9 Feb, 2016 @ 12:41
2 mins read

A school for Gibraltar

prior head
Headmaster Peter Watts

IT is a hive of activity in the airy offices of Prior Park School Gibraltar, overlooking Main Street.

The first day of term is not until this September – but headmaster Peter Watts has plenty to prepare for Gibraltar’s first ever independent co-educational secondary school.

The beautiful old Sacred Heart campus
The beautiful old Sacred Heart campus

The faith school, in the beautiful old Sacred Heart campus, will cater for 240 boys and girls at capacity, starting with Years 8, 9 and 10 this year and sixth form twelve months later.

Thirty teachers will be employed, roughly a ten-to-one student-to-staff ratio, and an Online classroom will video-link some classes from Prior Park College in Bath.

When we meet, Peter has spent the morning negotiating school lunch options with caterers and studying some of the 260 staff job applications which have flooded Prior’s mailbox.

“I’m enjoying the preparations, but I can’t wait for the school to open,” the 47-year-old Physics teacher says.

“It won’t feel real to me until I have to tell the first child off for running down the corridor!” he jokes.

Headmaster Peter Watts
Headmaster Peter Watts

Although discipline will be important, Peter is adamant pastoral care and balance are key to a great education – and that ‘valuable homework doesn’t have to take forever to do’.

On popular parental demand, a homework club will mean children can enjoy quality family time at home, and Peter also wants student action in the community.

There may well also be English language support for interested parents.

“A big element of what a Prior Park student will be what they do for other people,” he continues.

It is the first big adventure for Peter since he and his wife, Diana, ‘very irresponsibly’ took their children out of school for a term for a round the world sabbatical trip in 2010.

The family in Queenstown, New Zealand
The family in Queenstown, New Zealand

The ‘amazing, eye-opening’ trip started in New York and finished in Calcutta, via Zealand, Australia and India, seeing them travel parts of India on public transport with their children, ten and eight at the time.

“I still maintain that they learnt more at their age than they would have learnt in ten weeks of school,” he assures me.

It is this lateral approach to education that indicates Peter will be an excellent headmaster.

That, and the fact that he was a housemaster for 11 years and more recently Deputy Head at top UK school Sherborne, in Dorset, taking the wishes and ambitions of the children under his care seriously.

Until now, Gibraltarians wishing to educate their children on their Rock have not had the option of a mixed gender secondary school.

And expats wishing for a traditional British education had to ship their children away to the UK.

But thanks to a Gibraltar parents’ organisation that collided with a Prior Park alumni jaunt, the idea for the school was born and there are now over 100 children registered, and many more planning to attend.

“Registration is not nearly as ‘done’ here as it is in the UK, but parents wishing for their children to come here should register for their own peace of mind, and it also helps us plan.”

He will be joined by his local government officer wife, Diana, and children William, 15, and Emily, 13, who will move out following William’s GCSEs this summer.

They will live in Gibraltar’s old town, just three minutes’ walk from the school, and whether their four-year-old border collie, Lottie, will join them is still under debate.

Iona Napier

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