Over 1,000 children attending State primary and secondary schools have one-to-one learning support educators and the government is always recruiting more as LSEs are in “constant demand”, according to an Education Ministry spokesman.
There are 871 one-to-one LSEs in State primary schools and 223 in secondary schools, the spokesman said.
Earlier this week, Times of Malta reported how children with disabilities, who have one-to-one LSEs, are being sent home from school when their educator is sick, following union directives instructing shared LSEs not to fill in for their absent colleagues.
Parents of these children said they were angered at the fact that their children are being “deprived of the right to education” due to directives issued by the Malta Union of Teachers (MUT) and the Union of Professional Educators (UPE).
Meanwhile, the two unions blamed the situation on the government’s failure to employ enough LSEs as well as relievers. It is estimated that there are some 3,000 LSEs in State schools (one-to-one and shared). The ministry spokesman said: “The call for LSEs is a rolling call and LSEs are being recruited in a constant manner to supply the constant demand.”
He said that when an LSE was sick, the senior management team considered cases present on the day and the LSEs available. Priority was given to one-to-one cases followed by the shared-support ones.
“It is to be noted that schools are doing their utmost to make arrange- ments possible with human resources present on the day,” the spokesman said.
At the start of the scholastic year, the MUT issued directives instructing LSEs to stick to their agreements.
Shared LSEs were told not to move class when asked to replace LSEs with one-to-one students. The UPE issued similar directives last week.
MUT president Marco Bonnici said the union had no option “because many schools are in an impossible situation whereby, when an LSE is sick, there is a whole musical chairs of replacements. It just disrupts other educators and other students who end up without their LSE because this LSE was assigned to replace a sick LSE”.
Graham Sansone, from the UPE, said the directives were issued after the Education Ministry dragged its feet on recruiting enough LSEs to fulfil the vacant posts available.
“The lack of human resources is affecting the classroom environment,” he said, adding that if financial incentives and work conditions improved “we wouldn’t be in the current situation”.