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TG slams Govt for ‘wasting time’ instead of bolstering online learning

Together Gibraltar yesterday said the Gibraltar Government “wasted time” over the summer months instead of bolstering virtual education set-ups in the event of a surge in virus cases such as the one being experienced in Gibraltar now.

In a hard-hitting statement, the party welcomed the Department of Education’s decision to keep schools closed but said more could have been done to prepare and ensure children did not miss out on the education.

And it criticised the Government too for not giving sufficient thought to the needs of frontline workers with children.

TG said the Department of Education had “sat on its laurels” during the summer when virus levels were close to zero, instead of implanting “a serious contingency plan” to adopt the education system to better cope with public health crisis.

The party said masks were only introduced in December and no provisions were made to facilitate online learning as a way of reducing numbers in schools.

“In brief, the department rolled out a substandard response to a pandemic that we were seemingly immune to,” TG said in the statement.

“It is our understanding that most relevant stakeholders - union, senior Leadership team and Department of Education - are against the implementation of videoconference classes, and that these reservations stem from the difficult logistics that this mode of learning entails.”

“We understand that at this stage, with contagion out of control, many civil servants sick or isolated, and our healthcare under significant strain, setting up the logistics to enable proper online teaching would be impossible.”

“But we believe the Ministry should be called out for its lack of foresight and management its responsibilities throughout the pandemic.”

“We should have prepared for this inevitable and horrendous second wave by getting our Plan A and Plan B in place as TG has continually urged the government to do since the summer.”

“Instead, we are facing burdening our young generations with an educational deficit they will somehow have to overcome.”

TG was scathing too about arrangements for childcare and schooling for children of frontline workers, adding it was “incensed” that these workers faced “a raft of barriers and obligations” related to schooling.

While schools will be open to provide childcare for these children, they will not deliver the contingency schooling to be made available through online platforms. Instead, parents are expected to ensure their children keep up during their time at home.

“We find it ludicrous that frontline workers now have to seek permission from their Heads of Department, then only send their children when both of the couple's shifts overlap and then teach them the learning set when they return home,” TG said.

“We feel that schools should be open for the children of frontline workers, irrespective of shift patterns and that the teachers should ensure that the children work through the material set for them by their subject/form teachers.”

“At a time when everyone is making huge sacrifices, none more so than our frontline workers, they need nothing short of our full and unquestioning support.”

“The party believes that right now, with the current levels of spread and the drama beginning to unfold in our hospital, very little can be done other than paralyse all activity and wait for the storm to subside.”

“The party laments, however, having reached this situation so unprepared, and believes much more could have been done to prevent and prepare for this eventuality, particularly from an educational point of view.”

“The party notes with sadness the disparity between the standards set in the UK, where online, teacher led learning of the highest standard has been made a legal obligation.”

“This leaves out children at a severe disadvantage with the students they will be competing for university spots with.”

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