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Govt mulls extra floor for St Martin’s as it hits out at GSD criticism

Archive photo by Johnny Bugeja.

Demand at St Martin’s School was “unpredictable” but the building was designed to facilitate providing additional capacity in future, the Gibraltar Government said in response to criticism.

Earlier this week this newspaper reported how the new school was at capacity after “unprecedented” demand.

This drew flak from the GSD, which criticised the Government for lack of planning and “foresight”.

But in response the Government said when the school was designed it had been done “in full consultation with the professionals, to provide excess capacity based on the intake sizes for a decade before.”

The number of children attending St Martin’s School more recently was double, the Government said, adding this was “not predictable even by the professionals consulted”.

"Instead of complaining about our actions in supporting children with learning disabilities, the GSD should reflect on its abject failures in important this policy area, not just when they were in government a decade ago, but in the policies they were promoting in recent general elections,” Minister for Education, Dr John Cortes, said.

“Given those remarkable GSD policy failures, it is transparently hypocritical that they should now be pretending that we have not done enough when they specifically said they would have done nothing.”

“That is the sort of contradiction that people will see through, and parents will understand deprives the GSD of any credibility in respect of this sensitive and important issue that the GSD should have respected as above petty party politics.”

“The new St Martin's School building still remains an incredible facility and the children attending have benefitted and will continue to benefit from the range of educational and therapeutic facilities available within it, as well as from the ongoing dedication and professionalism of the remarkable team of staff who support their learning journey.”

The Government added if it were up to the GSD St Martin’s schoolchildren would be in “portakabins” in Landport.

“It is incredible that the GSD should criticise the wonderful new St Martin’s school after it has clearly declared in public in the past that it would not build a new one,” the Government said.

“That was the epitome of bad planning.”

It added the Government would ensure there is space for all children who may require specialised provision.

“Not only do other schools have larger Learning Support Facilities than ever before, and not only are there more Special Needs Learning Support Assistants than ever before, but St Martin’s school was built so that it could be enlarged with a whole new floor, something which will be considered if the intake trend continues,” the Government said.

“That is called forward planning.”

GSD REACTS

But the GSD was quick to react to the Government, describing its comments as “futile party-political bluster”.

“They delve into the petty party politics which they themselves say we should not be descending to and which we would agree is the way forward,” the GSD said.

The GSD added the school has been to “full capacity from inception”.

“Do they not think they should be adopting a more humble and apologetic approach, accept political responsibility for this mistake and explain what it is precisely they intend to do to address this issue?” the GSD said.

“The ability to add a floor cannot be the answer, at least not one that can be conveniently done quickly and with little disruption.”

GSD MP Damon Bossino added: “The government needs to get real and respond more seriously and maturely to what is a growing and pressing need.”

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