Last year I started my budget speech with the words “The world is in Crisis”. Little did we suspect then how the crisis would worsen, and on so many fronts. Covid still with us, the cost of living conundrum, War in Europe.
And yet, the crisis that the Earth’s Climate continues to experience, and which some media and some decision makers seem to want to forget, is still by far the worst. Much reference will be made during the budget debate to the economy and the tightness of our budgets. I will do so too. But these issues will pale into insignificance as the world heats up by 2 degrees or more. Parts of the tropics will become uninhabitable by our species, there will be massive migration to the temperate regions, with all the social, political, and real economic crises that will bring with us on the front line of rising temperatures and desertification, severe storms, and immigration.
So we have to be careful, globally, that we do not allow short term concerns to cloud our vision and we must guard against thinking that the danger to the Planet will simply wait for us to get our act together.
Mr Speaker, Many of the decisions being taken now by some countries to step back on low carbon measures and reverse other environmental progress, to try and stave off those other crises are short-sighted and opportunistic, and the world will regret them sooner than they think.
However, as we have seen this morning Mr Speaker, despite all else, this Government is standing firm on its commitments.
Mr Speaker, I also have to express disappointment that due to the necessary investment in a robust Covid, response we have had to pull back on our plans, manifesto and other, and will not be able to deliver all those wonderful, and to my mind necessary things we planned. But we have to carry on, and carry on we will.
Mr Speaker, 2021 saw the publication of the Climate Change Strategy, a plan which was due to have been published just before we entered the first Covid lockdown.
Despite the delays, this document is an important step in the development of Gibraltar’s climate policy and further work on its implementation is already being undertaken across Government.
We have formed a cross-governmental group, soon to be formally established in statute as the Net Zero Delivery Body (NZDB), which will be responsible for establishing yearly programmes of work to ensure the targets set out in the Climate Change Act are reached. I am tremendously pleased that this body will be chaired by the Deputy Chief Minister and includes both the Minister for Transport and myself as well as senior officials from across Government departments, agencies and authorities. It will be supported by a Secretariat which will sit within the Department of the Environment and Climate Change.
We have also appointed the Climate Change Committee, made up of individuals with expertise across various areas of climate policy who are already providing independent and impartial advice to the Government as we progress on the journey to net zero.
The setting up of the Climate Action Fund will be significant as it will release resources for climate action and as the Chief Minister has announced, we are taking practical steps to populate this fund.
Climate Change Vulnerability & Risk Assessment
Our first Climate Change and Vulnerability risk assessment consultation has been carried out in collaboration with UK consultants Ricardo Energy and Environment, has helped to build a more complete picture of Gibraltar’s potential climate hazards and impacts, identify strengths and weaknesses as well as solutions and areas for action.
Mr Speaker I was fortunate to attend the COP 26 conference in Glasgow as part of the official UK delegation. I participated in a number of events at which I was able to highlight the important work being done in Gibraltar.
I was also able to make our pledge at the Environment & Education event in which we committed to ensuring that learning about the climate emergency becomes a fundamental principle of education policy, and to providing teachers with the training, support and resources they require in order to deliver this. We have already begun working on this in collaboration with the Department of Education and the University of Gibraltar where all our PGCE students are given climate change training.
Our public outreach programme is also growing, with officers from the Department going into schools and businesses around Gibraltar to raise awareness on the environment and ways in which people can take action.
Private Sector Initiatives
Mr. Speaker I would like to take a moment to commend the many private sector companies that are working on their environmental sustainability agendas. We have noticed a significant increase in their engagement with us – from in-house training and awareness to setting net zero targets within their own company goals – we are increasingly seeing how the business community is stepping up to the climate challenge.
The most recent one to highlight is NatWest, who launched their new Green Mortgage product right here in Gibraltar just a couple of weeks ago.
We live as though we have emerged from the scourge of Covid, although really we know that we have not.
Public Health worked its guts out, throughout the last financial year. It is easy to forget that, just three months ago, we had a Contact Tracing Bureau working 7 days a week, as well as a drive-in test centre and, recently too, a dedicated lab at the University.
I thank all those who worked directly in Public Health in Covid response – indeed we had an award ceremony for them recently in recognition of this.
It is important that we learn the lessons that the pandemic has taught us about the importance of all the functions of Public Health, not just in the monitoring of communicable diseases, but also in disease prevention, lifestyle improvement, and health advice.
I am working with the new Director of Public Health, Dr Helen Carter, in developing an assessment of Public Health Strategic Needs in order ensure that in the future the Public Health team and function are well able to work for the good of the community and for its health.
Leading on from my budget speech last year I am delighted to confirm that our programme to develop Culture and its appreciation, both in Gibraltar and abroad, remains at the heart of my agenda and as is evident with the daily cultural activity and the increased cultural services that are provided by my team.
My commitment to develop our arts at an international level is also a priority, and art programmes, residencies and exchanges have already been put in place for this forthcoming year by Gibraltar Cultural Services, working as ever on behalf of the Ministry of Culture as our executive and operational arm, while sticking to our budget.
We are achieving this despite a tighter budget through hard work, sponsorship from philanthropists and the private sector, and the support of volunteers.
Our cultural service is thriving and moving from strength to strength, in Events, Development, Cultural Facilities and Premises, Cultural Education, promoting our art galleries, our public library, and more, together with all the stakeholders. GCS continues to work hard with the Department of Education and their educational establishments, the University of Gibraltar, the Gibraltar Youth Service, the GSLA, cultural organisations and other stakeholders to be able to provide more platforms for our cultural community.
It is imperative that we continue to produce these programmes as we need to make sure we invest in the cultural leaders of the future, who will promote Gibraltar outside our shores. What gives a community more celebrity status than a world class actor, singer, musician, author or artist? That is just one reason why we must invest in Culture.
Mr Speaker, we have to develop and promote our own. Events with international artists are welcome and important for recreation and enjoyment, and inspire us, but it is much more important, significant, and less expensive, to promote the development of the arts within our community.
Mr Speaker, despite all the doom and gloom, life goes on, and I will do all I can to ensure that we continue to live it, enjoying in full all that this blessed community in which we have the privilege to reside has to offer.
That is what Culture does!!
Mr Speaker, despite all the doom and gloom, life goes on and I will do all I can to ensure that we continue to live it enjoying all that this blessed community in which we have the privilege to love has to offer.
Events and Development Programmes
To this end, there has this past year been a myriad of events organised, including:
- the Freedom of the City for Adolfo Canepa and the Royal Air Force
- an extraordinary and successful Literature Week mainly dedicated to local authors but which saw the participation of renowned international authors, Lord Jeffrey Archer and Christopher Lloyd.
- The Christmas Fair Attractions resumed at John Mackintosh Square.
- GCS and the University of Gibraltar hosted, a bilingual language study research project with the University of Valladolid.
- February 2022 saw the return of the ever-popular GibTalks.
- the 2022 Youth Arts Jamboree as part of our cultural development initiatives. Projects here included:
Acting and writing workshops for young people interested in drama.
Poetry & creative writing and musical composition workshops delivered by musician Gabriel Moreno.
Capoeira inspired dance/drama sessions
Live drawing session for young people organised by the Fine Arts Association, and a variety of workshops and sessions which were provided in collaboration with the Gibraltar Youth Service,
The Gibraltar Photographic Society organised a 2-day workshop for students from the Gibraltar College,
The programme also included the Gibraltar International Dance Festival, the Festival for Young Musicians, the Drama Festival, the Young Art Competitive Exhibition, and the ever-popular World Book Day celebrations.
- The Street Art mural walk was a new addition which proved popular this year, with fun and educational tours of the Mario Finlayson National Art Gallery and City Hall, and GEMA Gallery also part of the programme.
A voluntary scheme is ongoing offering students work experience opportunities within the Events and Development Units and at the John Mackintosh Hall and JMH Library
- The Young Shakespeare Company, returned to the Rock in May 2022, after a two-year gap.
- We supported three Gibraltarian artists to take part in the Rock Retreat Residency in May 2022. This international initiative spearheaded by artist and illustrator Eleanor Dobbs was aimed at aspiring writers and artists, with the focus on creating work for children and young adults. It attracted 30 participants in total, some from overseas territories and other countries, who were involved in five days of masterclasses, led by experts from the world of children’s publishing.
- The programme of events in celebration of the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen including the return of the popular local food festival, this year renamed ‘Jubilita’.
- The completion of a John Lennon Street art mural at Landport tunnel. The Ragged Staff façade depicting the Battle of Trafalgar will be completed shortly.
- Our video archives portal, ‘Culture TV’ continues to provide local entertainment to our community, with the public able to access a variety of shows and other performances staged in Gibraltar over the years.
