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Licudi sets out road map for partial return to school

Education Minister Gilbert Licudi set out a road map on Thursday for the gradual and limited reopening of Gibraltar’s schools, but stressed that not all children will return to school this term. 

The “gradual and slow” return to schools will focus initially on those pupils at critical stages of their education with “pauses” introduced at each stage to monitor their effects. 

All schools will reopen in a limited way on Tuesday May 26, the day after the late spring bank holiday.

In the lower primary sector, year 2 will be brought back.They will be split in two with half attending for two hours in the morning and the other half for two hours in the afternoon.

Similarly, in the upper primary sector with year 6.

Mr Licudi explained that pupils in years 2 and 6 will be moving to a new school in September and it is “critical” to complete transition work with them during this term. 

Year 6 pupils attending the Hebrew Primary School will also be brought back- split up into smaller groups.

The Government also plans to bring one year group back to Bayside and Westside.

“This is subject to announcements in the UK, which may happen this Sunday, on the easing of restrictions and possibly on the reopening of schools,” he said. 

“We expect to be in a position to take a decision as to which year group or groups will be the first to start in our secondary schools by next week.” 

After the first step is taken on 26 May, the Government will wait another three weeks before commencing the next education step.

That second step will coincide with the start of summer hours on Tuesday June 16.

It will see all children who have been attending in the morning or the afternoon all attending in the morning.

“We will also consider nearer the time whether any other year groups will be brought back as part of the second step,” Mr Licudi said. 

That arrangement will then continue for another three weeks until the end of term on Tuesday July 7. 

“I should stress that these plans, as with everything else related to the easing of restrictions, will be fluid,” he added. 

“We will need to assess that the public health criteria for unlocking continue to be met at each stage of the process.’ 

‘We will also be monitoring the effect of any particular step, whether in education or more generally, before deciding to take the next step.” 

“We will consider the numbers attending to make sure that we can take the step prudently and safely.” 

“Arrangements may therefore be modified to deal with any particular issue that may arise.” 

In addition to this, St Martin’s will continue to operate until the end of term as it has been operating during lockdown.

For the next three weeks there will be no change in the current arrangements involving Notre Dame, St Anne’s and Westside, except that weekend supervision will cease on Sunday 17 May.

Mr Licudi said this was consistent with public health advice of waiting a prudent period between steps out of lockdown.

“We have started to ease restrictions on businesses and we should wait three weeks to assess any effect this may have before taking the first step in Education,” he said. 

Extended hours supervision and the creche facility will end on Friday 22 May.

Furthermore, public health advice on social distancing and hand hygiene will be respected in schools throughout the period to the end of the summer term. 

The Department of Education will consider the use of staggered start and departure times as well as how break times operate.

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