Keri Scott appointed as new Director of Education
Keri Scott will replace Jackie Mason as the next Director of Education, the Government confirmed during a press conference on Monday with new headteachers appointed for Bayside, Governor’s Meadow and St Martin’s Schools.
The announcement comes after a several retirements and will see Gaynor Lester replace Michael Tavares as Bayside School’s headteacher, Emma Jane Montegriffo will take over from Fiona Ferro at Governor’s Meadow School and Dawn Elouise Holmes will take over as St Martin’s School Headteacher from Annabelle Felipes.
In addition to these latest appointment, Jerry Aguilera was also appointed to the role of headteacher at St Paul’s School last month.
At the time of his appointment he was Gibraltar’s youngest-ever headteacher at the age of 33, as well as the Rock’s first male headteacher of a lower primary school.
After a competitive application process, the successful candidates were informed of their new positions just minutes before Chief Secretary Darren Grech made a public announcement at a press conference in No.6 Convent Place.
Although it is unusual for the Chief Secretary to announce non-political appointments in this manner, but Mr Grech said he believes it is important for the public to know who the people “leading at the top are”.
He thanked all the candidates who had the “courage and conviction” to apply for the positions, adding that the job of the Public Services Commission in making the selection “was not easy”.
“I can tell you this is truly the A-Team, the future of education with these people here today and with the headteachers we already have in place is in very safe and caring hands,” Mr Grech told reporters.
He also thanked the outgoing Director of Education, Ms Mason, for all her work over the past few years, which was further complicated by the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as thanking the other outgoing headteachers.
Ms Scott said she has always felt very “privileged” to work in the sphere of education and working with young children.
“I didn’t go into teaching to be a leader, I went into teaching to be a teacher and it is over the years that I found myself in management positions,” she said.
“I don’t forget my days in the classroom and I don’t think any of my colleagues here today do, but it is a really privileged sphere to work within and I think it is the profession within which we can influence the future most directly because we are working with young children and young people.”
She added teachers are a very large team of people who work very hard everyday, sometimes in a very visible way in the classroom and sometimes in a less visible way.
“Everyone’s contribution counts and I am very grateful for the work that everyone puts in behind the scenes and at the forefront and hopefully we will work together for the best interests of our children and the future, and in the best interests of tomorrow,” Ms Scott said.
The past two years have been a challenging time for pupils and teachers alike with Covid-19 restrictions affecting the school term as well as teaching habits.
Against a backdrop of rising Covid-19 numbers within the community, Ms Scott was unable to comment on what, if any, Covid restrictions will be implemented for the new school term, adding that this was constantly reviewed by Public Health.
Minister for Education, Dr John Cortes, congratulated the new appointees in these top education posts.
“Although I wasn’t involved in the appointments, I am sure the posts were very highly contested because of the high calibre of teachers working in education in Gibraltar,” he said.
“I’ve worked closely in her role as Senior Education Adviser and as Acting Director of Education, and I am sure that she will work with me to take education to a whole new level.”
“The new headteachers are joining the team at a very exciting time for education.”
“Congratulations to you all, I am really looking forward to working with you.”
ST MARTIN’S SCHOOL
Preparations are underway for St Martin’s School to move to its new location in the former Westside School playing fields, under the guidance of their new headteacher, Ms Holmes.
Ms Holmes told the Chronicle her priority lies in “building relationships” with the families and with the children who attend St Martin’s School, so that they can “feel safe and build on championing special needs for the pupils and bringing them to the forefront”.
A smooth transition to the new building also remains at the core for those in the school, to ensure the children feel safe and comfortable with their new surroundings.
Parents and families of pupils at St Martin’s School have recently raised their concerns about services for children with special needs.
“This is indeed one of the first priorities, as well as meeting the needs and serving the community will be our first and foremost priorities,” Ms Holmes said.
Ms Holmes is hopeful for a September start, adding that there are lots of “fantastic facilities” in place for pupils.
“I think everybody will be satisfied with some of the fantastic buildings and resources that have been put into this building,” she said, adding this is a “much larger space with a much larger capacity”.
Ms Montegriffo moved from her former role as Deputy Headteacher at St Bernard’s Lower Primary School to Governor’s Meadow.
“The children are our priority, making sure that they are happy, safe, confident and feeling secure,” she said.
On a personal note, Ms Montegriffo is looking forward to getting to know the children, parents and the staff at the school.
There were concerns about the effect the Covid-19 pandemic affected young children who saw two academic years affected by lockdown measures.
“I think the children have been very, very lucky and I must congratulate all staff at how quickly coming from the top down from the department the organisation structures were put in place,” Ms Montegriffo said.
“This included for them having their education delivered over the SeeSaw platform and have those links with their teachers.”
“I think that was imperative and it really helped the children, but obviously, children have experienced a lot of changes and they have seen a lot of changes with their parents, and I think the important thing is for them knowing that school is a happy place.”
“We have already returned to school and it was very interesting to see how happy they were to return to school and that normality and that is very important for children, to always provide that stability and continuity which is what they thrive on.”
Ms Lester has worked as the Deputy Headteacher for the past eight years, working with youngsters who face hardships and difficulties.
She underscored the difficulties faced by students and teachers alike over the past two years, adding that school staff “pulled together” during the lockdown for the wellbeing of the children, and she hopes that Bayside School continues to have the same type of “true community” when school restarts in September.
“Some children thrived in lockdown, but other kids really missed school so you really had different types of children,” Ms Lester said.
“It was okay not to enjoy the lockdown, but equally it was okay to have enjoyed it.”
“I think it was just about trying to meet all their needs, depending on where they came from, and being aware that different children responded to things differently.”
Come September, Ms Lester is hoping for a full academic year that is not affected by lockdown restrictions.
There will also be changes for co-education provided in the school, with school years from 7 to 10 catering to classrooms for boys and girls, adding that this has changed the atmosphere in the classrooms.
For Ms Lester, going back to school in September will be a question of “consolidating” everything from the past few years, while helping those who are still struggling to ease into their school routine.