Education Minister Athena Michaelidou on Wednesday met with teachers’ unions Poed and Oelmek to discuss a slew of issues affecting state schools, from staffing and the syllabus to the instalment of AC units in classrooms.

According to Michaelidou, the meeting was held “with the goal to discuss the issues surrounding the beginning of the school year, to ensure it goes smoothly and that the best possible circumstances continue throughout”.

She said it was a very productive meeting held in a friendly atmosphere, during which “many concerns were raised and a constructive discussion was held based on pedagogical criteria and research data”.

The minister said she was pleased “because we are making good progress in matters of school staffing, books and infrastructure, particularly improvements and expansions in nursery and primary schools”.

She added that violence and juvenile delinquency were also discussed during the meeting, as well as programmes designed to help improve learning outcomes.

“We also discussed several challenges, such as the long-standing issue of air-conditioning units in schools, which we intend to address immediately,” she said, stressing that with children’s safety as a priority, a guide will be shared with school boards so that classrooms can start getting their own A/C units in the coming months.

Another issue discussed during the meeting was sex education, with the minister saying that despite the misinformation circulating, nothing is changing in the course being taught in primary education.

“We will continue to teach this course as normal, exactly as it has been taught for the past 12 years without any issue,” to give children the tools to protect themselves, she explained.

Speaking to Oelmek, she added that this year’s sex education plans for secondary school pupils involves six extra hours a year, which will be spent “talking to our teenagers about self-protection, internet safety, and other such issues”.

In her own statements, Poed president Myria Vasiliou noted with satisfaction that the union’s demands are being met when it comes to staffing issues, adding however that the union intends to remain vigilant as the first few days of the school year are when problems are detected.

“If any issues are identified by our fellow teachers, we are optimistic that the ministry will be able to resolve them,” she said.

On the issue of air-conditioning, Vasiliou said Poed had first raised it during the first meeting with the minister in March, and then sent a reminder in July as “we all know the negative consequences that heat stress can have on students and teachers”.