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The reorganization and improvements called for within the report are being addressed as we speak

Hon. Alden McLaughlin, JP

Published 8th January 2007, 10:46am

Following receipt of the Special Education Needs report, Minister of Education, Training, Employment, Youth, Sports & Culture, Hon. Alden McLaughlin confirmed that the Ministry is currently reviewing the recommendations and stated that any changes relating to the provision and delivery of special education in the Cayman Islands will be incorporated and implemented within the ongoing education reform process. The comprehensive report, which covers all aspects of special education, was undertaken by Mr. Brent Holt, Special Education Needs expert, and compiled following extensive consultation with current and past professionals within the Ministry of Education, Government agency stakeholders, parents and concerned citizens. The report identifies that whilst there are excellent practitioners within the service, additional specialist services are required in areas such as educational psychology, speech, language and occupational therapy. Also highlighted was the need for improvements in the provision of appropriate follow-up services and support after formal assessments have been conducted. With respect to Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, the report pinpoints shortfalls in equitable services, which has resulted in long waiting lists for services. In the case of Cayman Brac, this is already being addressed by Acting Chief Education Officer, Mrs. Francine Gardner, who during her first week in office, has arranged for two speech and language specialists to spend a week in Cayman Brac, auditing specific needs. The specialists will then return on a weekly basis to ensure that the needs of the students’ continues to be given the focus and priority it deserves. Having reviewed the report, Hon Alden McLaughlin stated “The issue of Special Needs is vitally important as it impacts a great many students and parents across all of the Cayman Islands. The reorganization and improvements called for within the report are being addressed as we speak, especially those which relate to leadership and management of special education and the policies and enforcement surrounding all areas of special needs; including provisions for Gifted and Talented students.” During the 2005 national education conference nearly three quarters of delegates recognized the need for a reform of special needs provision. As part of the resulting transformation process, it was later announced that the number of education psychologists would increase, with each of the four Learning Communities having their own, including one for the sister islands. In addressing this point the Minister confirmed that there has been an obvious lack in the specialist services available to support current needs and stated that his ministry will shortly be endeavouring to recruit the additional services required. “Effecting necessary changes and improvement throughout the education service remains a priority for my Ministry and the Government” the Minister continued, “and we are committed to maintaining this aggressive pace until we have collectively achieved our desired objective, and provided the children of the Cayman Islands with the best education system possible.” In thanking Mr. Holt for the dedicated effort involved in compiling the comprehensive report, the Minister acknowledged that Mr. Holt’s impressive array of qualifications and experience, both locally and overseas, made him well suited to undertake this high level macro review. Having served as Interim Executive Director for Exceptional Education for the Tucson Unified School District in Arizona which comprises more than 60,000 students, and as Educational Psychologist to the Cayman Islands Government during the demanding times of hurricane Ivan in the 2004/2005 school year, the Minister noted that Mr. Holt had been able to apply invaluable first hand knowledge and a keen, personal understanding of Caymans’ particular needs to the evaluation process.