High absentee rate at schools, which remain open
By Brian Reyes and Eyleen Gomez
A fifth of teachers and 60% of pupils have been absent from schools this week, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said yesterday, as he underlined the measures being taken by the Department of Education to try and ensure continuity of learning despite the disruption caused by the Covid-19 contingencies.
Speaking at a press conference in No.6 Convent Place, Mr Picardo said the GHA was contacting teachers with medical concerns - relating to themselves or others - to provide them with advice and reassurance where appropriate.
But he insisted that schools would remain open “for now”, a decision that was being taken after consultation with the NASUWT union.
“We will continue to deliver the curriculum as best as possible, within the circumstances, with particular emphasis on the exam classes,” he said, highlighting that many pupils were set to take their GCSEs or A Levels in the coming weeks.
Although the UK boards have said they are reviewing the position with GCSE and A Level examinations, they have not said yet that these are being postponed, meaning educators here must continue to prepare students for those exams.
But attendance data shows that many parents are clearly concerned and have kept their children away from schools, which are being kept open to ensure there is no additional pressure on key workers or on parents who rely on grandparents for childcare.
“If you take this position, we strongly advise that the children should remain at home or with their parents during the school day,” Mr Picardo said.
“We nevertheless still believe that schools are the right environment for pupils.”
Parents have been asked not to contact schools with requests for work packages for children being kept at home.
“School staff are already under a lot of pressure and are focused on providing for the children who are in school,” the Chief Minister said.
“Our intention, at present, is to provide as close to a normal learning experience as is possible at this time.”
“Arrangements are nevertheless being made, should the need arise, to be able to provide electronically, children with guidance and structure on home learning.”
The government will meet again with the NASUWT committee on Thursday to review the situation again.
In another development, students who reside in Spain but undertake their education on the Rock will be restricted from entering Gibraltar commencing today.
Students who attend Prior Park are among those affected by this new control implemented by Spain following the state of emergency announced last weekend which places restrictions on nonessential movement.
Some schools have already seen a decline in attendance in person since the new measures were announced by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
Molly Mor, Marketing and Communication Manager at Prior Park, told the Chronicle that the school has been proactive in its approach to ensure students continue with their education.
“All work gets sent home,” she said.
The school uses either email or Microsoft Team and the students have the same deadlines as they would have were they physically present.
“Tutors are in contact with the students,” Ms Mor confirmed adding that pupils taking exams are being given extra support if and when needed.
“If we are forced to close [by the Government] we have plans for remote learning,” said Ms Mor.
Ms Mor declined to state how many students were affected by the new control.
Loreto School have taken similar measures to ensure the continued education of its students.
School secretary Anna Breen told the Chronicle that they will have a remote learning environment set up by next week but for this week work was being sent to parents via email.
Since Spain entered a state of emergency at the weekend she said that they do not have any Spanish resident children attending. Distance learning was set up immediately. “We are moving as much online as possible,” she said.
While the schools remain open Loreto will “carry on while we can”.