Statements from Community Affairs, Education
Cabinet Briefing Statement
from the Minister of Community Affairs and Housing
Read by the Leader of Government Business, the Hon. McKeeva Bush, OBE, JP
10 a.m. Thursday, 3 September, GIS Conference Room
The provision of affordable housing remains one of the key priorities of the Ministry of Community Affairs and Housing.
The government recently appointed the board of directors for the National Housing Development Trust which will provide oversight for the development of reasonably priced housing solutions in the Cayman Islands.
The board met on 20 August to begin charting the way forward. Members are Edward Steve McLaughlin, chairman; Edlin McArthur Myles, deputy chairman; and directors Allan Bush, Michael Godfrey, Ann-Marie Powell, Janet James, Harilyn Bodden, Jaron Jackson, Alric Lindsay, Andre Scott; and Rayal Bodden.
Youth at Risk
Turning to our youth, the Ministry is currently reviewing an action plan for at-risk youth, in order to provide a broad-based, holistic programme that will develop our young persons and hone their social skills, through individualised prevention and intervention strategies.
In addition to this plan, the Ministry is reviewing a number of short term initiatives. One is a pilot project aimed initially at children in residential care. It is to be implemented shortly, and if feasible, the plan can be adapted to children in the wider community.
During this process, we also plan to collaborate with public agencies and private-sector partners.
The Ministry will update the public as these initiatives progress.
The Minister of Education, Training and Employment, the Hon. Rolston Anglin
Thursday, 3 September 2009
New School Year
A new school year has begun. A total of 4,917 students are enrolled across the school system.
The Ministry has supported the Department of Education Services in any way it has been requested.
A number of initiatives will be commencing including but not limited to:
- Targeted literacy via corrective reading in George Hicks High School (GHHS)
- Relocation of the Suspension Units from the Alternative Education Centre to school campuses
- Children's Health Task Force - pilot project for Year 7 at GHHS
- H1N1 preventative measures (e.g. hand sanitizer stations, segregation rooms for pupils suspected of infection)
We understand that there are challenges surrounding the timetable at GHHS. The Ministry is monitoring the matter closely to ensure that staff at GHHS is included in the ultimate solution.
The National Museum has been engaged to provide a cultural transition program for new teachers. This should assist with the transition of our new teachers and allow them to better relate to Caymanian students and parents.
Education System Review
The Ministry will undergo a comprehensive review of the education system to inform its better way forward in education. The review will focus on:
- Where are we now?
- What have we achieved?
- Where do we go next?
The initial first steps will be a Health Check 2009 Questionnaire which all educators have been asked to complete and an efficiency review of the Department of Education Services.
The Ministry is committed to consultation with educators and ensuring that there is an informed basis for any changes it will introduce. Any changes and/or initiatives will be underpinned by a comprehensive and supportable business case.
New High School Projects
The building of the new high schools is a CI$140-150 million project. Whilst the construction contract was for $120 million there was no established budget for furniture, fixtures & equipment, professional fees etc. The range above incorporates these additional costs.
Upon assuming responsibility the Minister noted that there were significant issues surrounding these projects, including but not limited to:
- Late payments to contractors and professional service providers
- Disagreements with the contractor
- No project manager
- No project management team
- Lavish expenditure program
- Disconnect with educators surrounding the delivery of education in these new schools
- No maintenance budget
- Significant over-spends compared to the budget
The Ministry has had to spend a significant amount of time just to stabilise the projects.
At this stage we have put in place stop gap measures to bring some measure of stability to these projects. We have:
- established a steering committee and a temporary (new project management team structure) to oversee these projects;
- introduced a conciliation process and meetings to resolve the impasse on the $15 million dollars in claims from the contractor; and
- brought together members from the private sector and government, with the ministry's project team to identify potential cost savings through scope reductions.
- established a Building Management Committee, to take forward the transition planning and preparations for the opening of the new schools,
To keep the projects going however the Ministry needs to find a long term sustainable plan. This will require the need to hire the proper personnel to see these projects through to completion.
After much consideration and thought the Ministry believes that a private public partnership arrangement is the better way forward. Any interested party should submit a complete proposal to the Ministry for consideration.
External Examination Results
The preliminary external examination results indicate that 36% of students have obtained 5 or more "high level" passes. John Gray High and Cayman Brac High show particular improvements over last year.
High level passes represent passes with grades A-C or 1-3 depending on the examining board. Whilst this is an encouraging indicator there are several measures that require reporting.
The Ministry is developing a comprehensive reporting package. Such a report will include key measures of performance; comparison to the prior year; comparison of high schools within the islands; and comparison to relevant international achievement levels etc. All years not previously reported will be made public to ensure that the community can have real perspective of results.
The Minister would also like to acknowledge the hard work of all teachers, but particularly those at John Gray and Cayman Brac High given the difficult circumstances they both faced during the past school year.
Proposal to Register Offshore Pension Plans
The Ministries for Financial Services and Education, Training and Employment are exploring options to enhance existing pension legislation, in order to accommodate the registration of offshore pension plans.
Government has been advised that the ability to offer pension products to non-residents will complement and expand the range of financial products available in through the Cayman Islands.