Starting School

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).

If you are Caymanian, have Caymanian Status or work for the Cayman Islands Government, then you can send your child to a government school.

If you are an expat, then you are expected to send your child to a private school. However, if there is space at a government school then you are welcome to apply and try to get your child in. The outer districts sometimes have space. The cost difference between public and private schools is significant but there are other factors to consider.

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. 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.

School Statistics

According to the 2020 Education Data Report, there are 1,565 children enroled in the 43 preschools, and a total of 8,045 children enroled in the 27 private and government schools spread across the three Islands with 766 teachers teaching these students. In primary and secondary education there are 3,409 students in private schools, 2,352 in government primary schools, 2,284 in government secondary schools and 120 students enroled in the Lighthouse School, the country’s school for special needs, with 18 teachers teaching them. Approximately 150 children are home schooled.

Related Articles

Factors to Consider

Cost

Although government schools are free for Caymanians, if the school in your catchment area has had inspection results in the “satisfactory” or “weak” range (and not “excellent” or “good” results), and you can afford to privately educate your child, consider having a tour of a few of Cayman’s private schools. Class sizes, discipline, manners, special needs support, standard of teaching and the consistent dedication of the teachers are all things to be considered. However, the cost can be considerable: private school fees range from CI$3,650 to over CI$20,000 per year depending on the grade level and the school.

Curriculum

Government schools follow the 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 or get involved 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

Class sizes vary from school to school. All government school class sizes are capped at 24 students per class for Kindergarten 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 learning assistant helping the teacher in a class of 25 children. In some schools, this additional teaching resource runs through all Primary year groups.

Religious/Non-Religious

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 including the Montessori schools, Footsteps and Cayman International School.

Location

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.

Exam Results

The Ministry of Education publishes a very detailed report each year which explains in detail the student enrolment data 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.

School Inspections

The Ministry of Education recognised years ago that they needed to conduct regular support visits to all schools in the Cayman Islands.

The Office of Education Standards now inspects all schools once every two years, and more often if they are graded 'Weak' on their inspection report. From their reports, which include everything from teachers and students 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 fulfill their full potential at school. Check out each school's inspection report and read in detail how they are doing. 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

Health Screenings

Every year until the summer of 2021, new students entering either private or government schools for the first time would normally have a school medical exam before the new school year begins in September. These tests were invaluable for schools as they identified previously uncaught speech and language, sight or hearing issues just before the child started at primary school. (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). However, due to ongoing Covid-19 programmes, activities and outreach within the Cayman community, the annual school entry screening has been cancelled. Nevertheless, in order to ensure that all students entering school for the first time are up to date on their immunisations, there will be extended and additional immunisation clinics to 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.

Transferring Schools

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 CAT (Cognitive Ability Test) 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 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.

Read More On:

Information on Government & Private Schools