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UPE Articles

The Neglect of Educators at Resource Centres: Uncovering the Failures of State and Union Representation

Occupational Risks and Legal Dilemmas: The Consequences of Missing Standard Operating Procedures

The Union of Professional Educators (UPE) has been closely monitoring the developments at Guardian Angel and other Resource Centres for numerous years and has frequently intervened to protect educators as a whole. Regrettably, educators employed at these resource centres have long been neglected by the State and the Malta Union of Teachers (MUT). This article aims to elucidate the reasons behind the failure of both entities.

The absence of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) and Protocols in certain routine duties of Learning Support Educators (LSE’s) is putting them at occupational risk and burdening them with unnecessary legal responsibilities. Specifically, tasks related to personal support and transport lack official guidelines, creating anxiety and fear among educators who are left to perform these duties without proper direction.

“…exposes educators to potential health risks and legal repercussions. The reliance on individual judgment leaves them vulnerable to accusations of negligence or abuse, as there are no clear directives on how to carry out these critical responsibilities.”

The omission of essential procedures, such as feeding students with specific conditions, toileting and personal hygiene protocols, and transport-related guidelines for students with disabilities, exposes educators to potential health risks and legal repercussions. The reliance on individual judgment leaves them vulnerable to accusations of negligence or abuse, as there are no clear directives on how to carry out these critical responsibilities.

The absence of authoritative guidelines in these crucial areas highlights the need for a change in the industrial representation of LSE’s. While other countries have established standards for similar duties, Malta lags behind despite its inclusive education policy and formal Job Description for educators. The failure to address these gaps over the past two decades underscores the urgency for implementing SOP’s to safeguard both educators and the vulnerable students under their care.

There is a lack of agreement and no formal text regarding specific ratios of LSEs and students who attend resource centres, including transport duties and class ratios. 

The lack of preventive risk assessments for handling students, pushing wheelchairs, or using mobility equipment is a concern. These risk assessments are not mandatory before handling cases, contrary to practices in many EU member states. The UPE argues that this reactive approach is unacceptable in a country that values social inclusion and workers’ rights.

“There is a lack of agreement and no formal text regarding specific ratios of LSEs and students who attend resource centres, including transport duties and class ratios.”

Furthermore, there is a lack of adequate facilities, equipment, and provisions for LSEs. For instance, many schools lack proper toileting and hygiene facilities for disabled students, forcing LSEs to work in unsuitable conditions. Additionally, LSEs are not provided with protective equipment and hygienic material, often having to purchase these items themselves. This places a financial burden on LSEs and raises concerns about the overall policy failure in providing essential support.

The State and the MUT have failed to negotiate these essential provisions in the past, including in the historic 2017 collective agreement, so there is nothing concrete to refer to in this regard. As a result, LSE’s are left at the mercy of their own individual judgment, exposing them to potential health risks and legal repercussions. 

The UPE asserts that in view of the lack of the above, one can safely say that there is a lack of human resources, which in turn puts a physical and mental strain on educators working in resource centres. 

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