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Teachers urge re-think on secondary school project

Around 80% of teachers who responded to a survey by Gibraltar NASUWT said the Gibraltar Government should reconsider its plans to build two new secondary schools on the same site.

Over 100 teachers from Bayside and Westside responded to the survey, which sought their views on the new secondary school project based purely on educational grounds.

The vast majority – 89% of 119 responses – supported the government’s decision to build two new secondary schools.

But 81% of respondents believed the schools should not be located adjacent to each other.

The survey, which was conducted at the request of teachers and with the assistance of the head- teachers of each of the two schools, once again highlighted concerns that teachers had not been fully consulted on the plans.

“The Government and the general public therefore need to be re- minded that the project to house both secondary schools on a single site at Waterport road does not have the support of the majority of our members in Bayside and Westside schools,” Gibraltar NASUWT said in a statement.

“Although they have been consulted on issues of interior design and resources, there has been a lack of consultation when formulating a rationale for a two-school secondary campus as well as in the wider educational ramifications of the Government’s education revolution.”

“The Government has chosen to proceed with their plans regardless of sound expert advice offered by teachers via their un- ion representatives and multiple requests to slow the pace of the project to allow for constructive dialogue.”

“It is unfortunate that migrating to new and enhanced premises will occur under such a bitter-sweet backdrop for so many of our teacher and LSA members in Bayside and Westside schools when there were - and still are - viable alternatives that could have been explored to the benefit of all stakeholders.”

Among the concerns highlighted by teachers are:

• Pastoral care and the protection of vulnerable students
• Unhealthy competition between schools
• The erosion of the culture, ethos and institutional identity of both schools
• Difficulties in management and administration due to proximity and shared resources
• The system of allocation of stu- dents to either school
• Lack of teacher training and sup- port with regards the transition into, and management of, coeducation at secondary level
• Difficulties in behaviour management
• The sharing of facilities and resources
• The security and evacuation in case of an emergency of the over 2500 students and staff

The union said there were also other non-educational concerns which had been raised by teachers and LSAs in meetings and which the official side has been informed of.

They include the loss of parking for students, staff and visitors, and opposition to having a private car park under the podium level of the schools complex.

“These concerns are also valid in their own right,” the union said.

Since conducting the survey, a substantial number of teachers at Westside School have asked the union to request a meeting with the Chief Minister to discuss their concerns.

A letter was hand-delivered to No.6 Convent Place to this effect on April 18 and Gibraltar NASUWT said it was awaiting a response.

“However, the lightning speed at which the project is progressing, including the almost overnight demolition of the site upon which the schools are to be built and the Government’s announcement of the contract award to Casais, the union considered it necessary to make this press statement,” the union said.

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