to raise their standards.
Children’s brains develop connections faster in the first five years than at any other time in their lives. This is the time when the foundations for learning, health and behaviour throughout life are established. Therefore it is absolutely crucial that you choose the right preschool for your child. Here are some pointers to consider. You will find a list of Cayman's preschools at the bottom of this article.
10 Markers of an Excellent Preschool
1. Passionate teachers and staff
If your child’s preschool can instil a desire for discovery into the hearts of your children, this will stand them in excellent stead for their lifelong learning journey.
2. Fun and interactive activities
Your preschool should encourage lively and collaborative play, including water play, role playing and sensory play. This fosters creativity, teamwork and a strong sense of self.
3. Literacy and numeracy development
Every school has a different approach, but the goal of preparing children for school should be universal. Ask the preschool(s) you visit about their literacy and numeracy programmes, as well as their approach to teaching the correct pencil grip.
4. A structured – but flexible – routine and syllabus
Children need a routine, but within this there should be a healthy mix of free play and small group lessons that are structured to your child’s needs. Likewise, there should be some flexibility within the education syllabus to allow children to follow their individual interests.
5. Music and dancing
Children love listening to music, and through doing so they will learn about different rhythms, sounds, songs, percussion instruments and how to make music with their own bodies through movement and dancing.
6. A shady and stimulating outdoor space
The facilities should include a shady garden or play area where children can engage with nature and enjoy fresh air and physical play out of the sun.
7. Weekly educational themes
New topics to explore each week spark curiosity, with new books, activities and mini lessons firing children’s imaginations and learning.
8. Caring for animals
Whilst not possible at all preschools, guinea pigs or rabbits make perfect nursery pets. Looking after and cuddling animals fosters responsibility, nurtures compassion and reduces anxiety in kids.
9. Limited or zero exposure to screens
Most children get all the screen time they need at home, so check what your school’s policy is on this. Whilst the exact amount of screen time kids should be allowed is still being debated, it’s clear that short bursts of educational and age-appropriate programming are better than hours spent in front of a TV.
10. Gentle guidance on kindness, respect and good manners
Preschool provides endless opportunities for socialising and teachers should embody the kindness and respect you’d like your child to develop.
Of course, there are also practical considerations to take into account when choosing a preschool, including location, hours of operation, and those all-important ‘good feels’!
It’s worth noting that the best preschools in Cayman often have long waiting lists. Sign your children up early and be prepared that you may not get your child into your first choice of nursery. If this is the case, do not despair, choose the next best one you can find and whose prices are within your budget.