- The Art in Gibraltar Facebook page continues to provide the perfect platform to promote exhibitions and projects, anything related to local artists and artworks, and work being produced at our Galleries.
- In our continued efforts to promote the art galleries and local art and artists, School groups continue to visit as part of tours to the City Hall, through the Mayor’s Office, the Heritage Trust and other collaborations, with children as young as 4/5 already introduced to the artworks and artists. This past year has seen the Gallery overflowing with activity with school groups, tourists, and locals alike visiting. The Gallery runs regular tailor-made tours for visitors and other groups.
- A rededication of the National will be held in September to coincide with the 150th Anniversary of the birth of Gustavo Bacarissas.
- The introduction of QR codes to offer information on the artworks and artists has been introduced. The works have included the setup of a small gift shop offering promotional material and exclusive gifts which are available for purchase.
- We have also opened one of the vaults at GEMA to local artists and groups, with several successful exhibitions and other events taking place in this cultural heritage space over the last year.
The Gallery has also hosted numerous art classes and workshops by local groups with these using the artwork as inspiration.
- In addition, we continue to work with The Gibraltar Tourist Board to run a ‘Visit Gibraltar’ campaign of our national contemporary galleries with different images published on a weekly basis on their social media platforms promoting the Government’s art collection. Our art curators prepare scripts and images to promote a variety of artworks and artists and disseminate this information to the public.
- The campaign with Buytickets.gi to promote further Gibraltar’s art and the historical venues in which they are housed, continues to flourish, and attract visitors. This year we have added a special gift package offering as part of the launch of the gift shop at the National Gallery.
- We continue to support the Ministry for Sport in its summer and mid-term sports and leisure programmes, providing cultural initiatives.
- I am delighted to confirm that 2022 will see many events returning to our social and cultural calendar. These include the Gibraltar Fair, National Day Celebrations at Casemates Square, the Christmas Festival of Lights, the Three Kings Cavalcade, amongst others.
- We also had the usual annual programme of events and festivals, this including the Autumn and Spring Festival programme; New Year’s Celebrations online; art competitions; literary events, and other cultural competitions; Workers Memorial Day; Christmas Festival of Lights, and Classical Concerts amongst others.
- GCS has absorbed other cultural programmes, events and administrative duties that used to be co-ordinated by the Ministry. This includes the running of the Mayor’s Office and organising events on behalf of the Ministry. This avoids duplication and allows the experts and the experienced to support the many groups and associations and to better co-ordinate and develop cultural activities in Gibraltar.
- The Cultural Organisations Register has been updated, keeping in line with Child Protection policy as directed by the Child Protection Committee, ensuring that new cultural entity applications are properly vetted. In the last year GCS has ensured that most of the groups and individuals required have completed the Safeguarding Children courses. The sub-committee is delivering monthly multi-agency sessions where individuals from the relevant cultural organisations have been attending.
- We will shortly be launching a Register of the Arts which will contain data of individuals working within the cultural world in Gibraltar.
- GCS supported the Gibraltar Youth Service with the organisation of Youth Day 2022.
- The art exhibition and exchange “Westerly Winds, Vientos de Poniente” was the second part of a collaboration between the Gibraltar Cultural Services and La Diputación de Cádiz, held at the Gustavo Bacarisas Gallery in June 2021, there was a cros-border exhibition organised by Kitchen Studios in La Linea, and there are other cross-frontier cultural initiatives to come.
Safety Advisory Group (SAG)
The Safety Advisory Group continues to bring together key agencies, to ensure the safety of all events in our community. SAG provides support, guidance and advice to all event organisers, whilst ensuring that they maintain a high standard of safety when considering or planning a specific event.
Review of Entertainment legislation
Mr Speaker, I am currently engaged in a review of legislation appertaining to Entertainment and Entertainment licences, as the current regime is confusing to users and members of the public. The aim is to provide a new, more efficient process which will both encourage musical and other entertainment and at the same time protect the wellbeing of residents close to venues.
Government Art Collection
- GCS on behalf of Government last year acquired 41 new artworks over the last year for the Government’s Art Collection.
This includes purchases at auction and from private collections, winners in the Government’s art competitions and purchases from the Affordable Art Exhibition and solo shows. Some special purchases that form part of Gibraltar’s cultural heritage are:
- Gustavo Bacarisas – ‘Portrait of his brother, Horacio Bacarisas’
- Mario Finlayson – A collection of nine works
- Christian Hook – ‘The Kiss’
John Mackintosh Hall Public Library
- The John Mackintosh Hall Library social media platform continues to generate and oversee content promoting related initiatives, storytelling sessions, school visits and literature. The Government has invested £9,546 in the last year in the purchase of new books and the introduction of Borrowbox a popular platform for the loaning of eBooks and Audiobooks. This service allows library members to download a free app to borrow these books 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The initiative has proved most popular with close to 200 members downloading the app in just two months. It has encouraged new members to the library, increasing our reach across the reading community in Gibraltar and modernising the library further.
- Our Storytelling sessions for young children at the John Mackintosh Hall Library continue thanks to a group of volunteers who deliver these sessions.
- After tracking the use of the library by the public, we have introduced new opening hours from 9am to 7pm Monday to Friday. The reference room continues to be a popular resource for young professionals and students studying during term times in the afternoons.
- Several administrative projects have been completed with some ongoing, including more digitisation, reviewing of records and barcoding of books.
- There is a great deal of collaboration, including exchanges of books, with the Garrison Library and the Parasol Library of the University of Gibraltar as the three libraries work together to provide a better more streamlined service overall, better providing for their own specific niche.
- The JMH Library makes it a point to have an extensive collection of books written by Gibraltarian authors, or books written on themes and subjects related to Gibraltar, to include military, history, social history, wildlife, and flora etc. This complete collection has been reviewed and catalogued to allow for ease of use.
The refurbishment and maintenance of all our current cultural facilities plays an important role in allowing us to support all cultural entities, groups and individuals, increasing their potential and striving towards the best possible standard of artistic practice.
We continue with the refurbishment and maintenance programme for all our facilities to ensure we extend public participation in the arts. We are confident that investing in the arts and its cultural spaces, we will maximize the value of our investment.
The Central Hall has been fully and extensively refurbished, restoring much of its Heritage value, and fitted with a new stained glass window
The Ince’s Hall Theatre has had its air conditioning upgraded, sewer system repaired and a lift installed.
The John Mackintosh Hall has had its galleries upgraded, new equipment purchased, a hearing loop installed and general improvements made to a building that is now feeling its age.
We had to carry out emergency works to stop water ingress into the GEMA art gallery.
Works have also been carried out to the Gustavo Bacarissas’s Gallery and our historic City Hall, which I very happily share with His Worship the Mayor. These works have allowed us to display some of the original facades and ceilings which had been hidden for decades, while at the same time dealing with issues of water ingress and the like.
We have also contributed towards lighting equipment for the Alameda Open Air Theatre and a gallery hanging system at the secondary schools, which will allow them to exhibit works of art by students or visiting artists.
We mustn’t forget the Board and staff of the Retreat Centre, which has over the past few years been vital in our Covid response and is now looking after families seeking refuge from the war in Ukraine.
Government Cultural Premises
The GCS Premises Unit continues, on behalf of the Ministry of Culture, to oversee Government cultural premises and estates. Works have been carried in many of the estates including Retrenchment Block, Recreational Rooms, South Barracks, Jumpers Bastion, Wellington Front, Prince Edwards Road, Town Range, and other premises
Many do not realise quite the extent of the work carried out by GCS on behalf of the very small team at the Ministry of Culture. Barely a day goes by without one, two or often more articles or stories in the media related to their vast amount of work, and much more goes unreported. I thank each and every one of them and was very proud to see their CEO, Seamus Byrne, receive a Governor’s Award in recognition of his work ,and that of his team, especially during their pandemic when they kept hard at work in keeping us entertained and ensuring that our rich and diverse cultural community continues to thrive.
In the coming year, the budget will of course be tighter, and I am disappointed that I will not be able to fulfil our plans. But we will not be stopped by this, and here I must again acknowledge businesses, organisations and others who are making contributions to our culture through sponsorship or other means.
Already planned for this year are:
- A new international gourmet food festival that will provide a new and exciting event for Gibraltar, taking place at the end of July at Wellington Front.
- In September, as an addition to National Week celebrations, we will be holding a Cultural Event in London. The day will see a gathering of Gibraltarians who are placing our country on the map working in the arts and the cultural scene in the UK.
- We will also be holding an Art Exhibition by Gibraltarian artists at the Bermondsey Project Space, organised jointly with the Lloyd’s Art Group in London.
