In Cayman, it is compulsory for all children from the age of five to 17 to attend school or be home-schooled. But, 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 Government, then you can send your child to a government school, but 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 (the outer districts sometimes have space) then you are welcome to apply and try to get your child in. 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. 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 (www.oes.gov.ky) has an amazing team of fair and highly experienced ex-educators who conduct regular school inspections. 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 fulfil their full potential at school.
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.
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 internship or take one of the many vocational courses now being offered in Grand Cayman.
British private schools take GCSEs or IGSEs, 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 Years 12 and 13 at Cayman International School.
Class sizes vary from school to school, so it is worth you enquiring. 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, though many private schools will have a full-time learning assistant helping the teacher in a class of 25 children (KG to Year 2 typically).
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.
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 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.
All new students entering either private or government schools for the first time must have a school medical exam before the new school year begins in September. Each school will be given a specific range of days, and appointments can be made through the school your child will be attending. For students entering schools in West Bay and the Eastern districts, health screenings will take place at district health centres from June 1st-30th. For all other students, health screenings will take place at the John Gray High School Medical Centre (Nurse’s Office) from (approximately) 5th July to 18th August each year. Parents and guardians need to accompany their children to the health screening and they should also bring the child’s immunisation record. Vaccines will be offered to children whose immunisations are not up-to-date. Parents can also get their child’s health screenings done by a private doctor. When the screening is completed you will be handed a form which must be handed in at the John Gray High School Medical Centre (Nurse’s Office) before 18th August. For more information, please contact Nurse Carvell Bailey on (345) 244 2734 or (345) 244 2648.
Note: In Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, school entry screenings can be done through the Public Health Nurse, Paula Moore-Simpson, at Faith Hospital. She can be reached at: (345) 948 2243, (345) 244 2734 or (345) 244 2648.
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, the colour of hair accessories, no jewellery or just very modest ear studs and a watch, and no long hair on boys. Parents should read the school’s dress code policy very carefully, as most schools are not flexible and their rules are strictly enforced.
Most private schools in Cayman will only test your child for placement if they are entering after Kindergarten (or Pre-K4). If your child is transferring from another school, they will likely need official school records from the previous school(s), 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 has to 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.
Check out Part II for the difference between Government and Private School systems.
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