Proposal to change school’s opening hours ‘requires serious consultation’

Education Minister Evarist Bartolo admits white paper proposing changes to school’s opening hours ‘won’t be an easy decision’

A planned white paper proposing changes to school’s opening hours would require serious and wide consultation among all stakeholders.

Addressing a public consultation meeting entitled ‘a government that listens’, Education Minister Evarist Bartolo admitted that such a discussion will not be easy.

“There are many factors in play such as what time should childcare centres open or how it will affect work hours. Would it help address the problem of traffic congestion? Should there be other proposals? It is for this reason that we are launching the white paper and see what proposals can be studied,” Bartolo said.

In his opening comments, Bartolo said only 450 youths, out of 7,000 who were neither in employment nor in education, agreed to take part in training or education programmes. A further 160 youths agreed to take part against a promise of receiving a financial contribution.

Highlighting the importance of education as a tool to give dignity, Bartolo said the budgetary allocation for education increased from €231 million in 2013 to €281 million in 2015.

Referring to the Alternative Learning Programme, Bartolo said the course has served to provide several youths with renewed interest in education.

“These are youths who are all the time put down, either by their families or at school. Some of them had not attended secondary school for three years. With all the shortcomings the programme might have, we are learning with them how to improve the ALP courses,” Bartolo said. “ALP is not a dustbin or a scrap yard for children whom the education system has failed. It is about a learning programme making use of alternative tools of education.”

The ALP courses, targeting socially vulnerable youths, were first implemented during the 2013-2014 scholastic year. Speaking proudly of the youths who went further and attended summer courses, Bartolo said a number of them were now attending courses at MCAST.

Asked for his reactions on how the co-education system was faring, Bartolo said the only group who didn’t notice any difference were the students themselves. Jokingly, he added that he hoped the new system would help female students “talk some sense into the boys”.

A student studying sciences welcomed a measure to increase traineeships, pointing out that students studying sciences find it extremely difficult to find training.

Government identifies lands for prospective motorsports track

The government has already identified a number of lands that will be submitted to MEPA for studies in connection with the proposed construction of a motorsports track.

According to parliamentary secretary for sports Chris Agius, the government will study the options to see which piece of land will be best suited to host a track.

Among a long list of measures targeting sports, Agius said works at the Birzebbugia waterpolo pitch will soon be finalised while works have started on the locality’s football pitch.

A 7.5% income tax rate applicable to footballers will be extended to waterpolo players. An expression of interest will soon be issued for the construction of a motorsports track. The government also plans on attracting further yachting races of international interest.

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