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New school projects will meet eastside demands, for now

Photo by Johnny Bugeja.

With Gibraltar’s changing urban landscape seeing an influx of new residents moving to Devils Tower Road, GSLP/Liberal candidates have said their educational developments have enough resilience in the eastside catchment area, at least for now.

On Tuesday morning the GSLP/Liberals looked back on their track record in delivering some 10 schools within three terms in government, with four major outstanding projects left to complete if re-elected.

The proposed projects are the total refurbishment of St Joseph’s, which they said would not see the school closed, the new College building, the new Hebrew School and a further extension to St Martin’s School.

GSLP leader Fabian Picardo was joined by Liberal leader Joseph Garcia and GSLP candidate John Cortes in their headquarters in Main Street to discuss the plans.

The east side of the Rock has seen several residential developments in recent years, most recently Hassan Centenary Terraces, with school-age children in the catchment area of Notre Dame and St Anne’s Schools.

Mr Picardo said both schools were built with the extra capacity in anticipation of Beach View Terraces and Hassan Centenary Terraces.

“But it is not impossible that in the medium term it is necessary to have new school facilities also in the area of the East Side, not just to stop movements for people which can cause congestion, but also because the numbers may grow,” Mr Picardo said.

“So that is certainly something that's on our longer-term horizon. It's not for this term.”

Dr Cortes added that all schools were built with more than enough capacity to cope with growing populations and perhaps the need to reconfigure catchment areas.

“This is all being chartered and targeted and we are very aware and assessing the needs for the future,” Dr Cortes said.

If re-elected the GSLP/Liberals plan to refurbish St Joseph’s School to “almost new”.

Mr Picardo plans that St Joseph’s School would be able to continue functioning during the refurbishment.

“The work that will be carried out will be done outside school out and in holiday period, and there will be a program to ensure that, remember, my children go to St Joseph’s,” Mr Picardo said.

Mr Picardo highlighted the proposed new Hebrew School building will be built on the site of the former St Mary’s School, with the plans for the College in Devils Tower Road.

He added there are further proposals to be released in more detail in their manifesto such as more teachers, more counsellors, and teaching assistants.

Dr Cortes described how he would introduce mental health support for teachers.

“Teachers have to carry on performing their duties day to day, regardless of what's going on in their lives and it's critical that they should have mental health support,” he said.

The extra budget for education was also discussed with the GSLP/Liberals increasing the budget from £28m in GSD times to most recently £60m.

Looking back on their 12 years in government, Dr Cortes highlighted their work in education.

“We are on the cusp of a lot of greater things and you cannot risk bringing in new people who don't get it, who don't understand it, who don't have the confidence of the teaching profession to start afresh,” Dr Cortes said.

“You got to have the team that gets education, that can build on foundations and is still there, wanting to get the job done.”

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