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Govt announces ‘unprecedented’ drive to recruit new teachers

The number of permanent teachers and permanent Special Needs Learning Support Assistants is set to increase “in an unprecedented manner” to be able to meet “modern teaching and learning” in schools, the Gibraltar Government said on Monday.

The complement of permanent teachers will increase from 374 to 471, which is an increase of 26% and 97 permanent main scale teaching positions.

A spokesman for the Gibraltar Government said that since it was elected in 2011, 172 teachers have been given permanent contracts over the past 10 years.

The increase including senior teachers and Heads will go from 407 in financial year 2021/22 to 504 in 2022/23, the Gibraltar Government said.

This is a significant addition of the said 97 permanent teaching positions, which is an increase of 24% overall, it added.

The staffing level of Special Needs Learning Support Assistants (SNLSAs) will also increase from 96 permanent SNLSA positions in financial year 2021/22 to 218 in financial year 2022/23.

“This is a 127% increase in the SNLSA quota, with an additional 122 permanent SNLSA positions being added to the Department of Education’s permanent staffing complement,” a spokesman for No.6 Convent Place said.

“The number of ‘classroom aides’ (as they were then known) at the time that the Government was first elected in 2011 was 49, representing an increase of 169 (or 345%) given permanent contracts in ten years.”

“The substantial increase in SNLSAs evidences the Government of Gibraltar’s commitment to supporting pupils’ needs so as to ensure each child and young person is given the care and specialist assistance they require and deserve.”

The Government has been working closely with the Department of Education to undertake a detailed review of the staffing complement of Government schools over the past few months.

This review arose from representations made by the NASUWT about the nature of contracts its members had, with large numbers without permanent contracts but permanently teaching in our schools, the Government spokesman said.

“The Government’s decision recognises that staffing levels at schools are very much needs-dependent, as the system needs to respond to a number of fluctuating factors, such as pupil cohort size and pupils’ individual needs and, in the latter years of a young person’s educational journey, to learners’ subject choices,” the Government spokesman said.

“These factors have been considered in great detail as part of the Budgetary process this year, with careful scrutiny of trends over time.”

“The notable growth in the number of permanent teacher positions that the Gibraltar Government have committed to is recognition of the fact that schools’ needs have outgrown the established, and outdated, complement of teachers, which had gone out of synchrony with modern teaching and learning.”

“This is not the first time the GSLP/Liberal Government has committed to supporting the growing needs of schools.”

“It first committed to an increase in the teaching complement in 2012 by 47, with further increments being introduced in 2019.”

It said recent developments in the educational system, such as the introduction of morning nursery placements for all, the provision of Learning Support Facilities in two additional schools, the introduction of new vocational pathways, and the equalisation of curriculum opportunities in both secondary schools further to the realignment of the key stages and the introduction of co-education as from Year 7, “have all contributed to the growth in our educational provision”.

“The impact of these systemic developments together with larger pupil cohorts and the growth in the number of pupils with additional needs have been carefully considered and have directly informed the Government’s commitment to increasing the teacher and SNLSA staffing complements,” the Government spokesman said.

“Additional teachers have indeed been taken on to cover these needs, but on a temporary, supply and often ad hoc basis, leading to many teachers working full-time for several years but without the stability provided by permanent employment.”

“This move therefore does not increase the cost of education to the tax payer at this point in time, but recognises the work and commitment of the teachers in question who will now have the reassurance of permanent employment with the Government.”

The Government said it is proud of its schools and recognises the very important work that teachers and all staff in schools undertake every day.

“By continuing to invest in our community’s schools, be it in the buildings themselves or in the human resourcing of our educational settings, Government continues to invest in our community’s future generations, giving them the best chances of success for their future, whatever pathway they choose to follow,” the spokesman added.

Minister for Education, Dr John Cortes, said: “It is only right that we should have responded in this way to recognise the work of these teachers who have been looking after our children, some for several years, with what they thought was little prospect of permanent employment.”

“I am so pleased that we have been able to regularise this in this way.”

“As we held interviews for the vacant positions we had before this increase already, we will be able to communicate with those who are supply teachers and who have been successful in taking these permanent posts in coming days.”

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, who also holds the portfolio for Public Finance, said the teachers’ union, NASUWT, had previously informed the Government that many of their members were not on permanent contracts and had been on supply for years.

“We looked into this in detail and found that the number of teachers we were funding permanently had grown but the number of permanent contracts had not moved in line with classroom demands,” Mr Picardo said.

“The same is true of SNLSAs.”

“Given that there is no likelihood of a decrease in the number of teachers required, and these are being funded already, we have taken the decision to increase the complement and in that way have a clearer view of the numbers directly employed and funded by the taxpayer.”

“This will also mean we have better accountability to the taxpayer in respect of individuals who are absent from the work place and who have to be covered via additional funding for temporary absences.”

“Additionally, we are working with the Department of Education to ensure it is properly resourced at a clerical level to attend to the increased numbers of pupils, teachers, SNLSAs and staff we have responsibility for.”

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