In Cayman, it is compulsory for all children from the age of five to 17 to attend school or be home-schooled. However, the reality is that most children in Cayman start preschool at two, primary school at four and don’t finish high school until 18 (if in the private school system, and 17 if in the government school system). At all levels in Government schools, priority for admission is assigned to Caymanians; in addition, at the compulsory education stage, priority is also ascribed to dependents of Caymanians, dependents of Government workers, dependents of Permanent Residents, and other children approved by WORC for entry into Government schools. Admission for categories outside of Caymanians and dependents of Caymanians, is subject to space availability. See the guidelines for school registration for more details. The cost difference between public and private schools is significant.
The education in Cayman is good but invariably the quality fluctuates between schools and indeed between classes within the same school. The children who excel the most have parents who are constantly on top of their children’s academic progress. Knowing, for example, that 90% of children should be able to read quite comfortably by the age of six should raise a red flag if your child is not. See the Literacy Development Milestones article written by Clinical Supervisor and Speech-Language Pathologist, Cynthia Rowe, for more information. Parents who keep in very close contact with their child’s school, insisting on solutions to any problems, and who are willing and able to help their child with their reading and homework, will find their children do not fall through the cracks. It’s worth every effort you can make: education has been proven to be the best way of pulling people out of low incomes and poverty, and provides access to highly skilled and highly paid professions.
The Office of Education Standards has an amazing team of fair and highly experienced educators and ex-educators who conduct regular school inspections. From their reports, which include everything from teacher's and student's performance to where a school’s strengths and weaknesses lie, you can make either an informed choice on where to send your child or where you might need to assist your child so that they fulfil their full potential at school. Most schools are inspected once every two years, unless they are graded 'weak' and then they are inspected again six months later. A 'Good' or 'Excellent' school inspection result is highly coveted and a 'Weak' or 'Satisfactory' result highly frowned upon, so standards have been improving at a considerable pace as a result.
According to the 2021 Education Data Report, there are 1,780 children enrolled in 43 preschools, and a total of 8,434 children enrolled in 27 private and government schools spread across the three Islands with 790 teachers teaching these students. In primary and secondary education there are 3,755 students in private schools, 2,306 in government primary schools, 2,373 in government secondary schools and 115 students enrolled in the Lighthouse School, the country’s school for special needs, with 18 teachers teaching them. Approximately 150 children are home-schooled.
Factors to Consider
When considering your options for schools for your child, remember to take into account school inspection results, class sizes, discipline, manners, special needs support, standard of teaching and the consistent dedication of the teachers, and lastly the cost. At the end of the day it is a false saving if your child is going to a low-fee school but they are not learning and growing academically and socially at the rate they should and could for their age.
Government schools follow the Cayman National Curriculum and students take CXCs and GCSEs in Year 11. Students then have various options for their 12th and final year of high school, such as UCCI, attending a private school for A Levels, or CIFEC, where they can do BTECs, retake CXCs or GCSEs and participate in work experience and internships or take one of the many vocational courses now being offered in Grand Cayman. British private schools take GCSEs or IGCSEs, then A Levels. The American system leads to a US High School Diploma and AP (Advanced Placement) credits. The highly regarded International Baccalaureate is available in Grades 11 and 12 at Cayman International School.
Class sizes vary from school to school. All government school class sizes are capped at 24 students per class for Kindergarten/Reception and Year 1, and 28 students in other years. In private schools, it ranges from 13 students to 25 students. All government schools and most private schools also have a full-time qualified teaching assistant helping the teacher in most classes of 25 children. In some schools, this additional teaching resource runs through all primary year groups. Make sure to ask about this.
Most of Cayman’s schools have a strong Christian tradition and celebrate the Christian faith. If you would prefer a school that is not affiliated with a church or religious group, then there are a few to choose from – see our Ultimate Guide to Cayman's Schools for more.
Entry to a government school is determined by catchment area. Private schools are spread between West Bay and Prospect, so you’ll need to consider location when making your choice.
The Ministry of Education publishes a very detailed data report each year which explains the student enrolment numbers for both government and private schools, plus student attendance and performance data from government schools. The reports are very thorough and make for interesting reading. You can view them on www.education.gov.ky, listed under National Education Data Reports.
Check the school's inspection report and read in detail how they are doing. See School Standards & Inspections on the Cayman Resident website. There are also reports available on how each school handled the home learning requirements during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Key Preparations Prior to Starting School
New students entering either private or government schools for the first time have a school medical exam before the new school year begins in September. These tests are invaluable for schools as they identify previously uncaught speech and language, sight or hearing issues just before the child starts at primary school. Interestingly, most therapists agree that this test should be done at 2.5 and not 4.5 so that remedial therapy can begin well before the child goes to primary school. Some problems caught under the age of three can be completely resolved if therapy is started early enough, and definitely under the age of 5 while the brain is still growing. This is one of the reasons why all preschools are now required to have a SENCo on staff.
In order to ensure that all students entering school for the first time are up to date on their immunisations, additional immunisation clinics ensure that children aged four and five are up-to-date with their required vaccinations. For further information please contact the Public Health Department on (345) 244 2648/244 2889.
In Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, school entry screenings can be done through the Public Health Nurse, Kadine Hyde, at Faith Hospital. She can be reached at: (345) 948 2243 or (345) 244 7643.
Uniforms & Dress Codes
Each school in Cayman will have approved vendors that sell uniforms and some schools sell them directly to parents. Every school will have different rules, but most maintain a strict policy on such things as uniforms, hair accessories, jewellery and hair length on boys. Parents should read the school’s dress code policy very carefully, as there is little flexibility and their rules are strictly enforced.
Moving your child from one school, either private or government, to another private school will involve some written assessments to determine the level your child is currently working at, or capable of. Many schools will now assess applicants using some form of Cognitive Ability Test (CAT) which assesses the child’s innate skills and ability for learning. If this is the case, then it does not necessarily matter what areas your child is strong or weak in but rather how able they are. Some schools will also assess English and Maths using traditional tests to determine gaps in learning, so that teaching is directed accordingly, rather than to ascertain the level the child is currently at. Of course, there are no guarantees of a place at any public or private school and some children who have been considered as working at a high level in their current school may find that the new school’s assessment criteria is more stringent.
Other things to consider are that your child must have an up-to-date medical record that includes vaccination details and a completed transfer form signed by the previous school. Along with a standard report on the child’s performance and behaviour, this form must clearly state whether financial commitments have been met. This is an essential component of the acceptance process for students transferring within the private school system. If you wish to move your child from a private school to a public school, you will also be required to submit a student registration form which can be accessed from www.schools.edu.ky.