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Granite of the apes

You mean the Rock? The little corner of Spain that is forever England?

Whatever you do, don't say it's a corner of Spain to the Gibraltarians.

Negotiations have been going on between Britain and Spain over a deal to give Madrid a share of sovereignty. Meanwhile, the inhabitants arefuriously waving their Union Jacks and remain Rock solid in theiropposition to the deal.

Gibraltar is at the southernmost tip of Europe, a British dependentterritory which is self-governing in all matters except foreign policy. It has a sub-tropical climate and is warm for most of the year.

Gibraltar is a bit like stepping back into the Fifties, a sort of Daily Mail ideal that's more British than Old Blighty itself. It's also famous for its monkeys. Legend has it that the British will leave if Gibraltar's colony of Barbary apes dies out. So beware Spaniards with high-velocity rifles.

So what are the schools like?

Schools in Gibraltar are much like British schools but with a few palm trees thrown in. Children do GCSEs, A and AS-levels through UK exam boards, and all its teachers are trained back in Britain. There are six first schools, four middle schools, two secondary single-sex schools, one further education college, a Hebrew school and a special school.

There's no teacher recruitmentcrisis on the Rock - the government of Gibraltar employs some 10 new staff a year and can more or less pick and choose. Interviews take place at Easter and candidates are then put on a waiting list until a vacancy arises. Gibraltar also employs around 14 supply teachers each year, although a recent flu epidemic has left the authority short of cover staff.

But what are the advantages of working there?

Well, for one thing there are no league tables. Some schools opt to do SATs tests, but they don't have to. Newly qualified teachers can do their induction year there, and theircredentials will still be valid back in the UK. Pay and conditions are broadly the same as those in the UK, and there's a non-contributory pension scheme.

Leslie Lester, Gibraltar's director of education and training, said:

"People comment on how English our schools look. They're very well resourced as well, in terms of books and equipment."

British subjects employed by the government of Gibraltar, including teachers, are allowed to live there without any sort of permit.

Is there much to do when the marking's done?

Gibraltar has five beaches and three marinas and, inevitably, water sports are extremely popular. So think diving, sailing, and dolphin watching. It's also handy for Spain, there's a ferry to Tangier, and it's a haven for shoppers - for the moment at least, it's exempt from VAT.

Can I afford to live there?

There's always a catch. Most people live in apartments, and a three-bedroom apartment will probably set you back about pound;130,000. Rents are also sky high - to rent the same apartment would cost you around pound;900 a week.

email: martinwhittaker@ntlworld.com

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