The Cayman Islands have excellent schools, from preschools through to university level. For the 2012-13 school calendar year there were 2,625 students enrolled in government primary schools, 2,449 students enrolled in government secondary schools, and 99 students enrolled in Lighthouse School, the country's school for special needs. There were 2,756 students in private schools (1,655 in primary schools and 1,101 in secondary schools). In Cayman, it is compulsory that all children from the age of four years and nine months to age 17 attend school.
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. A-levels are not offered as an option. Therefore, if you intend for your child to go to university they will have to consider their options very carefully well before the end of Year 11. One very popular option is that they apply for a place at either the Cayman Prep and High School or St. Ignatius Catholic School where they can take A Levels. Depending on the child's exam results, the parents can apply for the school fees or part school fees to be paid by the Ministry of Education. Alternatively they can go to CIFEC or UCCI and take a BTEC course or 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 more than one dependant on their permit) should educate their children in private schools. If the government employs the expatriate and the employee has the option of sending their children to a government school if there is space.
If you are an expat on a work permit, the law requires that the school sees a copy of your immigration paperwork verifying that your child is a dependant on your work permit. The Immigration Department will request that you bring in a copy of your acceptance from a private school before your work permit is stamped.
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 at your preferred school. 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 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 (between CI$50 and CI$300 depending on the school). 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 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.
Most private schools in Cayman will only test your child for placement if they are entering after the first year (i.e. after the Kindergarten or Pre-K4 year). 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. Finally, don't be surprised if your 10-17 year old is required to take a drug screening test and is asked to supply character references before being invited to attend an interview.
Age They Can Start
For preschool, your child can usually start at age two, sometimes as young as eighteen months; it depends when their birthday falls. For primary school, the starting age depends on whether you will be sending your child through the British school system (Cayman Prep and High School, 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 option of enrolling your child so that they are very young for the year or 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 roll up into Kindergarten, leaving less space for in-coming 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 may find it difficult to get them into the school in grade 1.
Students over age 17 can attend the International College of the Cayman Islands and the University College of the Cayman Islands if they have the prerequisite qualifications.
All new students entering either government or private schools for the first time must have a health screening before the new school year begins in September. Take your child and their immunisation record to either the Public Health Department, which offers free screenings, or to a private doctor, either of which will issue a health screening certificate which must then be taken to the school your child is entering. Without this documentation, the school cannot enrol your child.
The health screening your child will receive is a complete exam that includes hearing and sight tests; 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. For more detailed information about the tests performed, call the John Gray Medical Centre on (345) 925 5401.
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 quoted in this chapter are for the 2013/14 calendar year and are subject to change. For government schools, Caymanian students do not pay school fees. All non-Caymanian students attending one of the public schools pays CI$750 per year for primary school, CI$900 per year for middle school and CI$1200 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 but the top preschools charge in the region of CI$750-$850 per month but you can find a few church-based nursery schools that charge only CI$350 per month; primary school (kindergarten to grade 5/6) costs CI$3,500-CI$15,000 per year; and high school (grades 7-13) costs CI$5,000-CI$16,800 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, Sept to June), then you may be required to get permission and the school will usually want post-dated cheques. Paying per month usually means that by the end of the ten months you have paid an additional 10%. Paying annually usually incurs some discount.
All Caymanian students accepted at a private school to do A Levels or an associates degree at UCCI can apply for a scholarship to have their school fees paid. The way it works is that students accepted from government schools 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 point system based on their I/GCSE/CXC results). They also must have higher passes in I/GCSE and/or CXC English Language and Mathematics to obtain funding. Current Caymanian students of either school can apply for funding when they enter Year 12 (and 13) but they get either $7,000 or $5,000 based on the point system. 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 Sixth 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 GCSEs 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 (Cayman Prep and High School and St. Ignatius) are few and highly sort 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 their chosen A Level subjects. More public school students can gain a place at either of these private schools if they are willing to enter in the earlier years of 7, 8 or 9. In all instances the child will be interviewed and be expected to meet the school's evaluation criteria. About 50% of both schools 6th forms are made up of former government school students and it is commonly acknowledged that they take the cream of the well educated and motivated Caymanian 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 you want your child to start. By the start of term two (the Easter term) they will have effectively closed their lists and will be evaluating who can enter at the start of the new school year in September.
Quite a few students also switch between the private schools and 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 child's performance and behaviour this form clearly states whether financial commitments have been met as well. It is an essential component of the acceptance process for students transferring within the private school system.