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Teachers’ union rejects ‘gross overreaction’ to school concerns

The Gibraltar Teachers’ Association has accused the Gibraltar Government and senior teachers from several local schools of a “gross overreaction” to statements made by the union in respect of the school refurbishment programme.

Seeking to “set the record straight” on the “unfounded accusations” made against them in recent days, the GTA said it is wrong to shoot the messenger and that the Government should understand that the union is not against them or trying to destabilise their plans.

The union was reacting after senior teachers from Westside and Bayside comprehensive schools, Governor’s Meadow, Bishop Fitzgerald and St Martin’s disassociated themselves from statements made by the GTA about a lack of full consultation with teachers on the refurbishment programme.

Both the teachers and the Government have strongly rejected the GTA’s claims and insist teachers have been properly consulted.
Two senior teachers from Notre Dame have also resigned from the GTA over the recent developments.

In a statement, the GTA said the Government was correct in saying that senior managers had been “kept in the loop” of its plans to refurbish schools.

But it insisted that a “vast number” of teachers had made it known to union officials both privately and publicly that they had not been properly consulted about the school projects.

Additionally, the GTA reiterated that in meetings held at Westside Comprehensive School, Governor’s Meadow, Bishop Fitzgerald and St Martin’s - which included members of the Senior Management Teams - nearly all who attended expressed dissatisfaction with some of the Government’s plans.

“By relaying to them and to the media, when we have been asked, teachers’ concerns, we have always tried to be measured and constructive in inviting the Government and the Department of Education to listen to all teachers, not just the Senior Leadership Teams,” the GTA said.

“The process of consultation often involves accepting criticism and trying to change hearts and minds where necessary.”
“This is done by including all stakeholders into the process.”

The fallout arising from the GTA’s recent public statements has pitched senior managers from some of Gibraltar’s key schools against the union’s leadership.

In this regard, the Executive Committee said it is saddened by the decision taken by Mrs. J. Mason and Mrs. P. Cruz from Notre Dame First School to resign from the union.

The GTA insisted that Notre Dame was not mentioned by the GTA in its interview in relation to relocating or the low temperature in classrooms.

“We therefore fail to understand their reaction, but will accept their resignation and hope that they will have written in to GTA by early next week to officially inform us of their decision,” the union said.

Likewise, the GTA said that if any of the senior leaders of Governor’s Meadow, Bishop Fitzgerald, St. Martins, Bayside and Westside “who appear to have changed their minds after a lengthy meeting at the Department of Education on Thursday morning” subscribe to the grave accusations of misrepresentation and misleading, the decent thing to do would be to stand by their comments.

The GTA has therefore invited these senior leaders to resign from the union with immediate effect or distance themselves from these comments and stand by their union and its fellow members.

The GTA added that since forming a new committee in September 2017, its membership has grown significantly and that “for the first time in a very long time our general meetings are packed”.

“We believe that we have the full support of our members and as such we will continue to express their views in whichever way we feel serves their interests best,” the union said.

“If teachers feel that the changes to education which the official side is proposing are fine, no longer feel as though they have concerns, and are happy with the process, then the GTA is happy to support these changes also.”

The union underscored that the only agenda that the Executive Committee of the GTA has is to ensure that its members rights are protected are listened to in times of great educational change.

“We seek no confrontation with the Department of Education or with Government, and can therefore not understand why this heavy handed line has been opted for.”

The union further explained that it has contacted the four schools concerned were contacted by the union in order to arrange meetings with its members for early next week.

But, the GTA said, three of the four head teachers have so far denied them access to their schools premises to hold these meetings.

“It is indeed a sad day for trade unionism in Gibraltar when this happens,” the GTA said.

“We wish for our members and for the public at large to understand that the Executive Committee is only the voice of the members and that we have on various occasions expressed members’ concerns and reservations to the Official Side and the Minister of Education,” the union explained.

Clarifying a statement issued by the Government on the matter, the GTA said Education Minister Dr. John Cortes sent a letter to the union in December 2017 explaining the process so far and expressing the Government’s commitment to continuing full consultation, and for which he never received a response.

“Members will be aware that Dr. Cortes’ letter was a response to an earlier letter from the GTA requesting for the Official Side to answer a series of questions that members had raised in the General Meeting on 16th November 2017, and for which we have had no response other than the Minister’s letter to date,” the GTA said.

“In fact, shortly after receiving the letter the GTA held a meeting with Dr. Cortes to discuss its contents and to request that some of the information contained in the letter be relayed to the membership.”

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