Last updated: 12 November 2014
The Cayman Islands have excellent schools, from preschools through to university level. For the 2013-14 school calendar year, there were 2,370 students enrolled in government primary schools, 2,466 students enrolled in government secondary schools and 103 students enrolled in the Lighthouse School, the country’s school for special needs. There were 4,825 students in private schools (1,939 under the age of 4 years 9 months in preschools, 1,611 in primary schools and 1,275 in secondary schools). The vast majority of private schools are located in George Town (2,703 students) while West Bay has 183. There are no private schools in Bodden Town, North Side or East End. In the government school system there are 2,460 students in George Town, 490 in West Bay, 587 in Bodden Town, 949 in North Side, 97 in East End and 253 in the Sister Islands. There are no secondary schools in Bodden Town or East End. In Cayman, it is compulsory for all children from the age of four years and nine months to age 17 to attend school or be home-schooled.
Caymanian students have the option to go to a government school (it is decided by catchment area) or a private school. Depending on the individual private school, the percentage of Caymanians in the school varies, but most have a 50/50 mix. All three government high schools end at Year 11 (age 16), but the government mandates that education is compulsory to Year 12. Many children move to a private high school where they do a two-year course of A Levels (the UK system), and depending on the child's exam results, the parents can apply for the school fees or part of the school fees to be paid by the Ministry of Education. Alternatively, they can go to the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre (CIFEC) and take a BTEC vocational course or, depending on their GCSE results and age (must be 17+), apply to attend the University College of the Cayman Islands (UCCI) and take an Associates degree.
It is the Cayman Islands government’s stance that expatriates employed in the private sector who qualify to have their dependants on-Island with them (i.e. earn over CI$3,500 per month and have two dependants on their permit), should educate their children in private schools. If the government employs the expatriate, then the employee has the option of sending their children to a government school if there is space.
If you are an expatriate on a work permit, the process is as follows: 1) apply to your chosen school; 2) get confirmation from the school by letter that your child has been accepted "pending Immigration approval;" 3) take this letter to Immigration along with your work permit application; 4) take a copy of the letter verifying that your child has been added as a dependant to your work permit to the school prior to attendance.
How to Reserve a Place
Many private schools in Cayman are in the enviable position of having long waiting lists for preschool, kindergarten and primary school places. As early as possible, place your child’s name on the list of your two preferred schools. Siblings, children of alumni and members of the affiliated church (if it is a faith–based school) are usually given priority, so even if your child is on a waiting list, enrolment is not guaranteed. Do not overlook enrolling your subsequent children as early as possible!
If you want your child to attend a private school, you need to take a copy of your child’s birth certificate to the school, fill out an application form and pay an application fee. Some also require a passport photo, so take one along with you as well. If your child is older, the school may have other requirements, such as a student reference and/or entrance/placement testing before acceptance is confirmed. Once the acceptance is confirmed, you usually have to pay the first month’s school fees as a deposit to hold the place. There is no charge for Caymanians or permanent residents to register their child at a government school.
Enrolment & Age Requirements
For preschool, your child can usually start at age two or sometimes as young as 18 months, it depends when his/her birthday falls. For primary school, the starting age depends on whether you will be educating your child through the British school system (Cayman Prep and High School (CPHS), St. Ignatius and government schools) or the American school system (Cayman International School, First Baptist School, Grace Christian Academy and Triple C). In the British system, your child can enter Kindergarten if they are four by September, while in the American system, your child must be five by September. If your child is born in August they will often give you the choice of enrolling your child so that they are either very young or very old for the year. Please be aware though, that many of the private schools now have Pre-K years (St. Ignatius Catholic School and Cayman International School to name two) which means that their students can start at 2 or 3 years old and will automatically move up to Kindergarten, leaving less space for incoming students. If you intend to send your child to one of the major private primary schools, make sure to secure and accept their place in kindergarten or you will find it very difficult to get them into the school in Grade 1.
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), as well as transcripts from all classes (if transferring at the high school level). An up-to-date medical record, that includes vaccination details, is also required.
