The Malta Independent 15 October 2021, Friday

Updated: ‘Mess on eve of new scholastic year’ – Malta Union of Teachers; All is ready, ministry says

Sunday, 26 September 2021, 14:29 Last update: about 19 days ago

The Malta Union of Teachers has described the moving around of teachers to address a primary school educator shortage before the start of the scholastic year as "one of the most messy exercises carried out in the last decade."

Earlier this week, the Education Ministry said in a statement that all State schools are ready to welcome students for the start of the academic year on Wednesday. "All protocols are in place and they have been verified independently by assessors appointed by the ministry." The ministry said the "majority" of teachers and other staff are vaccinated, while 85% of students aged over 16 and 73% of those aged between 12 and 15 have also taken the jab against Covid-19. The ministry said that distance will be maintained among students and between students and the educators, with 109 additional classes opened to make sure that social distancing is followed. Apart from this, another 22 classes will be added because of a rise in the number of students who have been registered.

In the meantime, reports emerged of shortages in primary classrooms in state schools.

The Malta Union of Teachers, in a statement yesterday, said that "information which reached the union indicates that the ministry has up to 150 primary classes without a teacher."

"In one of the most messy exercises carried out in the last decade, several teachers providing essential services in schools including literacy support, complementary teaching, nurture support, subject specialists, support for dyslexia, support for hearing impaired, hospital support etc, received a notification that they were being transferred to a primary class from Monday. This means that they shall not continue to provide the support to students in their designated roles."

The MUT is following these deployment cases and is protesting with the ministry about this "unprecedented deployment exercise. The union has already declared a trade dispute with the ministry earlier this week and is issuing directives to affected teachers."

"The ministry has been boasting for months that it is well prepared to start the new scholastic year. However, it chose to hide this massive problem rather than averting the crisis several months ago. Now, in panic mode, the Ministry for Education is trying to fill these vacancies through a rushed deployment exercise on the eve of the scholastic year, leaving thousands of students without essential services for the entire scholastic year and is expecting teachers to prepare to take a primary class, which they may have never taught, overnight. This is unacceptable."

Ministry reacts

Responding to the MUT's statement, the Education Ministry reiterated that everything is ready for the new scholastic year to begin. It said that it is always ready to discuss with all stakeholders within the education sector.

"The ministry always spoke with the union and, due to the pandemic and the restrictions, realistically the exigencies in these extraordinary circumstances require that a number of primary teachers again temporarily take a primary class, as happened in the last scholastic year."

"The talks about this happened a while back and the ministry was always clear with the union regarding how the deployments were going to happen, by seniority, of teachers from the peripatetic service due to the need for 82 teachers for primary schools, but lately the union has changed its mind." The ministry said that while teachers from the service were chosen to take over primary classes, the service itself will still continue.

The ministry appealed for cooperation from all those in the education sector.





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