The Gibraltar Government has taken on board the concerns raised by Gibraltar NASUWT, the teachers’ union, over its proposals for St Martin’s, Bishops Fitzgerald and Governor’s Meadow schools, and yesterday presented altered plans for their construction.
These schools will now all be rebuilt as per the new plans outlined by Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, Minister for Education Dr John Cortes and the Director of Education Jacqueline Mason at a press conference at No.6 Convent Place yesterday.
When the Government first announced its schools project, it intended to place the three schools in a converted Westside School.
But Dr Cortes explained: “We received very strong representations from the teachers union as well as from the schools themselves expressing concerns about it and feeling that in actual fact it would be a better decision to build new schools.”
“Obviously we listened to that and we set about deciding how we could provide new school buildings,” he said.
St Martin’s School will take priority and construction will begin within the next two months and is expected to be completed in 2019.
Additionally, the school will now be located on the Westside School playing field and on the current site of Governor’s Meadow and Bishop Fitzgerald schools.
This means, however, that Bishops Fitzgerald and Governor’s Meadow schools will have to be temporarily relocated.
Dr Cortes said that “a lot of thought has gone into that” and explained that the schools would be temporarily moved to sites that will be vacated when the comprehensive schools and St Anne’s are moved.
“The exact detail is still being worked out but they are essentially going to go into those locations for probably two terms, possibly one more, but that’s the way we are working it out and then they would move back to where they are now,” he said.
Once Westside School is vacated the construction of Bishops Fitzgerald and Governor’s Meadow schools will commence. These two projects are set to be completed in 2020.
All three schools will have a much larger footprint, to better accommodate the facilities as well as to cater for expected increases in the school population.
According to Mr Picardo, the Government expects the number of pupils attending Governors Meadow School after the new key stage alignment to increase by 66%.
But, the new school building will see an increase in space of about 245%.
Bishop Fitzgerald is expected to see an increase of 40% in the numbers of pupils but its surface will increase by 200%.
And at St Martin’s there will be an increase of the external area of 250% and an internal increase of 415%.
“These are going to be considerably bigger schools both inside and out,” Mr Picardo said.
He said in a press briefing: “Since the GSLP/Liberals came to power we have already opened three new schools.”
“Three more schools are currently under construction and three more are in the planning stage. Gibraltar has never before seen such an investment in our children’s education.”
“This is an exciting time for education in Gibraltar, and one that promises a bright future for all our children.”