- The JM Memorial Foundation together with Gibraltar Cultural Services are overseeing this second part of a cultural exchange with Tangiers with artists, musicians, and performers from both cities taking part.
Both the UK and Morocco events form part of our manifesto, where we are committed to organising cultural exchanges with other cities. These are superb opportunities to export our art and culture abroad.
Much of this will be achieved through sponsorship, and I thank all those contributing.
I cannot end my section on Culture without paying tribute to our writers. Gibraltarian Literature is an evolving reality. It is growing faster than ever and gaining ever more recognition on the international scene. Our poetry and short story competitions aim to support and encourage writers, new and old, and this year will see new ways of encouraging and consolidating recognition of our Literature, and not just through Literature week.
The Gibraltar Academy of Music and Performing Arts (GAMPA) continues to develop and contribute to Culture in Gibraltar, as do the many dance academies and schools, drama groups, and musicians and their collectives. And we have the organisations such as the Fine Arts Association and Kitchen Studios in respect of the visual arts. Between them, hundreds of young and not so young are active in Culture, thousands if their families and friends are added. It is a huge lobby that deserves the support of this House.
GIBRALTAR NATIONAL THEATRE
Which brings me to what to me is the most exciting, and most important project for Gibraltarian Culture that we have seen for generations, the Gibraltar National Theatre and Cultural Hub at the John Mackintosh Hall.
The way that Culture has excelled in Gibraltar in recent decades, with internationally acclaimed artists and performers at the world’s best stages, the way that culture has captured the imagination of our young makes it evident that they deserve a bigger and better performance space, and a much bigger audience.
Sadly, for the moment, and due to the Covid response, the Government will itself not be able to proceed with the project. But a group of supporters of the Arts have formed the Gibraltar National Theatre Foundation, independent of Government, and, with the support and participation of the John Mackintosh Educational Trust, are working hard, and successfully to make this a reality.
Only last week, that great supporter of Gibraltar, Ruth Parasol, announced that the Parasol Foundation would contribute £1.5 million towards one of the four main elements of the project, the Gallery of Art. Kishin Alwani OBE of the Alwani Foundation has also contributed, and the very proactive Musicians’ Association of Gibraltar is actively fundraising for the project too.
The project will comprise a 1000 seat Theatre, a smaller 230 seat studio theatre, the Parasol Art Gallery, and an expanded Lending Library, as well as the meeting rooms, cafeteria, and other facilities that we have got used to our beloved Mack Hall.
It will be a revolution in Culture, and will be a centre for other activities as well, such as conferences, west end style productions, and even the much more more mundane general election results!
Most importantly, it will give our community the opportunity to perform in a real theatre such as we have not had in Gibraltar before.
I want to thank HE The Governor Sir David Steel for his leadership in his work as Patron of the Foundation, to the councillors and to the trustees of the John Mackintosh Educational Trust for their vision in being part of this landmark project. I wish it every success and look forward to Opening Night!
If the year 2020 was the year when everything changed, 2021/22 have been the years when humanity has been trying to understand what on earth is happening.
Mr Speaker, I am not convinced that we have learnt the lessons that we should have learnt, and I fear that there are those in positions of influence who are trying to use Covid and our reaction to it as a convenient cover for their own agendas, indeed I referred earlier to some of the pressure elsewhere to reverse environmental progress. We must ensure that this does not happen in Gibraltar.
Mr Speaker, the Department continues to be active in marine surveillance. In keeping with our policy of dynamic alignment with EU environmental Directives, officers from the Department of the Environment continue to collect data on a wide range of marine descriptors including water and benthic sediment quality, phytoplankton and marine fauna. New monitoring programmes are also being developed particularly in relation to micro-plastics, underwater noise and cetacean surveys using drones to help better assess the state of the marine environment in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters.
Further work into marine invasive species, such as the brown Asian alga that is affecting our shores, will also be carried out starting in July, as part of a UK Darwin Plus Funded project aimed at enhancing monitoring and prevention of invasive non-native species across UK Overseas Territories. Collaborative work being carried out by the Department of the Environment and the University of Gibraltar’s Marine Science Masters Programme will feed into our Marine Spatial Plan which I intend to publish as a consultation document later this year.
Once again, the exceptional marine awareness and education work of the Nautilus Project has to be recognised in this context along with the yearly marine clean-up efforts coordinated by the Environmental Safety Group, and monitoring of seabird migration by GONHS. I thank the NGOs for their tremendous contribution overall.
Mr Speaker as most of us are aware, this year was a difficult one in terms of waste management. Changes to the export process as a result of the end of the Brexit transition period caused transitional administrative delays that meant that Gibraltar was unable to export its municipal waste for a number of weeks.
I would like to thank my team at the Department of the Environment, as well as those at the Environmental Agency and Technical Services who worked tirelessly for many weeks to ensure that we were able to continue to collect and store our waste while they worked to resolve issues with their UK and Spanish counterparts. They averted a crisis and the system is now working smoothly again.
We will be increasing provision of bin space for refuse and recycling in Town with a view to improving the state of these areas and we are working with businesses, the Chamber of Commerce, the GFSB and the BID and with tenant bodies and others, to improve the cleanliness of our urban areas.
Mr Speaker, the issue of sewage treatment is one which should finally see resolution this year. I have clearly stated the reasons outside our control for the delays, but I do understand that justified as they are, there will be criticism. I can confirm that the legal process of closing the former Sewage Treatment Plant tender is now underway, a process which became necessary as a result of Modern Water going into liquidation. Government is engaged in providing technical information to a number of potential bidders and the competitive process for finding a new operator is about to begin.
On air quality, the monitoring network recently experienced data losses due to ageing instrumentation. This was due to inability of the UK providers to service the equipment during Covid and the consequent backlog. I am pleased to say that this is now virtually resolved.
New analysers will replace the existing ones which have been operational for more than 17 years. Within this replacement programme Gibraltar will now report reference standard automatic measurements for PM10 and PM2.5 at both Rosia Road and Bleak House. This represents an increase in PM monitoring – providing data on both fine and coarse fractions of particulate matter at both roadside and background locations for the first time. The new instruments are also capable of near real time data provision which will enhance the public information service provided via the Gibraltar AQ website.
The monitor at Witham’s Road will be moved to Devil’s Tower Road.
Two additional AQ Mesh pods have been procured which will supplement the three existing pods in providing indicative monitoring data at near real time.
The North Mole Power Station is now also reporting emissions online.
NO2 concentrations remained consistent with the previous year - an annual mean of :
- 27 µg m-3 at Rosia Road (97% data capture)
- 18 µg m-3 at Bleak House (88% data capture)
- 20 µg m-3 at Witham’s Road (60% data capture)
These are all well below the European Limit Value of 40 µg m-3. The 1-hr Limit Value (200 µg m-3) was not exceeded more than the 18 permissible hours. All other pollutants also met European Directive Limit Values.
We finally achieved WHO standards for particulates when new WHO guidelines were published in 2021 with very stringent targets for both PM2.5 and NO2. These will be exceeded in the coming years, as they will be across the world, and we have to continue to work hard to achieve them.
Continued effort elsewhere towards net zero carbon emissions will have co-benefits for air quality also, particularly if these include measures on road traffic abatement and ‘green shipping’, including the safeguards included in the new agreement with the future operators of GibDock.
We will also be seeing more progress on solar power, as both private initiatives and Government projects progress.
The electrification of the vehicle fleet is an important part of the Climate Change Strategy, and of the move to better air quality. We are already seeing an increase in the number of EVs being purchased and there is strong pressure from the industry which is moving in this direction globally. We are responding to this with an increase in the number of publicly available charging points.
In December the charge points on floor 6 in Midtown car park were replaced by Plug-N-Go a Gibraltar based company who own and operate the hardware and location under agreement with the Government.
Next the old charge points in the Park & Ride in Devil’s Tower Road will be replaced and operational under the same platform and both of these locations are future-proofed to match the growth of EV adoption in Gibraltar.
In July they will be adding a dual charge point at Europa Point.
They are also liaising with the Taxi Association and Government to start adding further charge points for Taxi use which in turn will assist the rollout of Taxis to meet the EV only taxi purchase from January 2024. The usage of all these points will be monitored to ensure that we can continue to provide new locations to meet increasing demand.
Other EV initiatives are also on the way.
Mr Speaker, the Environmental Agency continues to advise me in many areas and continues to operate a 24 hour on call service which saw Environmental Health Officers engage in 229 callouts in 2021. To date for 2022, there have been a total of 110 callouts.