All new students entering either private or government schools for the first time must have a school medical before the new school year begins in September. The government gives each school a block of days in July or August in which the Public Health Department will conduct the screenings and until the end of the summer term the school can make the appointments for you. However, after term ends, you will need to call one of the school health coordinators yourself on one of the following three mobile numbers: (345) 326 4882, (345) 326 4890 or (345) 925 5401. The health screenings done through the Public Health Department are free, but you can also have a health screening done through a private doctor as long as the medical is inspected and stamped by the Public Health Dept prior to it being given to the school.
The health screening is a complete exam that includes a hearing and sight test, weight, height and nutritional assessment, blood typing, mental and speech development examination and a family medical history. If any required immunisations have not been done, they will be administered at this time.
Almost all preschools do not have a school uniform policy but they encourage parents to bring children in clothes that they can easily play in and shoes that they can take on and off themselves. All primary and high schools, whether government or private have specified school uniforms and you are advised to organise them early or your child's size may well get sold out. Most of the schools sell their own or will let you know where to buy them. They also have a very specific shoe policy - make sure to ask! Many of the private schools also now, very wisely, have a hat policy.
School Fees & Scholarships
School fees quoted in this chapter are for the 2014/15 calendar year and are subject to change. Caymanian students do not pay school fees to attend government schools. All non-Caymanian students attending one of the public schools pay CI$750 per year for primary school, CI$900 per year for middle school and CI$1,200 per year for high school. This is considerably less expensive than current private school fees.
The fees for private schools vary widely from school to school. The top preschools charge in the region of CI$800-$950 per month, but you can find many daycare centres and nurseries that charge only CI$350 per month (for keeping your children from 7am to 6pm); primary school (Kindergarten to Grade 5/6) costs CI$3,800-CI$16,500 per year and high school (grades 7–13) costs CI$4,500-CI$17,700 per year. At some private schools, second and subsequent children may be given a discount on fees if attending at the same time as their sibling. Some church-affiliated schools also offer a discount for children who are active members of the church. Most private schools also prefer fees to be paid per term or annually. If you have to pay the fees monthly (usually 10 equal payments, September to June), then you may be required to get permission and the school will usually request post-dated cheques. Paying per month usually means that by the end of the ten months you have paid an additional 10%.
All Caymanian students accepted at a private school to take A Levels or an Associates degree at UCCI, can apply for a scholarship to help pay for their school fees. If a student is accepted from a government school, they get the first year’s fees paid in full (plus text books) and then either CI$7,000 or CI$5,000 paid for the second year (it is decided on a points system based on the student's GCSE results). They also must have higher passes in GCSE and/or CXC (Caribbean Examination Council) English Language and Mathematics to obtain funding. Current Caymanian students of either CPHS or St. Ignatius can apply for funding when they enter Year 12 (and 13). All students must obtain a minimum of C, C, D passes in their AS levels at the end of Year 12 in order to get the funding for the second year of 6th form. Information on scholarships can be found on www.education.gov.ky.
Many Caymanian students leave the public school system and enter a private school at some point during their formal education. The three main years of entry are: at the beginning of high school (Year 7), at beginning of Year 9 (a year before GCSE's start) or at the beginning of Year 12 (for the start of A Levels). Many parents in Cayman also send their children to boarding school and we have been reliably told that equal numbers of children leave for the start of years 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9, the final push being the year before children start GCSE's. When these pupils leave, places in private schools are freed up.
Places at Cayman's two private schools which do A Levels (CPHS and St. Ignatius) are few and highly sought after. On average, there are no more than 10 places available for the start of 6th form (Year 12) and each child is expected to get an A or a B grade in the GCSE subjects which they have chosen to do at A Level. More public school students can gain a place at either of these private schools if they are willing to enter in years 7, 8 or 9. In all instances, the child will be interviewed and expected to meet the school's evaluation criteria. About 50% of both schools' 6th form are made up of former government school students and it is commonly acknowledged that they take the majority of the brightest and most motivated students from the government student pool.
If you do want to enter your child into either of these private schools, you must apply no later than January of the year in which your child wishes to start. By the start of term two (the Easter term), they will have effectively closed their lists to new applicants.
Quite a few students also switch between the private schools, but before a switch can take place, and in addition to the normal paperwork (assessments etc), there is a transfer form, designed and managed by the Private Schools Association (PSA), that must be completed by the current school and forwarded to the new school. As well as a standard report on the child’s performance and behaviour, this form clearly states whether financial commitments have been met. It is an essential component of the acceptance process for students transferring within the private school system.