The Gibraltar Government insisted yesterday it had planned properly for the possibility of delays with the new school projects, dismissing the GSD’s “ranting and raving” as indicative of its decade-long “neglect” of education facilities.
The GSD had accused the government of “sheer incompetence” in its handling of its school plans, in particular the new Notre Dame school which was not ready in time and meant pupils had to start term in the old premises.
But the government hit back and said the GSD was giving more importance to a delay of a few weeks in delivering a brand new school than to 16 years of allowing school buildings to deteriorate “without the hint of a replacement”.
In a statement, No.6 Convent Place said the GSD “simply have no experience” building schools, adding that the party was acting “most irresponsibly” by causing unnecessary worry and concern to families.
The government insisted the projects had been handled “properly and responsibly” and that contingency plans had long been in place, in coordination with the Department of Education and teachers, to address any delays and ensure minimum disruption.
“We are approaching this in absolutely the correct way,” said Dr John Cortes, the Minister for Education.
“There is no rush and there is no shame in accepting that a construction project can take a little longer than one would like.”
“The benefits to the children and to the teachers of the new school will mean that this ranting and raving by the GSD will be forgotten in no time.”
“But the fantastic new school will remain for decades.”
“That’s the problem with the GSD, they cannot cope with the legacy we are creating.”
The government insisted families could be “perfectly at ease” that their children were being well and safely looked after.
It said that while the hope had been that delays in the early stages of the project would have been made up ahead of term time, all scenarios had been contemplated as part of the planning for the projects, adding that any major development was prone to potential delay.
“The Opposition, which has zero experience in building schools, will not be aware that apart from all the work of the project team, there is a an active, high level new School Projects Board, chaired by the minister, with representation from the key stakeholders, including senior education officials, which meets regularly to monitor progress and constantly review the situation in all the school projects,” the government said.
“A totally reasonable, planned, strategic decision was taken to avoid any rush and to ensure that all is ready and in place before moving the children in.”
“The decision was taken in consultation with the Head Teacher and the Teachers’ Union NASUWT.”