The Department continues to work closely with colleagues across Government under the direction of the Deputy Chief Minister on all issues related to Brexit such as contingency planning on food imports and exports of waste in the event of a no deal scenario.
The Agency also continues to make a significant contribution to the Government’s anti-dog fouling campaign. In 2021 156 DNA samples were collected with 16 FPNs issued to offenders. Thus far, in 2022 we have collected 78 samples and 12 FPNs have been issued. Officers from the Agency, and the Department, also carry out patrols during which they check that dogs being walked on the public highway are duly licenced and registered. This gives the officers the opportunity to catch out owners who are not complying and oblige them to regularise their position, thus ensuring that their DNA profile is registered and improving the effectiveness of the DNA sampling initiative. During 2021 The Agency carried out 32 patrols and checked 95 dogs for registration. In 2022 the Agency so far has carried out 22 patrols, checked 66 dogs and issued 12 fines.
The Agency is the competent authority for Control of Major Accident Hazards or COMAH. This year the Agency will host the HSE inspectors visit to carry out a Mechanical Integrity inspection as part of the Bi-annual inspection regime of the North Mole power plant.
Water Quality and Beaches
The Environmental Agency continues to monitor the quality of our bathing waters where standards have been improving over the past few years. Five of our bathing waters are now classed as “Excellent” with Western beach improving and continuing to be classified as “Good” rather than “Sufficient” which was the case in previous years.
In the harbour we have so far not seen the problems of bacteria in the water that we had some years back. There are challenges in relation to turbidity from the Coaling Island site, and we are working hard to resolve these.
This year the spring storms caused a great deal of damage throughout our beaches, considerably more than in the previous years. This will become more regular of course as the result of Climate Change. Our beaches were ready for the summer thanks therefore to the great efforts of the pertinent sections of the Department of the Environment and Technical Services.
After this year’s storms, Camp Bay saw the removal of close to 250 tonnes of rocks and debris that had been washed ashore. Flotsam and detritus in large amounts had to be removed from Eastern Beach and Sandy Bay, while the entire car park and sections of the access road at Western Beach had to cleared of accumulated seaweed. Most of this was carried out in record time, within a week, in time to have the beach available to the public for the Easter break.
Further to this, the storms caused structural damages to areas of flooring, railings, balustrades, concrete tables and recycling bin pods at Camp Bay. Extensive remedial works involved structural works to affected areas of flooring, repairs to the boat store garage doors, the replacing of damaged sections of railings and balustrades and the replacing of 25 concrete tables.
At Little Bay the storms left a huge accumulation of rocks on the shoreline. Heavy machinery was required to re-profile the entire shore in order to make it safe. The reconditioning of the sea access stairs and the entire reconstruction of the sea access ramp at the southern end of the beach were also required.
Catalan Bay, Eastern and Western Beaches had their concrete walkways lifted by the wave action and shifted, leaving them in complete disarray and unsafe. These have been removed and re-laid once the beaches have been re-profiled. At Eastern Beach in particular, the re-profiling operation has been more laborious than ever before with heavy plant involved in shifting hundreds of tonnes of accumulated excess sand from the southern half of the beach to the northern end, where the beach had been practically eradicated by the storms. This exposed the wall foundations and the fenced perimeter of the Airport Tunnel works. Emergency works also had to be carried out to partially remove an old airfield storm drain that had been left exposed by the continuous loss of beach sand and posing a serious safety hazard.
General yearly preparatory works at our beaches have also included much other work:
- Laying out of jelly fish nets
- General repairs and wood preserving treatment to Catalan Bay wooden pedestrian access from car park to village
- General repairs and wood preserving treatment to all wooden umbrella stores (for free public use)
- Removal, repairs and re-installation of the Camp Bay sea stairs
- Refurbishment works of Camp Bay flooring, stairs, ramps, banisters and seating surfaces
- Painting of beach walls
- Complete overhaul of the large pool at Camp Bay (removing the interior lining, making the basin structurally water tight and tiling it in its entirety)
- New beach furniture for Europa Pool and Bathing Pavilion
- Addition of steps to sea stairs at Little Bay as a result of loss of ground cover
- Removal of seaweed from outlet adjacent to Western Beach car park and runway
- Replacing of specific units for Camp Bay & Little Bay pools filtering and chlorination systems
- Purchase of 11 lifeguard rescue surf boards
- Repairs to vandalised stairs and replacement of vandalised concrete tables at Little Bay
- Replacing of now tired accessible beach amphibious chairs
- The construction of a new accessible ramp leading down to the actual beach causeway from the wooden pedestrian access from car park to village at Catalan Bay
- The construction of a Beach Tent for the Beach Accessibility Service at Catalan Bay, for the use of blue badge holders
Improvements in the Lifeguard service have been noticeable, thanks to a great deal of training and improved supervision.
The Cemetery Authority is undertaking a number of major initiatives aimed at improving the management and use of the cemetery.
Cremation has grown over recent years, and is now the preferred choice of three-quarters of the population. A Columbarium for the interment of ashes is therefore considered a necessity for our community, and one will be provided.
Green and Planted areas, urban wildlife
I remain committed to planting trees and creating green open spaces for the public. These nature-based approaches to tackling climate change have multiple beneficial synergies - trees help to filter urban pollutants and reduce localised heat island effects as well as absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It is also proven and well documented that green areas in cities improve both physical and mental health and wellbeing and trees provide food and habitat for pollinators, increasing urban biodiversity.
There have been 185 trees planted since autumn 2020, and, in fact the challenge has been finding suitable new areas for tree planting. Having said that further new trees were planted at Red Sands Road, and of course in the now completed Campion Park.
New green areas have been created at Europa Point, and with the added removal of alien invasive species, habitat for native plants has increased.
We will continue to do our best to provide better green spaces that improve our urban environment and increase the quality of life of our residents.
The Gibraltar Botanic Gardens have four main objectives: (1) maintain the garden as a beautiful amenity; (2) educate on plants and the wider environment; (3) conserve rare plant species from throughout the world, including Gibraltar; (4) conduct research on taxonomy, evolution and ecology at a local and global scale. The botanic gardens continue to develop and excel in their objectives.
Current scientific projects include research on the cactus flora of the Caribbean, and on invasive species of insects and associated plants and animals in other UK Overseas Territories.
The Alameda’s collection in its nursery of plants from throughout the world, with an ever-growing emphasis on water-wise succulent plants, increasingly attracts enthusiasts and experts from other parts of the world, eager to see and study this well-documented and curated collection. The gardens are indeed a centre of excellence for research on such plants and gardens staff continue to make discoveries and describe new species.
These exciting scientific developments are in lockstep with the annual improvements that are made to the gardens’ aesthetics: as regular users keep remarking, the Alameda looks better with each passing year. Not least, this is due to the very hard and enthusiastic work of the grounds staff. What is more, some of those same plants that form the backbone of its research efforts are being used to develop planting beds afresh, and these will soon be accompanied by new interpretation, as part of the botanic gardens’ mission to educate.
Pride of place in the botanic gardens’ education activities goes to its extremely popular children’s education programme. Work on a bespoke education area will come to completion in the autumn of 2022, thanks entirely to the contribution of a number of very generous donors.
Finally, the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens continue to propagate Gibraltar’s special plants for conservation purposes. This year, stock of the Gibraltar Campion originating from the Alameda has been planted in the Nature Reserve. This is part of a long-term plan that began in the 1990s, when the species, then thought extinct, was rediscovered and rescued from certain extinction when it was propagated at The Alameda. The Gibraltar Campion, which is virtually extinct in the wild, can only recover via a conservation programme such as this.
Gibraltar Nature Reserve
Visitor numbers to the Upper Rock component of the Gibraltar Nature Reserve are once again on the rise following the hard times witnessed during the peak of the pandemic. In keeping with our commitment to increase revenue, the entrance fee for non-residents to the Upper Rock was increased earlier this year following a process of discussion with stakeholders. This was a reasonable step to take given the recent investment carried out in the Upper Rock; the Skywalk, Windsor Bridge and the Tovey Cottage Interpretation Centre to name but some examples, are all helping attract and improve the visitor experience for locals and tourists alike. In parallel, work on the day to day management of the nature reserve continues in earnest and new measures are programmed to take place this year such as the creation of open areas to favour biodiversity, improved picnic areas and signage. I opened a new Marine Interpretation Centre at Europa Point just over a week ago, and plans are also in place for a new raptor reintroduction programme as well as other exciting initiatives.
