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Restructuring Secondary Education

Minister for Education, the Hon. Rolston Anglin

A large-scale restructuring of government's secondary education system will be implemented in September 2010, Education Ministry officials have announced.

The restructuring includes the introduction of two "all-through" high schools; more opportunities for technical and vocational subjects; a revamped core curriculum; an additional year of compulsory education; and improved career guidance services.

Education Minister, the Hon. Rolston Anglin, noted the urgency of separating the much-needed academic improvements in secondary education from the building of the new schools.

"Education reform cannot be held to ransom by contractor disputes on buildings," he said. "Reform is ultimately about enhancements to teaching and learning; the curriculum; and students' social and personal development.

"There is much that we can do come September 2010 to introduce significant reforms that will benefit our children in our current school sites. Acting now will also ease uncertainties for all stakeholders, and allow for an easy transition once the new schools are completed."

Chief Officer Mary Rodrigues said a Ministry-appointed New Schools Transition Committee, with representatives from the Department of Education Services, the Educational Standards and Assessment Unit, and the Ministry, is busy completing consultations and plans. The committee will provide regular updates on the developments in the coming weeks.

"Given the uncertainties, the group has the difficult task of planning for a range of scenarios: the delivery of one new high school, two new schools, or no schools at all," Mrs. Rodrigues explained. "With the Minister's clear direction, the group is now focusing on the developments that will be rolled out for a September 2010 start, no matter what pertains in relation to the new buildings."

A major development will be the two "all-through" high schools in Grand Cayman, catering to students from Years 7- 11 (ages 11 to 16). This will replace the current split system of a middle school (George Hicks Campus) and a high school (John Gray High School). Students will sit their CXC/GCSE examinations at the end of Year 11 from 2010 onwards.

This will give students extended opportunities for technical and vocational subjects, while emphasising core skills and values for all students.

The new core curriculum, also set for September 2010, will reflect cultural norms and the need to produce globally competitive citizens. All students will study the current core subjects of English, mathematics and science, but will also study information technology, religious education, and social studies.

Innovative technical subjects available in the schools will include a leisure and tourism option (specially designed and accredited for Caymanian students), as well as catering; music technology; and health and social care.

These will be offered in addition to already well-established programmes in construction, electrical and electronics and motor vehicles, reflecting a renewed focus on national priorities and the needs of the labour market.

Furthermore, students' compulsory schooling will not end with external examinations in Year 11. They will continue for an additional year, she said, with the launch of a 16+ mandatory "bridge year" for students, following the completion of their CXC/GCSE examinations.

This bridge year will better prepare students for either the world of work, or further education. "It will also be a valuable second chance for students who want to improve their results," Mrs. Rodrigues said.

The bridge year will include a variety of programmes for students at all levels, including technical and vocational options; an Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate diploma programme for the academically inclined; and foundation studies for students who want to improve their readiness for further studies.

"There will also be largely work-based options for students who would benefit from this training," she noted, adding that many of the programmes will have a substantial real "world of work" element.

In addition, students may also opt, as they do now, to pursue different learning opportunities through other providers, including A Levels at local private schools, or studies at UCCI.

Also planned are enhanced arrangements for career guidance, assessment and counselling support. A careers advisory service will be developed, with expertise to be shared throughout all phases of the government education service. Expert career advisers will help students in their earlier high-school years with academic and potential career choices, and later work with them on appropriate 16+ options.

Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler strongly endorsed the restructuring process. "This is a significant and long-awaited step forward for education in the Cayman Islands. The move to all-through Year 7 - 11 schools will provide young people with better continuity, and an improved learning environment," she said.

"In addition, the introduction of the 16+ programmes allows us to provide targeted and relevant career and technical preparation for the workplace, while also nurturing the academic potential of our students. We believe that this programme will help us to develop a strong body of future citizens and leaders for the Cayman Islands."