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21 March, 2019
 
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Education minister calls for special task force

Costas Hambiaouris says public schools are safe but issues need to be addressed

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Organised parents and teachers met with Education Minister Costas Hambiaouris on Tuesday to discuss safety and health issues in public schools, but union representatives did not take part during talks over teacher evaluations.

The minister called for the formation of a special task force committee which would evaluate a number of issues in schools, including whether paramedics should be stationed on school premises.

During the meeting, the discussion also touched on earlier disagreements on how the ministry, parents, and teachers were all responding differently to the need for educational reform. It was decided that a recent escalation of rhetoric was not productive, with all parties agreeing to commit to work together. 

But teachers union representatives raised eyebrows when they did not sit at the table during a part of the discussion regarding reforms in the teacher evaluation system.

Parent groups criticised the teachers for not taking part in the discussion on evaluating educators, something they viewed as a very serious matter

Parent groups criticised the teachers for not taking part in the discussion on evaluating educators, something they viewed as a very serious matter.

Union teachers, who had warned days earlier they would not take part in any discussion beyond issues of health and safety, are under fierce criticism following a number of incidents in public schools, including allegations of coverup and the death of 10-year-old Stavros Georgallis, who was fatally injured at school while playing basketball on May 11.

The issue whether schools had proper and safe places for exercise as well as protocols for responding to emergencies quickly became a hot topic in the press.

But the process was marred by controversy when the Ministry began a probe into Stavros’ death and union teacher representatives attempted to interfere with the investigation, setting themselves on a collision course with the minister, parent groups, and public opinion.

The teachers say they support reform, as long as they do not lose their union rights and their members do not become targets unfairly. 

The debate intensified when a teacher, who was in charge during Stavros’ gym class, became the focus of the investigation after a record of questionable transfers was leaked to the press.

Knews understand that no evidence yet has linked the teacher’s previous record with the basketball incident earlier this month.

But crtics of teachers unions have taken to social media as well as live TV and radio to point out that unions often make it difficult for the government to enact reforms or handle problematic educators.

TAGS
Cyprus  |  education  |  reform  |  POED  |  union  |  Stavros Georgallis

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