The Yellow-legged Gull is perhaps the most recognisable species of bird in Gibraltar. It is an opportunistic species that does exceptionally well around humans. Unfortunately, this also means that it causes problems for us. The population of gulls in Gibraltar needs to be controlled because they have an ecological impact on habitats and other species, can be a public health problem and, most importantly, they constitute a risk for aircraft. I highlighted last year that the long-term trend of Yellow-legged Gulls in Gibraltar is one of decline. Further to this, the excellent work done by the Avian Control Unit ensures that these gulls will never again be as abundant as they were during the 1990s and early 2000s. Moreover, parent gulls are aggressive when they are nesting and can be a nuisance when nesting on or around people’s homes in the urban environment. Again, the Avian Control Unit provides an excellent service removing this nuisance for people. I know of no other place in the world with such service.
The GONHS Bird of Prey Unit continues its excellent work in rescue, rehabilitation, release and tracking of injured and exhausted birds of prey. They do excellent conservation work and are also very involved in education on migrating birds of prey and their preservation. Their wider conservation work includes the breeding and release of Barbary Partridges in conjunction with the Department of the Environment. The fruits that this incredibly successful programme have borne are plain to see: Barbary Partridges are more common in Gibraltar than at any other time in recent memory and members of the public frequently have very close encounters with them in the Nature Reserve. This surely serves as a model for conservation programmes in Gibraltar and beyond.
Mr Speaker ,
This year as the tourists returned, the macaque management team has been having to deal with problems of old with heavy concentrations of tourists resulting in negative changes in behaviour of the macaques. In order to help deal with this, we now have a full time wildlife warden to help with issues of interaction between tour operators, tourists and macaques.
Incursions of monkeys into urban areas remains controlled, albeit slightly higher since tourist started to increase and resulted in increased disturbance of the macaques. This is not due to population growth as macaque numbers remain static thanks to extensive contraception by the Gibraltar Veterinary Clinic.
Blood testing of the macaques this year has shown that they do not carry any zoonotic diseases that can be transmitted to humans. However this is always a possibility, as macaques can catch human diseases and then pass them back, so that the now legal provision to not touch the macaques remains as relevant as ever.
Mr Speaker, I will now turn to Heritage matters.
The last year brought with it financial constraints, and the coming year will again see reduced funds available. Despite this, the Ministry for Heritage together with all other heritage stakeholders have continued and will continue to work diligently to protect and enhance our heritage.
The Heritage and Antiquities Advisory Council (HAAC) continues to advise me on all matters relating to heritage and is proving to be an invaluable asset. Last year a sub-committee of HAAC was established in order to produce a Heritage Vision for Gibraltar. The draft Vision is now almost complete. Parliamentary Reports on the Council’s activities will also be laid here soon.
Heritage sensitive private properties will be listed in the near future.
After fifty years of neglect, the 9.2-inch gun barrel, carriage and pedestal that was once at Levant Battery has been removed from the Metalrok Eco Park in Flint Road and transported to a holding and restoration area at Brewery Crusher for future display at Europa Point. The Ministry for Heritage, supported by the Gibraltar Heritage Trust and in collaboration with Metalrok Ltd and Montverde & Sons Ltd are finally making what was once considered a pipe dream a much awaited reality.
The Ministry for Heritage also completed the restoration and transfer of the last two 25-pounder QF Field Guns in Gibraltar from the Royal Gibraltar Regiment on display at the 100 Ton Gun Visitor Facility. Without the help of Gibdock, Monteverde, and Pete Jackson from the Gibraltar Heritage Trust the guns would still be hidden away in a neglected state, the project is yet another example of the spirit of collaboration, which prevails in Gibraltar in the interest of preserving our unique heritage.
While on this theme, the Ministry for Heritage, the Gibraltar Heritage Trust and Alabare (a UK based charity) have been involved in the restoration of Lord Airey’s Battery, an iconic asset located at the top of the rock.
I am also pleased to announce that the Ministry for Heritage Website, which we launched last year, has proved very useful and successful due to the array of information available. Both heritage enthusiasts and professionals locally, and from heritage institutions abroad request information regularly. The website continues to expand with new maps and information.
An entire new section with guidance notes aimed at applicants who need to provide information with any planning applications and its implications for cultural heritage has been added. The key message to all potential applicants is to seek advice at the earliest opportunity as safeguarding our cultural heritage does not mean preventing development or sustainable change. It means managing that change in order to retain and protect significant heritage places, sites or objects, which are important to our community.
The Ministry for Heritage in collaboration with the Upper Rock and Beaches Maintenance Team have placed eleven new interpretation panels at the City Under Siege Exhibition, they contain new content and designs that will enhance the visitor experience. Additional heritage items such as a replica canon and artillery pieces from the Great Siege era have also been placed at the exhibition. The Gibraltar National Museum has also restored the mannequins providing the site with a much-needed improvement.
Further interpretation panels will also be placed at the Almond Tower in order to commemorate its restoration and enhance the visitor experience as they travel to the Tower of Homage. Panels will also be placed at Casemates Square detailing Gibraltar’s rich medieval heritage from both our Islamic and Spanish Periods.
Mr Speaker, I will also like to remind members of the house that in another collaborative effort between the Ministry for Heritage, Gibraltar National Museum, TSD and GJBS we have started restoring the Convent Façade. Works are progressing rapidly under the guidance of the Gibraltar National Museum Conservator.
I am happy to report that the restoration of Southport Gates, the Tower of Homage and the façade of the future St. Mary’s Lower Primary School will also commence in the foreseeable future.
Phase I of the restoration of the Town Range Bakery Ovens has now been completed.
The present ovens at Town Range date to 1935 and were used by the Army Catering Corps to supply bread to the Gibraltar Garrison. Many locals also availed themselves of this ‘pan de lata’ as the bread baked at the Town Range Bakery became affectionately known because the dough was placed in tin containers before being baked.
I would like to thank the Ministry for Heritage and Western Isles Ltd for their work in bringing to life a small, but important aspect of Gibraltar’s unique history, now restored for future generations.
We continue refurbishing many of our City Plaques as well as restoring and repainting our old street signs
Another unseen but fundamental part of the work undertaken by the Ministry for Heritage is its archaeological supervisions through watching briefs.
All developments are regularly supervised by the Government Archaeologist, these include, Orange Bastion, North Gorge, the Ex-Casino development and the new St. Mary’s School at Town Range, amongst many others. The former TOC-H site immediately adjacent to Southport Gates will also be supervised.
It is therefore important to note that expert advice on all heritage sensitive matters relating to developments through the planning system continues as well as educational outreach programs via schools and youth clubs.
The close working relationship the Ministry for Heritage has with other heritage stakeholders such as the Gibraltar National Museum, Gibraltar Heritage Trust and the Garrison Library as well as with other departments such Town Planning, and Technical Services amongst others ensures that heritage sensitive work is undertaken to the highest standards.
The close working relationship with the Gibraltar Heritage Trust continues and is indeed going from strength to strength.
The mutual support that now exists between the Trust and the Ministry on day-to-day work allows projects to continue unimpeded. Rolling projects such as the tampion project, the Artillery Park, and other ad hoc repair and renewal projects are a few examples.
The Witham’s Cemetery was formally presented just a few weeks ago and proves the Trust’s commitment to practical conservation.
The Fortress of Gibraltar Group continues to give support in the form of historical knowledge and resources for works related to Gibraltar’s fortifications.
In the Gibraltar Garrison Library, we have seen that the determination of the small library team has shone throughout. Not only did they keep their day-to-day going through the establishment of online services during lockdown, but have continued to do so, engaging with international research enquiries, those from Gibraltar and indeed, direct footfall enquiries which are on the up.
The Garrison Library has continued to build capacity, over this last year, and I feel sure that part of this is due to the fact that they now have a dynamic social media presence with their posts now reaching almost 11,000 people – remarkably, this was achieved within a nine-month period.
By way of offering a good example of how this has worked out, the Garrison Library team was approached by CILIP, the Library and Information association in the UK, to present a virtual tour of the Library. The Garrison Library organised this tour only last month, and the feedback has been hugely gratifying in that the Gibraltar Garrison Library tour has been the most successful and best attended of all their virtual tours.
The reinvigorated Board of the Library, which I have the honour to chair, has most certainly ensured that the Garrison Library more and more becomes an integral part of our community.
Mr Speaker, I am delighted to report that the activities at the Gibraltar National Museum are now “back to normal”. In fact, on the 21st of May we were all able to enjoy the museum’s open day, the first since 2019.
