An explicit definition of inclusive education has not been found. However, the 2014–33 Cayman Islands Disability Policy defines inclusive as the consideration of ‘all factors and situations to guarantee equal access for all persons’.
Special education needs
The 2016 Education Law defines special education needs as needs that can be satisfied by exceptional education provision ‘by reason of characteristics of body or mind personal to the student’ (Art. 32.1). It further specifies that expectation provision substantially differs from general education delivered to learners of the same age (Art. 32.2) and that students whose mother tongue is not English and those who are gifted or talented cannot be categorized as having special education needs (Art. 32.1). The 2012 Children Law refers to a special education need as a ‘learning difficulty which calls for special educational provision’ (Art. 2). The 2014–33 disability policy defines special needs as ‘the individual characteristics or requirements for access to services or education of a person with an intellectual, emotional or physical disability’.
As reported in the 2019 Education Data Report, there is only one special education school in the country and it counted 18 teachers and 110 enrolled students in the 2018/19 academic year. The special day school targets students with mild intellectual disabilities, autism disorder and multiple disabilities who have received a formal comprehensive assessment and upon the decision of a school-based support team.
The country’s Alternative Education Centre targets 12-to-17-year-old students who are considered to have behavioural difficulties and are thus excluded from regular school. The centre acts as a second chance programme, tailored to the individual needs of young learners.
Early identification, screening and assessment
According to the 2011 Cayman Islands Special Educational Needs Code of Practice, early screening occurs at reception or at year 1 and continues in the form of progress monitoring in later years, extended to all children in multiple learning areas. Following the comprehensive assessment, the multidisciplinary school-based support team defines eligibility according to the official definition of special educational needs, and based on that, it develops an individual intervention plan that is reviewed on a regular basis. Although there are no legal provisions mandating private schools to carry out needs identification, the code encourages those schools to use the outlined practices.
The Cayman Islands are one of the 14 British Overseas Territories.
The 2009 Cayman Islands Constitution Order establishes that every child shall receive free primary and secondary education, according to available resources and to a reasonable progressive realization (Art. 20.2). It further prohibits any discrimination on grounds of ‘sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, age, mental or physical disability, property, birth or other status’ (Art. 16.2).
Replacing 2010 education legislation, the 2016 Education Law mandates school authorities to provide ‘reasonable accommodation’ according to students’ special education needs (Art. 36.1), while the Ministry of Education is responsible for ensuring that all education institutions provide inclusive education to learners with special education needs on an equal basis with their peers (Art. 3.2). Enrolment or attendance at school cannot be refused by the relevant authorities because of the students’ special education needs (Art. 36.2). Integrating the Education Law, the 2017 Education Regulations additionally ensure special education provision at early childhood care and education centres, according to the reasonable accommodation principle (Art. 51.1).
In 2006, an evaluation of the provision of services to children with special education needs, gifted or talented children and students with learning difficulties, including non-English-native speakers, led to the adoption of the report Providing for Children of the Cayman Islands with Special Educational Needs: Recommendations for Effective Systems of Learning Support. The report called for more accurate early identification of special education needs; for an increase in the number of support personnel, including educational psychologists, speech and occupational therapists and physiotherapists, and improving their school coverage; and for ensuring parents’ participation and access to information.
The Special Educational Needs Code of Practice followed in 2011. The code defines all phases of education provision, from early identification and assessment until the elaboration of individualized education plans. It further advises all schools on drafting and adopting their own special education needs policy to better adapt it to the school circumstances and ethos. The 2016–17 education plan of action indicated plans to revise the code of practice, following a consultation with main stakeholders and based on the evaluation of the provided student services by the end of 2016.
The 2014–33 disability policy was formulated to outline strategic guidelines in service provision and for the realization of the rights of persons with disabilities. Informed by the 2012 Proposals to Support the Development of a Cayman Islands National Disability Action Plan, the policy’s first goal pursues the provision of quality education in appropriate inclusive settings and access to lifelong learning by delivering more extensive rehabilitation and habilitation support services in education institutions, to be accomplished by reviewing existing legislation to promote inclusive education and by ensuring facilities’ accessibility. The Disabilities (Solomon Webster) Law was adopted in 2016 to further protect persons with disabilities from any discrimination (Part 4) and with the intent to establish a National Council for Persons with Disabilities to represent the interests of the target group.
The 2004 Cayman Islands Policy on Gender Equity and Equality seeks to promote gender equality and human development throughout the country by increasing gender awareness and mainstreaming a gender perspective into national policies. In relation to education, the policy aims to eliminate gendered approaches in professional decisions and to promote non-traditional gender roles through the review of the Life Skills programme and of education materials.
With the adoption of the policy, the government asked for the extension through the United Kingdom of the UN Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which was possible after the adoption of the Gender Equality Bill in 2011. Entered into effect the following year, the Gender Equality Law prohibits any distinction, exclusion or preference based on ‘sex, marital status or pregnancy or any characteristic based on gender’ (Art. 3). A person seeking or undertaking technical or vocational training also cannot be discriminated against on these grounds (Art. 11). The 2016 Education Law likewise promotes the development of an understanding of the principle of gender equality (Art. 4.1.c[v]).
In compliance with the Gender Equality Law, the 2013 School-Age Pregnant and Parenting Young Persons policy reaffirms the right of compulsory school age students who are pregnant or are young parents, both mothers and fathers, to the same education opportunities as their peers. Following a memorandum of understanding between the Department of Education Services and Division for Children and Family Services, signed in 2007, the policy defines flexible education programmes and individualized plans, provides additional services, including counselling and financial support, and preserves the concerned learners’ right to an inclusive learning environment.
People living in rural or remote areas
As regulated by the 2016 Education Law, school age children may be exempted from duty to attend school and be authorized to be educated ‘at the place where the child is normally resident or at home’ to secure school attendance (Art. 16.1).
Gifted or talented learners
Learners who are considered gifted or talented or whose mother tongue is not English may receive an alternative education provision (Education Law, Art. 15). Gifted and talented children ‘are not by reason of their gifts or talents within the definition of pupils with SEN [special education needs]’; however, they may have special education needs because of emotional, behavioural or other learning difficulties (Special Educational Needs Code of Practice).
Established by the 2016 Disabilities (Solomon Webster) Law, the National Council for Persons with Disabilities was set up with a consultative role to promote acceptance and recognition of the target group. Consisting of 15 volunteers, the council advocates for issues including quality education in inclusive settings.
Concerning gender, the Gender Affairs Unit under the Ministry of Education acts as focal point for sector-specific gender mainstreaming, gender awareness campaigning and training.
As reported by the 2014–33 Cayman Islands Disability Policy, accessibility for persons with disabilities is not ensured in all education institutions due to physical barriers to buildings and limitations concerning learning materials and communication tools.
While the school curriculum ensures equal access and opportunity for all students that is ‘broad, balanced and relevant to the needs and interest of all’ (Education Law, Art.17.1[a]), learners with assessed special needs receive education through an individualized education plan. As specified by the 2011 curriculum policy, any disapplication from the national curriculum requires formal approval as established in the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice.
One of the targets of the 2016–17 education plan of action was to launch the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports Initiative to foster positive learning environments at the school level.
As regulated by the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice, each school is supported by a special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) and a school-based support team. Appointed by the school principal, the SENCO is responsible for planning and coordinating the special education needs intervention, managing and training special support assistants and liaising with the families and service providers. The SENCO is part of the school-based support team, whose composition may vary from school to school but is required to include classroom teachers, a qualified professional in special education and parents.