Secondary school sports director at the education ministry, Spyros Antonellos, ruffled feathers when he disparaged primary school staff teaching physical education in heels.
Antonellos’ statement apparently caused a commotion with attendees at a House education committee on Wednesday raising their voices, causing committee vice-chair to shout “Sorry! You are in parliament, not in the field!”
Antonellos had made the remark to illustrate that training for primary PE teachers is inadequate, a fact made obvious when pupils move on to high school, where they “know absolutely nothing”.
The head of sports suggested that instruction be taken by professional trainers while adding that he held nothing against the primary teachers.
When calm was restored, head of Poed teachers’ union, Myria Vassiliou, asked for the floor and stated a letter would be sent to the ministry over the “sexist” comments and the discrediting of teachers.
After the end of the meeting, the ministry issued a statement stressing that “the comments by secondary school representatives do not express the official position of the ministry, but are personal opinions”.
Responding to the ministry’s statement on CyBC’s morning programme on Thursday Vassiliou said the letter would still be sent as the remarks made had been “insulting and false”.
“The debate [on who is qualified to teach PE] has been going on since the 1950s and it has been resolved in the teacher credentialling programme of the state,” Vassiliou said.
She insisted that the members who had complained were tasked with expressing the ministry’s position and instead gave their “personal views”, which was inappropriate.
According to Vassiliou, it is common practice for elementary classroom teachers to teach all subjects, including PE, in many countries in Europe, and Cyprus is no exception. In fact, several routes are open to becoming a primary PE teacher, including having specialised outside training, she said.
The union head quipped she would be heading to the ministry to deliver the letter in flats.
Meanwhile a number of other concerns were raised during the education committee meeting, including about the conditions of school sports facilities.
Organised parent groups claimed many were unacceptable and even dangerous. Remains of Easter bonfires have yet to be cleared away from some school yards, others are overgrown with weeds, and still others are construction sites, parents charged.
Teacher’s union Oelmek reported that a lyceum designated as a sports school does not even possess an indoor field.
For his part, the director of technical services, Andreas Maragos, said a budget of €1 billion will be needed that to cover schools’ immediate needs.