The Calpe Conference programme continues its natural process of recovery. This year’s conference will be, once again, a truly international one. This one is going to be a particularly significant for me personally, as it commemorates the work of one of the most inspirational characters of my formative years. Reginald Moreau at Oxford University was the leading light in the study of bird migration between Europe and Africa and he wrote a seminal book on the subject fifty years ago. So, Calpe is bringing together some of the world’s leading specialists to discuss progress in this field in the last fifty years. It is highly appropriate that this should happen in Gibraltar, where Europe meets Africa, and I have to say that my inaugural speech at the event is something I am particularly looking forward to, as it will make reference to the importance of the work of Gibraltar based naturalists and scientists in the study of bird migration.
The work at Gorham’s Cave also continues to return to normality. This year we will have two visiting teams, from Leiden University in the Netherlands and Liverpool John Moores University in the United Kingdom. The excavations have commenced and will continue until mid-August. One of the main targets will be the exciting new chamber that was revealed in Vanguard Cave last year, a space that had been sealed for over forty thousand years.
I am pleased to report that last month I officially launched a new Gallery dedicated to the Pillars of Hercules, a wonderful display of our heritage from the classical period and a testament to the richness of the material that we have from that period.
Our children have emerged from the depths of the pandemic, affected but resilient, and their teachers advise me that educationally, they have by and large made up for lost time. But clearly there will be residual effects. The isolating effect of the lockdowns has had an impact on children’s socialisation in particular. This, together with the trauma experienced by families, has had and continues to have long-lasting repercussions in the lives of the children and young people in our community. Although children and young people are remarkably resilient, school staff have been extra mindful of all learners’ needs as we continue to emerge from the grasp of the pandemic and all in our schools have been working hard to restore normality in teaching and learning, whatever normality is.
Special Educational Needs and Disabilities
One of the most important areas under my responsibility is of course that of Special Education Needs and Disabilities.
I am pleased to say that one notable project that we have been able to complete is the new home for St Martin’s School. After the delays caused by the difficulties the construction industry faced during Covid, the start of this academic year saw St Martin’s pupils and staff move into their new school building. This fantastic purpose-built school has enabled us to offer a wider range of learning experiences for our pupils. In addition to a larger and more bespoke learning environment, the new school building has a greater range of therapeutic opportunities to support our pupils’ skill development, including rebound therapy and hydrotherapy.
All staff at St Martin’s School have recently received training on Manual Handling. A number of GHA therapists and key St Martin’s School staff were also trained in Hydrotherapy. This provision will be up and running in the school very shortly, following extensive planning with other agencies including GHA and GSLA.
Introduction of Hydrotherapy at St Martin’s
Hydrotherapy utilises the properties of warm water to provide an effective mode of treatment and exercise for people with physical and sensory disabilities. The children who use this facility will benefit from the many significant, evidence based, benefits of this type of therapy, which include a reduction in muscle tone, spasticity and pain.
The trend we have noticed over the past few years, of an increase in the number of pupils with SEND, is continuing. In fact, the number of pupils in St. Martin’s School, and in our LSFs, has increased significantly in comparison to previous years.
This current academic year, we had a greater number of pupils starting in our Early Birds Nursery than we had ever seen previously, and this coming September 2022, we will have a higher number of pupils moving from Early Birds into Reception at St Martin’s School than we have ever had. We will be ready to meet their needs.
The Outreach Programme from St Martin’s School into our Learning Support Facilities (LSFs) continues across all sectors. We also have a small number of pupils who are on an Inreach Programme from our LSFs into St Martin’s School. All these, pupils benefit from opportunities to further develop on their learning journey.
By the end of this year all schools will have received Dyslexia training following the Made By Dyslexia pledge, signed by the Chief Minister in September 2019. Moreover, electronic Dyslexia screening for all our current year 3 pupils will have been completed.
Our commitment to a larger complement of Special Needs Learning Support Assistants (SNLSAs) will help our schools to support pupils with additional needs. Both SNLSAs and teaching staff continue to show great levels of care, dedication and commitment to ensure the provision we offer our pupils is of the highest level possible.
The Department of Education continues to focus on pupil well-being, a hugely important and core area of a child’s educational journey; there is recognition of the importance of early intervention to prevent the escalation of mental health concerns and help build happy healthy young people ready to learn and who can achieve their potential in all areas of their lives, not just the academic. The Department of Education works closely with numerous other agencies, NGOs and charities to enhance this vital area:
The School Counselling Service continues to support our learners with their emotional well-being. The team of 4 continues to work giving 1:1 support to learners in all sectors; primary through to secondary including the College. The team also plays an important role in liaising with and supporting parents of their clients. Likewise they advise the teachers,giving them tools to better support the children and young people in their care. Counsellors have also played an important role in staff training including bereavement training. They continue to access a range of personal development opportunities to keep adding to their own repertoire of counselling skills, as well as accessing regular supervision in line with the requirements of their professional associations.
Our Manifesto commitment to increase the complement of Counsellors, and indeed Educational Psychologists has been set back,, but remains a commitment which as I have said in answers to questions here, we intend to fulfil during the lifetime of this Parliament.
School Well-being Initiatives/staff training
Schools have been proactive in continuing to develop children and young people’s emotional well-being. They recognise the importance of early intervention to help children develop positive mental well-being and engage in productive learning. They have engaged in a large number of initiatives which aim to develop a child’s emotional well-being: resilience through sport, buddy benches and friendship corners, and well-being days to name just a few. Along with the advisory team, working parties for PSHE and Well-being engage over 50 members of staff across all sectors, who meet termly to share good practice and celebrate the work being carried out. The working parties will also be working with GIBSAMs towards the well-being festival to be held in October 2022.
Continued professional development has also focussed on training to develop skills and knowledge to continue enhancing children and young people’s emotional well-being.
There continues to be a growing number of children in our education system who have been impacted by trauma; children who have a high number of ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences). Some of these children are in residential care, some are still living at home and others spend time in and out of prison.
The school environment can be a challenging place for these children, causing high levels of anxiety in the pupils themselves, staff and other pupils as well. Education has endeavoured to address this in a number of ways:
- The TLC - continues to provide additional support for our most vulnerable who are unable to engage in mainstream education. It has helped to fill the gap and provide a base and a lifeline for a number of our most vulnerable children. The flexibility outside the school setting has given these children a calmer, more flexible environment within which they can access both academic and more therapeutic activities. It also provides a base for a bereavement group and a youth group for children with additional needs.
- 1 to 1 support for young people in the prison system and identified pupils to help them re-engage with mainstream schooling.
Training has been provided for education staff to increase their understanding of trauma, bereavement, school based anxiety and emotionally based school avoidance.
- Approximately 400 members of staff across disciplines will have received safeguarding training this academic year alone. Over 1100 members of staff have received training since September 2018.
- Education continues to work closely with Care Agency, RGP and GHA to engage processes to support vulnerable pupils and families as well as collaborative work to devise strategy and work towards improvement of services for our most vulnerable pupils.
- Numerous school based projects initiated by teachers and those involving NGOs, charities and outside agencies have aimed to support our most vulnerable pupils, to increase their focus, address self esteem, motivation and emotional regulation.
Staff Well Being
Educators need to be the best versions of themselves in order to support learners and work to their best ability, at times in very stressful circumstances both personal and professional.
School-led initiatives have taken place, sometimes with the engagement of NGOs. Education staff in schools and the advisory team continue to liaise with the Government Well-Being Team to support staff well-being so that they are able to deliver the best education possible to our children and young people.
Educating on Climate Change
In keeping with my commitment at COP26, Schools continue to promote sustainable practices in school and work towards encompassing all priority climate change objectives within the curriculum. They continue to employ educational initiatives in schools to develop understanding and awareness around climate change. The NGO’s support schools and provide valuable support and expertise.
ClimACT Schools Gibraltar, an education staff action group, works to promote and share good practice across all schools. We are confident that our children and young people will act as change agents within their own families and communities, encouraging more mindful choices which help reduce the impact of climate change.
Scholarship Numbers in the 2021/2022 Academic Year were
- 804 Mandatory Undergraduate Scholarships,
- 176 Postgraduate Scholarships
- 85 Discretionary Scholarships
We currently have 1065 students in Higher Education despite the challenges that the pandemic has thrown at our economy, something to make the community proud.
Mr Speaker, we will this year continue to provide for all the mandatory scholarships, which will likely mean we will have more students in Higher Education than ever. However, we will need to continue be selective in those under 18 and others going through the Discretionary route. This is of course no reflection on the students, and I ask young people, and families, to be patient, to look at alternative sources of funds and at constructive ways of using the time available should they not be successful.
Teaching and Learning with Digital Technologies
All our upper and lower primary schools have now embarked on our digital teaching and learning initiative. The roll out to secondary schools which began prior to the disruption caused by COVID has now also been completed. We are targeting the next academic year to bring the Gibraltar College into the initiative whilst continuing to support our colleagues at St Martin’s School. This financial year we have rolled out an additional 700 devices in support of this initiative. Each primary school now has access to a cart of iPads in each year group, vastly increasing the usage of these devices to support learning and teaching in our schools.
