Teachers' union says it is still in talks with Education Ministry over reopening of schools

The Malta Union of Teachers says it is still in talks with the Education Ministry over details regarding schools' physical reopening next week as it expresses concern

The MUT says it is still in discussion with the ministry over the physical reopening of schools from Monday
The MUT says it is still in discussion with the ministry over the physical reopening of schools from Monday

Updated at 2pm with the Union of Professional Educators statement 

The Malta Union of Teachers is still in talks with the Education Ministry over the staggered reopening of schools next week.

The union was reacting to the plan unveiled by the Prime Minister to lift COVID-19 restrictions.

The reopening of schools physically will occur from 12 to 16 April with childcare centres, kindergarten centres and primary schools opening on Monday, middle schools opening on Wednesday and secondary schools on Friday. All post-secondary schools will remain online.

The MUT said it hoped the lifting of measures so soon would not cause another wave of infections and endanger people’s health, making schools too unsustainable to operate.

“The decisions and responsibility for opening schools are ultimately up to the government,” the MUT said.

The union said it was still in discussions with Education Minister Justyne Caruana, and therefore the government announcement did not include what was being discussed.

“The MUT is stressing that there should be wise ‘staggering’ of back-to-school entry, which means that different groups in the same school come in day after day so that the school reaches the numbers of students together across a range of days,” the union said.

It said it was ready to continue discussing the details with the Education Ministry in light of what was announced.

“The MUT is also awaiting a discussion to announce the measures that will be taken so that the examinations, among them, of the SEC and MATSEC can be carried out,” the union added.

Vaccination timetable for teachers

The union said there are still hundreds of educators who have not yet received the first dose appointment, while appointments for the second dose start next May.

“We also do not forget that with the variant, there are now also children who are getting the virus in greater numbers, and as we know, children under the age of sixteen have not been vaccinated. This means that the whole community, particularly families and people who come into contact with all children and school workers, must continue to follow all measures in accordance with the protocols,” the MUT said.

UPE statement

In a statement, the Union of Professional Educators (UPE) said while it was not refuting the “the undeniable scientific evidence behind the re-opening of school”, it still had reservations that despite the promise of heightened measures, the Ministry of Education has, until the time of writing, had not been forthcoming with guidelines on how these measures will be heightened, nor has it given an indication on how these heightened measures will be implemented.

“This is yet again placing our schools in a position where they have a very narrow timeframe in which to prepare for added restrictions or strategies adequately,” the union said.

The UPE said it was expecting to see a substantial improvement in the process of contact tracing, where such activity should not exceed 24 to 48 hours before implementation.

“The system has been blatantly inefficient over the past months, and the government needs to ensure that there is no repeat of the situation whereby delays reported by members reached up to a week, leaving large numbers of members of staff and students at risk of contracting the virus,” the union said.

The union also emphasised that it holds a zero-tolerance attitude with reports coming from any of its members, where schools accept students with any form of symptoms that may reflect those exhibited by a person infected with COVID-19. 

“The UPE will not hold back from issuing directives should the situation arise where its members are deemed as being potentially at risk of contracting COVID-19 for any reason whatsoever.”