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Education Minister, the Hon. Rolston Anglin, JP, addressing attendees at the recent Early Childhood Care and Education Unit launch.

Published 1st September 2011, 1:27pm

While attending the recent Early Childhood Care and Education Unit (ECCE) launch, some 40 representatives from pre-schools and nurseries heard that work was already underway on legislation and regulations governing early childhood care and education.

Education Minister, the Hon. Rolston Anglin, JP, revealed that primary school teachers felt students starting primary education were largely unprepared. He said it was “the single most recurring theme” uncovered during his annual school visits.

Continuing, he added that this was part of the reason why reception had been reintroduced to primary schools and why the ECCE unit was essential. He noted, “If we did a good job at the beginning, we wouldn’t have to spend so much time making corrections at the primary and secondary levels. Fourteen years go by in the blink of an eye. Children grow from 3-16 years very quickly. When we get it wrong, the life chances of our people are at stake.”

Minister Anglin went on to reference the Education Stabilization Plan, noting that early childhood education features heavily in it. “Early care is a primary focus of this government,” he said. “But this approach is not the easy route. The results won’t be immediately obvious. It may be 10-20 years before we can see tangible results.”

Expanding on his comments ECCE Unit Senior Policy Advisor Julie Madgwick outlined the unit’s strategic goals. Though her five-person team has been together for just four months, they have been busy reviewing local, regional and international best practice; visiting local early childhood centres, preparing documentation and data for the 2011-12 school year and aligning their work with the ministry’s Education Stabilization Plan.

In addition to the pending legislation mentioned by the Minister, she said the unit would support early childhood centres by assisting with information for parents and administering the pre-school assistance fund. She also noted that help would be provided in the development and implementation of centre policies and procedures.

She stated too that her unit would support centres to act on ESAU (Education Standards and Assessment Unit) recommendations and provide regular, targeted professional development opportunities including a six-week course for untrained practitioners beginning in September.

Equally important, her team would spearhead the implementation of a quality, unified curriculum and encourage collaboration between early childhood centres and primary schools to ensure that children transition smoothly when moving from one to the other.

To attract more Caymanians to early years teaching professions she said the unit would share research about training pathways with high school students and other training organisations. Her team will also support existing Caymanian practitioners and promote the profession using marketing and public relations tools.

Overall, she said the ECCE is a support agency established primarily to work alongside early childhood care and education centres to help them improve the quality of their service. Following the presentation, attending representatives had many questions and comments for the panel. Amongst the points raised were questions concerning the pending legislation, early intervention and pre-school assistance funding.

Information on the unit and its work may be obtained by emailing Julie.Madgwick@gov.ky, Renee.Barnes@gov.ky or Carol.Bennett@gov.ky in Grand Cayman and April.Tibbetts@gov.ky in the Sister Islands.