The September 2021 Year 10 Cohort was the first one ever in Gibraltar to benefit from this equalisation of the KS4 (Level 2 / GCSE) curriculum. This was so overdue and I am very pleased that all our young people will now have equal opportunities at this stage. Our first mixed-gender cohort in Bayside and Westside were both offered the same range of courses for their GCSE / Level 2 journey, and our Year 10 learners commenced on the courses of their choice in September of this academic year.
September 2021 also saw the first cohort of learners undertaking a Level 3 BTEC in Music Performance. This course is being offered by the Gibraltar College in partnership with GAMPA, and is a model that we will be following in order to be able to offer more vocational courses
Our teaching and learning initiative continues to develop digital skills in young learners and some of the learning that is being demonstrated by our young learners is breath-taking.
Other developments in this area will be announced soon.
I will mention one, already mentioned by the Deputy Chief Minister, which in fact cuts across two of my areas of responsibility Heritage and Education.
The Northern Defences and the Mount are two remarkable sites from a historic and environmental point of view. But what makes these sites so tantalising is their potential to engage our younger generations.
As from September we are aiming to create a whole new educational programme which unleashes the creativity and ability of our students. Unrestricted by the walls of a classroom; the Northern Defences and The Mount create the perfect setting for our younger generations to learn outdoors.
To quote the College brochure: “It will be a unique experience for our learners to redefine learning in real life projects. Connecting students to the real world with a vision of enhancing creativity and purpose in a range of vocational fields”
The Department of Education together with the College School of Business have been developing this concept during the last year. Courses will touch from managing events and guided tours, to business planning and software applications. It will serve to introduce students to the world of botany, geology, heritage and architecture. Many can apply their skills to videography and mindfulness. Others may wish to engage in the construction world and be led by our finest experts who will lead them through challenges.
This opportunity, will not only provide students with a wide choice of progression options into further study, put also provide them with a sense of purpose and they will witness first hand what can be achieved.
This academic year, the Government significantly increased the complement of teachers by 97 new members of staff and the complement of SNLSAs by 122, recognising the importance of investing in the Education of our children and young people.
The commitment to the increase in staffing has been made further to recent developments in our educational system, such as the opening of morning nursery placements, the provision of Learning Support Facilities in two additional schools, the introduction of new vocational pathways, and the equalisation of curriculum opportunities in both secondary schools further to the realignment of the key stages, not to mention co-education from Year 7, something which we now take so much for granted. The impact of these systemic developments together with larger pupil cohorts and the growth in the number of pupils overall and in those with additional needs were carefully considered and directly informed the commitment to increasing the teacher and SNLSA staffing complements.
Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
The Department of Education, including its senior staff in all schools, together with colleagues in other departments, agencies and authorities, have worked hard over the course of this academic year to establish a more robust and meaningful CPD programme for teachers, as well as valuable CPD opportunities for all other Education staff.
In addition to a wide range of individual school-specific INSET foci which have taken place throughout the course of the year, the Department of Education gathered together en masse on April 29th for an Education-wide INSET day which saw over 750 staff from all Gibraltar Government Education establishments gathered at the Bayside/Westside complex for the first full inter school INSET training day ever organised. The event was designed to offer teacher, SNLSA and nursery nurse participants choice and variety, with over 100 different 1.5 hour workshops on offer over the course of the day. Workshop topics focused on a wide range of 60 foci directly related to learning and teaching.
The Department of Education has a very large team of staff and I value the professional contributions of all of the roles within each school. It was a fantastic day which will have planted many seeds to be developed further in the future and which benefited tremendously from the wealth of knowledge, experience, insight and enthusiasm of all Education staff members, and be built on further next academic year.
Ongoing Collaboration with GHA/PH Colleagues
Areas of collaborative working with health care include:
- Flu Campaign
- Mental Health, Social and Emotional Well-being Strategy
- Interagency Model to support the mental health needs of children and young adults and referral pathways.
- Management of diabetes in schools/college.
- School Nursing Model for St Martin’s School.
- Student health surveys.
Revised Catchment Areas
The Department of Education has reviewed and revised the catchment areas for HMGoG schools, with a view to ensuring that these are as geographically appropriate as possible. This exercise has also been conducted to ensure that pupil distributions across schools provide the best possible pupil:staff ratios. A powerful and versatile Geographic Information System (GIS) developed and managed by the Department of the Environment has been used to inform this process for all Nursery enrolments for September 2022, and, moving forward, will allow the Department of Education to manage catchment areas in a more dynamic manner ahead of each new academic year. This methodology will enable the Department to facilitate more effective responses to the changing needs of our community’s demographic over time.
The Department of Education has, once again, very carefully scrutinised all applications for eligibility, particularly from the point of view of residency.
Although the changes are not too extensive, the amendments made will have lasting significant impact. The move to more geographically appropriate catchment areas will help to further define and distinguish each school’s community in a manner that makes more sense physically. This will help the children and young people from a social perspective as well as facilitate closer links between each school’s location and the catchment area which it serves. The changes will hopefully also help make school drop offs easier and encourage families to walk to school.
This further supports the Government’s move towards a more child-friendly city and to reducing the use of motor vehicles. Gibraltar has changed a great deal in the last decade, and centres of population are changing. We have been considering these changes for some years now, but the trauma that we suffered through the pandemic delayed the process. The new catchment areas better reflect the current situation and should also have benefits for our environmental agenda.
We continues to develop the Education website and online services via education.gov.gi. This website was launched in the midst of the pandemic as a way of providing stakeholders with information and quickly developed as services were digitised and improved upon. The Department has now fully digitised and streamlined the pupil Enrolment and Scholarship processes in order to better serve the public. The website also includes information on accessing the Educational Psychologists and other support mechanisms offered by the Department of Education. Over time we will continue to see other Department of Education processes come online to better serve the public who rely on our services.
We are currently overseeing the construction of 3 new schools, with the bespoke buildings for St Mary’s, Governor’s Meadow and Bishop Fitzgerald all due to be completed in time for opening in September 2023.
Plans are proceeding also towards a new Gibraltar College and Hebrew Primary School, with improvements planned for those schools which will stay at their current sites, namely both St Joseph’s schools and St Paul’s, where we have recently opened a new wing and forest zone. We are close, Mr Speaker, to achieving something that no one could have imagine, the virtually complete renewal of almost the whole of our Education Real Estate.
There are many other plans, aimed at diversifying and widening the opportunities available to our young, and in ensuring that Education helps make them fulfil their dreams, take their place in the community, here or in the wider world.
And so I look forward to taking on more and more challenges, and working with all in Education to continue to progress on things that have needed fixing for a long time, but more importantly to achieve new and better ways of helping our young people to be better than us.
UNIVERSITY OF GIBRALTAR
And so to the University of Gibraltar. I have a lot to say, precisely because this creation of this Government is doing so incredibly well.
Academic and Professional Portfolio
To date the University has enrolled over 500 students during the academic year ending 31 July 2022 into a combination of academic programmes, professional and continuing education courses, training certificates and language courses.
The University’s portfolio of academic programmes continues to grow. This past year saw the University offering undergraduate degrees in business, nursing and maritime science, complimented by a range of access courses (including a new nursing access course which provides a career path for nursing assistants) and post-graduate degrees in research (PhD) in education, business and marine science.
Students enrolled on these core academic programmes have increased from 30 in the academic year 2018/19 and 134 in 2020/21 to 189 in 2021/22 (as of May 2022). The latter are from 28 different nationalities, coming from as far as Brazil, Singapore, Philippines and Mexico, with the top five nationalities excluding Gibraltar, being UK, Spain, United States, Morocco and Canada. There is now a diverse student community residing at the Europa Suites accommodation.
Graduates of the University are also increasing with 21 graduating in December 2020, 38 in 2021 and an anticipated 78 (which includes 3 local PhD students) graduating in December 2022. To-date all ceremonies have been undertaken face to face and internationally live-streamed.
Following extensive consultation with industry and successful completion of a rigorous UK validation process during this past year, the University will offer a further 2 new degrees from September 2022:
- BSc (Hons) in Computing & Entrepreneurship. This practically orientated degree provides students with the technical skills (e.g., computer programming, coding) to develop a computational product or service and the business and entrepreneurial skills to commercialise the product or service and grow the associated business. Through the University’s collaborative partner the new and flourishing Gibraltar Digital Skills Academy students are also provided the opportunity to obtain industry certifications (e.g. Google, Microsoft) for a number of computing modules. Several local firms have already offered to provide paid internships during student studies and have shown interest in recruiting graduates of this degree.
