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New school designs open to public consultation

Display School Designs 21-02-2018 (Photo John Bugeja) Department Education display the latest designs for Gibraltar's new schools. Minister John Cortes in attendance with Lionel Gomez, Darren Grech and Derek Alman

Secondary teachers gave ‘positive’ feedback at an open consultation of the new schools project with the designs available for public viewing as from tomorrow, the Minister for Education Dr John Cortes announced yesterday.

Dr Cortes was speaking at a press conference updating on the progress of the secondary schools development project in which he highlighted further public consultation was underway.

The announcement of further public discussion comes amid an ongoing row over the lack of consultation with teachers, parents, and students.

The recently unveiled project will be open for public viewing at the John Mackintosh Hall as from tomorrow where members of the public will be invited to give feedback.

Parents and students were also given an opportunity to view the plans at the Universities Fair held last Tuesday at the University of Gibraltar.

The project was presented to teachers of both Westside and Bayside schools earlier this week, with Acting Director of Education Lilly Gomez adding the teachers were “excited” about the plans. Chief Secretary Darren Grech and Director of Estates and Head of Capital Development Derek Alman also flanked Dr Cortes at yesterday’s ‘progress update’.

Dr Cortes told reporters “tweaks” have been made to the plans that are still very much in the developmental stage.

“We know that there have been concerns about vehicular access and the number of children in one area,” Dr Cortes said.

“We are aware of those concerns and they are being worked on and mitigated. We are considering how we are going to handle those challenges. The concerns from the teachers are of a different type and we suspect that parents would have different concerns too.”

“We will look into the comments and see if they require consideration, for example traffic, if we would have to increase the number of buses feeding that area. These are things that are being discussed already, but any views would obviously be welcomed.”

The plans have been submitted to Town Planning and will also be available on that platform for people to comment.

Dr Cortes added the recent engagement with staff at Westside and Bayside was found to be “very positive” and they would continue to engage with teachers and the public.

“When this presentation was put to Westside and Bayside staff I have to say it was met with excitement from the profession as it was no longer something that you had to imagine, but something that was out there for them to see and to become involved in,” said Mr Gomez.

“The teachers were advising the architect, who was present then, as to suggestions and tweaks that they might make on the existing plans. Certainly there was a very significant air of excitement and the presentations were very well attended.”

“The project is gathering momentum and the more that we get involved in the education side, the more that is of particular interest to the professionals.”

Mr Grech said it was not often understood that the project also included changes to education which makes the need for a new school vital.

He described vocational pathways and how exams are becoming increasingly harder.

Mr Alman outlined the project in detail in his presentation, detailing how the “key drivers” for the new schools include educational performance, staff satisfaction, pupil satisfaction and community involvement.

Dr Cortes welcomes any feedback from the public on the plans displayed at John Mackintosh Hall as from this Friday.

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