Children of circus performers who want to attend school while in Malta have been asked to get a check-up at a health centre but they were not asked for blood tests, a spokesman for the Education Ministry said.

“The principal of the schools where the children’s applications were made denies ever asking for blood tests to be taken. He guided those responsible for the children towards the Qormi health centre for a customary health check-up of the children,” the spokesman said. All children, whether Maltese or not, he said, were screened by the school nurse or doctor before joining. This was not compulsory but many schools insisted on such screening.

The examination consists of a developmental assessment, a physical examination and making sure all scheduled vaccinations are up to date.

The spokesman explained the situation on health checks after the parents of the six children forming part of the Circo Fantasy said they had been asked for blood tests, which led readers to ask why such an invasive procedure was necessary in this context, especially given that the children were all EU citizens. The parents had told The Sunday Times they had asked that their children be allowed into State schools while in Malta – between November and January. They said they were asked to have a blood test and produce copies of their police permits, among other documents.

They were worried because their children, aged between five and 12, were legally obliged to attend school and said they never faced such a situation during their travels.

An Education Ministry spokes-man had said that this was the first time such a request had been made.

The ministry had sought legal advice and has looked at international legislation and found that the situation regarding the education of circus children was extremely ragmented across the EU and there was no clear-cut policy on their education.

“The ministry is concerned that these children do not seem to have a structured education pathway, with specific education and development goals. Many roving circuses, which include child performers, provide private tutoring, while in the case of non-performing children, boarding schools are an option. Whatever the choice, the interests of the children should be central and it should be ensured that they are benefitting from an adequate learning,” the ministry said.

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