he Gibraltar government provides a number of nursery places for pre-school children, the current provision for these children is catered for by Varyl Begg Nursery, St Paul's Nursery, St Mary's Nursery, Governor's Meadow Nursery, St Bernard's Nursery, Notre Dame Nursery and St Joseph's Nursery. There is also a nursery attached to St Martin's Special School. In addition there are privately run playgroups and nurseries, 10 of them currently registered with the Department of Education which inspects them jointly with the Environmental Agency and City Fire Brigade to ensure minimum standards of accommodation, numbers on roll and staffing levels.
Primary education is free, full-time and compulsory for Gibraltar. Schools are all co-educational and English is the language of instruction. Spanish is introduced formally as a subject in middle school (year 4), but may be employed earlier as a teaching aid in special circumstances. All curricula are based on the national curriculum for England, but with specific differences in respect of Spanish and other subjects (including Religious Education) reflecting local realities. Formal education in first schools begins at the commencement of the autumn term each year, so organised that all children who will turn 5 during the academic year are enrolled at the start of the academic year. To ease the transition into schooling, morning sessions only are attended for a period of time. Both morning and afternoon sessions follow, later on in the year. Schools are free to determine when and how often children start attending afternoon sessions.
Secondary education is free, full-time and compulsory for Gibraltar residents between the ages 12+ and 15+ years.
The secondary curriculum is defined by national curriculum legislation. In the first three years (7, 8 and 9), secondary schools offer a broad compulsory curriculum that includes English, Mathematics, Science, Modern Foreign Languages, Spanish, History, Geography, Art, Music, Religious Education, Physical Education, Design and Technology and Computing. In years 10 and 11, pupils opt for subjects from a range of disciplines, keeping to national curriculum requirements. In addition, all pupils take the core subjects (English, Mathematics and Science), Religious Education and Physical Education. Vocational education is also available.
St Martin's School caters for a wide range of special needs for children between the ages of 5+ and 16+. Notre Dame School and Bishop Fitzgerald schools are Learning Support Facilities (LSFs), which cater for children of first school age, for whom St Martin's would be inappropriate but whose special needs cannot be met satisfactorily in the mainstream classroom. There is also a LSF at each secondary school in addition to an Alternative Learning Centre at Bayside School, which aims to provide support for disaffected pupils.
Full time education in Gibraltar is primarily focused on intermediate and advanced courses in information technology, business and finance studies, and built environment studies. An area of rapid growth is that of courses leading to professional qualifications. The college provides tuition support for bodies such as ACCA, ILEX, ICSA, AAT and the institute of bankers. A large number of qualifications are offered, ranging from GCSE to AS/A levels, to full-time students, as well as part-time courses in the evenings.
Degree and higher national diploma courses are followed at United Kingdom universities, in the main. Gibraltar government scholarships are available to eligible students.