ALTERNATIVE GCSE VICTORY
April 21, 2015 by David Gibbins
Following a short, but sustained campaign at the end of 2012, the Government of Gibraltar, through the Department of Education, has changed policy for local schools to finally end the years of religious domination of the 'Extra' GCSE. Until now, students who did not wish to follow the R.E. curriculum for any reason were expected to either sit inside the classroom and 'read' or, according to anecdotal evidence, on occasion were made to sit outside in a communal area or vacant classroom whilst the lesson was in progress.
David Gibbins' children had been excused R.E. lessons since middle school for reasons of atheism and as she turned 14, his eldest daughter Kelly had expressed a desire to be excluded from GCSE R.E. but was concerned that, as a straight A student, she would lose out on attaining her full GCSE potential by there not being an alternative.
Once this had been brought to his attention, David decided to email the head of the school and try to change the unfair system that discriminated against those who had the backbone to stand against the outdated dogma that still invades our places of education, he considered it incongruous that a place where physics, chemistry, biology, geology, mathematics and other factual scientific subjects were still taught alongside an archaic mythology that should have been relegated to become a module of the history curriculum many years ago.Following a series of emails between he & Dr George Garcia, headmaster of Westside School, he was finally told that Government policy did not allow for any alternative to the R.E. GCSE and there were no plans to change the system. Finding that he was getting nowhere fast, David moved up the food chain and took the fight directly to the Ministry of Education, to which end he emailed his concerns to Dr Joey Britto.
Dr Britto was extremely concerned about the issue and he assured David of his attention to the matter. After a lengthy delay, no more information was forthcoming, so David got back in touch with Dr Britto and was told that he had already had a meeting with the Minister who had agreed that the situation required immediate attention. As a result, government policy had been changed to ensure that the secondary schools in Gibraltar would be made to offer a reasonable alternative to R.E.
Dr Britto then spoke with Dr Garcia from Westside School and asked him to begin work on a viable alternative, which he did without further ado. David made contact with Dr Garcia in December of 2012 and arranged a meeting whereby he was informed that the subject of 'General Studies' was actively being added to the shool's curriculum and would be ready for pupils currently selcting their options, although he was told that the subject would not be 'Advertised' and would only be offered to those already opting out of R.E.
Elated with the swift action taken by those involved, David decided to wait for the promised contact to let him know that the arrangements were finalised. At the end of january, he decided to poke around a little more and was told by Dr Garcia that suitable arrangements had now been made and were in place ready for the students who needed it. He was not given any further information by Dr Garcia, and it seemed that no more was going to be forthcoming, so he contacted Dr Britto again to try and procure the new legislation that is now in place.
True to form, Dr Britto answered very promptly and, although it was only to say that he was away in the UK on business, he did promise to address the request upon his return.
"Where they opt out of Religious Education, the school does not offer tuition in an alternative subject, so it cannot be replaced by another"
" I have spoken to the Headteacher and he is working on a viable alternative to the RE GCSE so that children in the same position as your daughter are able to get the full number of GCSEs "
" This is a giant leap forward for education in Gibraltar and places us at the forefront of balanced teaching, with a fresh and enlightened approach to study that will benefit all students who wish to put religious doctrine in it's rightful place - alongside mythology and legend"