The Gibraltar Government has taken “an ostrich approach” to delays at Notre Dame, leaving teachers and parents to face “a mess” created by “sheer incompetence” in the handling of its school plans, the GSD said.
The Opposition party was reacting to the government’s announcement last week that delays with construction of the new Notre Dame building means children will start term in the old school building, which had been emptied by teachers ready for the move.
In a statement, the GSD bemoaned the fact that as recently as July, the Minister for Education, Dr John Cortes, had referred exclusively to a September opening with no mention of any delay.
It was only in late August, after questions from the Chronicle and GBC, that the prospect of delay was acknowledged, just days ahead of the start of term.
On GBC last week, Dr Cortes said the new school “will be ready when it’s ready”, a statement the GSD said was “fast becoming a source of ridicule”.
It accused the government getting into a mess because of “shoddy planning”.
“The sad thing here is that it has got hundreds of pupils, their families and teachers in a mess with them too,” the GSD said.
“The Government cannot argue that they have found themselves in this predicament for any lack of warnings from the Opposition.”
“The GSD has long been concerned about the inevitable consequences of rushing a project like this with very little planning.”
“It is unforgivable that the Minister should now cite the relocation of the Laguna Youth Club and last winter’s severe storms as reasons for the delay.”
“These excuses simply do not wash.”
“If they are to be believed he must have known that the project would be delayed in July when the storms had already occurred and the Club’s relocation was in progress.”
“Why did he therefore not refer to it in his speech and more importantly plan for it at the time?”
“Armed with this knowledge why were teachers asked to pack classrooms before the school term ended in June?”
“The fact is that the Government ignored the inevitability of delays and asked teachers to pack their classrooms before the summer break only to now ask them to return with the prospect of having to reallocate to the new school in the same school year.”
“Had the old Notre Dame school building been left intact, the Opposition would have fully supported the Government’s decision to delay a transfer until an appropriate term break in the future, in order to ensure the new school was fully functional before effecting the transfer.”
The GSD added: “The Minister is now suggesting a transition during term time even though he stated in Parliament earlier this year that ‘we certainly cannot move children in the middle of term time’.”
“It is clear that the Government has taken an ostrich approach to this whole affair and that our school children, their teachers and their parents are now having to face the consequences of its sheer incompetence.”
The GSD said the current location of the school was inadequate as an education establishment given that the area remains a construction site.
It said Dr Cortes had himself acknowledged this by referring to to “logistical arrangements” still being worked on.
The lunch hall has been demolished and construction has already taken place on what appears to be two thirds of the old Notre Dame playground, the GSD said.
It also questioned where children will exercise and play and whether all health and safety issues had been addressed, including ensuring evacuation routes had not been jeopardised.
The GSD also questioned whether the outreach programme for St Martin’s school students would suffer and whether the government would rush through completion and snagging to “mitigate their mistakes”.
“The whole episode reflects sadly on the Government and only heightens our concern in respect of the other school projects,” the GSD said.