Govt ‘insensitive’ to special needs, Llamas says
Independent MP Lawrence Llamas has accused the Government of being “insensitive” to the very specific requirements of children with special needs, as the row over the use of porta-cabins at St Martin’s school escalated yesterday.
This comes after Mr Llamas flagged how two “porta-cabin” classrooms were built to meet demand at the school.
In response the Government said it remained committed to providing a new St Martin’s School, due to the increased need and lack of space to expand the school at its current site.
In the latest exchange Mr Llamas blasted the Minister for Education, Dr John Cortes, and claimed his intervention on the issue demonstrates “how insensitive the Government has become to the real needs of the community and, in particular, to the very specific requirements of children with special needs.”
In a statement he added: “The Government’s defence, that it is fine to use porta-cabins to expand St Martin’s school because it meets UK standards is nothing short of outrageous.”
Mr Llamas said: “I find it very difficult to accept that adding a second storey portacabin classroom in a special needs school adequately meets the school’s or its children’s needs.”
“There are accessibility issues and many number of other factors which come into play here.”
Mr Llamas further claimed that Dr Cortes raised questions instead of answering them regarding the location of the new school.
“The GSLP Liberals, in their 2015 manifesto, committed to building a new St Martin’s on the footprint of the Adventure Playground - so why does the minister now seek to justify the delay of commencing the new school because students are being taught in school?”
“It is nonsensical to suggest that the presence of children in school delays the start of works one year, but won’t be an issue the next.”
Mr Llamas said Dr Cortes should be frank and come clean on what his plans are as he queried whether the manifesto commitment was being breached.
“Additionally, the Minister for Education mocks the fact that I stood with a party which did not have a new St Martin’s school in their manifesto - this is, as ever, a cheap political point made by a Government that is failing our children and will only fulfil its promise towards the end of their second term in office, if at all.”
“The reality is that what this Government should have done is to overhaul the management of children with special needs a long time ago, dealing with the overflow in a very different manner, for example by expanding mainstream schools and having an inclusive approach to special needs.”
“A future St Martin’s, in my view, would only serve as a centre offering therapy and specific services, and I would certainly not have put the students in a two storey portacabin whilst I continue to get chauffeured around Gibraltar,” he said.
“Once more the Minister says that 'education in Gibraltar is about to experience a revolution'. This statement seems very familiar to the one he made in relation to Gibraltar’s state of cleanliness - everything will be ok in 2018.”
“What the promise of a revolution does acknowledge is that education across Gibraltar is somehow, currently, unfit for purpose.”
“Obviously, the fact that the Minister is accepting the failings of his Government is a good first step in the right direction,” he added.