By Evie Andreou
Primary teachers’ union, Poed has called on its members to abstain from extracurricular activities outside school, including escorting pupils to parades, citing lack of provisions as to who would be responsible in case of an accident.
In a circular with decisions by the union’s board concerning health and safety in schools, Poed, among other things, asked its members to stop attending activities outside school hours – after 1.05 pm when classes end- which would involve the participation of children in any way. Exceptions can be made only if the events are organised by the education ministry in the morning and happen to continue after school hours.
Head of Poed, Fylios Fylaktou, told state broadcaster CyBC on Thursday that this has been a pending issue for years, and that they would like a clear answer from the education ministry as to who bears responsibility in the case of accidents when teachers escort pupils in events such as parades and choir performances outside school hours.
Teachers have been escorting pupils in school parades on national holidays and carol singing events outside school hours during the Christmas season for many years. Following recent events however that has raised questions concerning the accountability of staff in schools, the union is asking for safeguards to protect its members from getting in trouble in case something goes wrong during those outings.
Fylaktou said they even found gaps in the legislation as regards the responsibility of teachers within the school grounds that need to be addressed but that there are no legal provisions whatsoever concerning escorting pupils outside school hours. “What happens in such cases, who bears responsibility?”
He said that the union has always been urging its members to secure written permission from the education ministry for their participation in such activities.
“The ministry never replies to these letters,” Fylaktou said. “Why doesn’t the ministry do it? There are liability issues and we want to protect our members and the children.”
Education Minister Costas Hambiaouris later in the day said that even though there were problems concerning health and safety in state schools which the government was working to address, it would not be wise to spread panic.
Avoiding to give a clear answer to Sigma TV as to who bears responsibility during those events, Hambiaouris said that school parades on national anniversaries were important to society and an opportunity to promote the work done in schools.
“We are open to dialogue, we must not spread panic,” Hambiaouris said, adding that his ministry was willing to look into any issues need looking into.
The issue of health and safety in state schools was highlighted this year following the death of a 10-year-old boy in Larnaca last May after falling while playing basketball at school but also the abduction of two pupils in the same district a few weeks ago by a man who walked freely into the school yard and tricked them into following him.