- A Masters in Education. Developed in consultation with the Department of Education, this degree focuses on current practitioner’s seeking to extend the breadth and depth of their existing knowledge and experience as members of the education profession and is being offered as either a two year or four-year part-time programme, the latter also providing CPD opportunities.
During the upcoming academic year, the University will be working with industry to develop a number of other new academic programmes including: a MSc in Advanced Health Practice and a MSc in Contemporary Health care; a MSc in Environmental Science and Climate Change, a BSc Adult Nursing International Top-up and a MSc Psychology (Addiction).
In addition to its academic programmes, the University has provided a range of professional, continuing education and short courses, all aimed at addressing local needs and covering topics that include: Gibraltar law, blockchain and smart contracts, accounting (e.g. AAT), responsible gambling, digital marketing, creative thinking and problem solving,.
In March 2022 the Professional Development department launched its Remote Gambling online course which replaced the Responsible Gambling online course. This was in response to industry feedback and relevant updates in the industry.
In May 2022, the Professional Development department also launched a Professional Diploma of Competence in Financial Services. The first of its kind, this cross-sector qualification, which was developed in direct consultation with the Regulator and each industry sector will serve as an industry standard. The qualification which has been endorsed by the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission, is Gibraltar-centric in terms of practices, procedures and law and will provide a solid foundation into licensable activities within Financial Services in Gibraltar, as well as harmonisation in terms of dialogue and understanding between sectors.
During the past year, the University Maritime Academy, launched its first two technical courses including one for HM customs and another for Police, Environment and Customs staff. In May this year the Academy, in spite of a post-covid critical global shortage of maritime cadet sea-placements and after working closely with HMGoG, local bunkering companies such as Minerva, Peninsula, Grimaldi and GibOil and the UK professional body (MCA) was able to source sea-time placements for all the University’s current maritime cadets.
The University Centre of Excellence in Responsible Gaming (CERG), a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research institute that aims to study the etiological factors of addictive disorders and contribute to their effective prevention and treatment was officially opened in a soft launch attended by Minister Isola and myself this March. In addition to publishing almost 40 academic research papers this past year, the Centre has also assisted with the re-design of the University Responsible Gaming course. The CERG is fast becoming a globally recognised centre having established an International Scientific Advisory Board, with leading scientists in gambling research, addiction psychology and neuroscience from across the world and in May 2022 hosting the European Association Substance Abuse Research (EASAR) Conference a highly prestigious conference attended by researchers from around the globe.
International Quality Recognition, Strategic Plan and Regulation
In November 2021, the University underwent an International Quality Review (IQR) by the UK Quality Assurance Agency, (QAA) and was subsequently found to have met all 10 higher education quality standards. As a result, the University was awarded global accreditation by the QAA. Achieving this milestone only six years after its creation through the work of the then Minister for Education, the Hon Gilbert Licudi, is a testament to the sheer hard work and commitment shown by the entire Unigib team as well as the ongoing support of the University Board of Governors, Academic Board and its subcommittees as well as Government. The achievement also supports the University vision of ‘an institution of excellence in teaching, learning and research’, while enhancing the University’s reputation and global image. As stated by the QAA’s CEO, Vicki Scott, by achieving QAA global accreditation, the University had displayed its compatibility with international best practice.
The current University strategic plan (2019-2022) ends on the 31 July 2022 with the accompanying final progress report anticipated to be published shortly thereafter. Development of a new strategic plan for the academic years ending 2023 - 2026, is underway and commenced in early November 2021In line with previous years, the new Plan’s priorities, goals, and actions for AYE 2023 will be incorporated into individual Unigib performance objectives this upcoming year.
The steady growth and development of the University during the past almost 7 years, and feedback from external higher education specialists (the University Advisory Board of the GRA, the UK Quality Assurance Agency and Universities UK), necessitated a review of certain aspects of the University of Gibraltar 2015 Act. These amendments were passed unanimously in this House last month.
Recruitment, Tuition and Subvention
In spite of extremely challenging targets and the constraints posed by the ability of international students to travel, the September 2021 recruitment campaign was successful with tuition fee income increasing from £488,682 in the University year ended 31 July 2019 to £1,324,507 in the year ended 31 July 2021. Moreover, tuition income is estimated to reach £1.8m by 31 July 2022. This growth reflects the University’s ability to recruit increasing numbers of local, regional and international students attracted by the University’s quality student experience.
As a result of increasing student numbers, the University continues to work towards a much greater degree of self-financing with the proportion of income, excluding donations, provided by the HMGoG subvention steadily decreasing from 86% in the year ended 31 July 2017 to a forecast 36% in the year ended 31 July 2022. This positive progress towards much greater self-financing is expected to continue, with the current HMGoG annual subvention again being significantly reduced by £250k to £1.0 million, representing a reduction of 20% compared to the previous year.
The University has been able to continue face-to-face teaching throughout the past academic year, whilst keeping sensible precautions in place in accordance with latest Public Health advice.
The University is now also operating from its North Wing, the old St Christopher’s School. In addition to CERG offices, the North Wing now hosts three classrooms, a staff room, a mixed-use room and several offices, all refurbished and in use. There is also a large assembly hall that has been repurposed for use by Maritime students undertaking practical studies such as chart reading. The remaining rooms will be refurbished as finances allow over time.
On the 4th December 2021, the University held the formal ceremony to celebrate the installation of the Chancellor (Sir Lindsay Hoyle) and the Vice-Chancellor (Prof Catherine Bachleda) together with two ceremonies to celebrate graduates from the BBA, MBA, PGCE, MSc marine.
With regards to my legislative agenda, I have in the Order Paper to proceed later this year, a Bill for an Act to create the Gibraltar National Park and another to prohibit the Fur Trade.
Work is proceeding so as to be able to commence the Medicinal Cannabis Act, as well as on subsidiary legislation to the Climate Change Act including the setting up of the Climate Action Fund and the Near Zero Delivery Body.
The updated Education Act and the new Cultural Act and a revised Entertainment Act are in the final stages of stakeholder consultation.
Improvements to the Heritage and Antiquities Act are being worked on and the Environmental Agency is advising me on the updating of the Food hygiene regulations as well as the introduction of Allergens legislation.
An Environmental Governance Act, a revised Garrison Library Act and a number of Acts which subdivide and modernise the archaic and voluminous Public Health Act, including one of Waste, are also in preparation.
Finally, Mr Speaker, I want to congratulate Mr Kishin Alwani, an outstanding contributor to the Arts, for his OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, and also Lewis Stagnetto of the Nautilus Project for the award of the British Empire Medal in this year’s New Year’s Honours list for his environmental work, as well as Paulette Finlayson-Napoli for the Gibraltar Ward, and also as mentioned earlier Seamus Byrne for the Governor’s Award, the latter for their work in Culture.
I want to mention the retirement of Dr Terence Ocana, Head teacher of St Joseph’s Upper Primary School after many years’ service to Education, of Paul Origo, as Town Planner, as well as of Jessica Alecia, who retired this year after many years’ service to successive Environment Ministers as PA. And Sue Davies of the World Heritage Office who has been instrumental in the work related to our World Heritage Site.
Finally, Mr Speaker, as ever, I wish to express my thanks to my personal staff and of course to my Heads of Departments and CEOs, and their staff for their hard work, at all hours and every day, and for their constant support. To all the schools who make me feel so welcome in all my visits, to all the staff in my Departments and the Agencies and contractors that work to them as well as to the GEA, LPS, GSLA and Technical Services. To NASUWT, UNITE and GGCA for their constructive work. To all the NGOs, associations, schools and academies, environmental, cultural, educational – who are so committed to what they believe in, often working as volunteers, for being committed, honest and reasonable in pursuing their aims.
To all those many citizens appointed to voluntary boards, working groups, and committees for which I am responsible. And to those in other Departments with whom I have regular contact, such as the staff at No 6 including the offices of the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister, Chief Secretary, Financial Secretary, Chief Technical Officer and Civil Contingencies, and at the Gibraltar Law Offices for always being there when I need them.
Thanks also to you, Mr Speaker and your staff, and to the Chief Minister Deputy Chief Minister and colleagues.
And finally, to His Excellency the Governor, Sir David Steel, for the genuine interest that he shows in the work of the different parts of my Ministry, and for his constant encouragement.
Mr Speaker, we lived in a blessed community; we have so much to enjoy, so much to be grateful for. Let us never forget that and continue to live, proud of our homeland, and able to withstand any difficulties that may come our way.
And with that, I too commend the Bill to the House.