Gib schools prepare for ‘radical’ change as UK cancels exams
Gibraltar’s schools will operate in a “radically’ different way as from Monday amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, after the UK Government closed schools and cancelled GCSE and A-Level exams.
The Gibraltar Government has moved to utilise the schools and provide a service to the community amidst the ongoing disruption.
In a tailor-made approach here designed to provide childcare without involving relatives over the age of 70, schools will remain open and will provide an educational service to those children whose parents chose to send them.
But neither attendance nor the curriculum will be enforced under the new arrangements.
The days and times that these facilities will be available will be extended beyond traditional school hours.
The decision, which was outlined by the Gibraltar Government last night, follows the UK’s decision to close its schools to all pupils except those of key workers in a bid to slow the spread of Covid-19.
Speaking from Downing Street, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his Government would ensure that "in time" pupils due to sit exams this summer get the qualifications they need after it was announced that exams will not take place as planned in May and June.
Mr Johnson said that the qualifications would be "administered" fairly and in order to protect pupils' interests, but did not give details on how and when this would happen.
As a result UK examination bodies have determined that they should cancel all GCSE and A-Level examinations for the spring/summer term 2020.
The decision to cancel GCSE and A-Level examinations removed an “important fetter” which have been a key consideration for the Gibraltar Department of Education and NASUWT Gibraltar in deciding how to continue to impart education in Gibraltar in coming months in the context of the measures being implemented to slow the spread of the COVID 19 virus.
In Gibraltar, the advice of the Director of Public Health remains that schools are a safe place for children and for teachers.
But amidst dwindling school attendance - down to 35% on Wednesday - the Department for Education had made clear it will not enforce the requirement for children to attend school.
In a statement the Government said: “In the circumstances, and given the announcement by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Education in the United Kingdom, it is likely that school attendance in Gibraltar will be reduced even further from tomorrow.”
“This will likely especially be the case given that examination classes have now found that external examinations are not going to go ahead this spring/summer term.”
“As a result, in Gibraltar, the Government and the NASUWT have agreed that it will not be practically possible for schools to remain open to impart the National Curriculum beyond this week.”
And, speaking on GBC last night, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said Government schools will therefore operate in a different way as from Monday.
He said: “We have decided that, as from next Monday, schools will continue to provide a service to the community primarily by providing a safe environment for children of all workers who are not otherwise able to make suitable childcare provision without involving relatives over the age of 70 years.”
“We will extend the times when these facilities will be available for extended hours and additional days to be agreed between the Department and the NASUWT and potentially for extended age groups. The Department and NASUWT will be working on the details together in the coming days.”
“We will review in the next 48 hours whether all schools are required to provide this facility. This will depend on the numbers of children. We will consider, in particular, which schools will be used for this purpose. These will include schools which have the facility to provide lunches for children.”
“We would like to reassure all students of examination year groups, that we will be keeping a close eye on the latest information provided by OfQual, to ensure that students’ ability to obtain their qualifications is not compromised.”
“It would be helpful to the Department of Education to have an idea of the number of children who will be making use of these facilities.”
“There has not been a change in the medical position, but we are taking a necessary pragmatic approach in the developing circumstances.”
Whoever wishes or needs to avail themselves of this service should register for this service by informing the Department of Education by a note from the parents to the teachers tomorrow morning or Friday.
Additionally, parents can also communicate with the Department of Education on queries arising from these issue on the email COVID.firstname.lastname@example.org will be available as from tomorrow
The Government said it has made this decision in the closest possible consultation with the Minister and Director of Education, key representatives of the committee of the NASUWT, the Director of Public Health and the Acting Medical Director.