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Code of ethics for teachers sets guidelines on private lessons, use of social media

Teachers who give private lessons to pupils who are in their class in a way that takes advantage of their professional relationship may be in breach of a revised code of ethics.

The new code also spells out that teachers need to keep a “professional distance” from their students and avoid inappropriate communication through social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

These are among the new guidelines outlined in the revised Teachers’ Code of Ethics and Practice that was launched this afternoon.

Education Minister Dolores Cristina said the code is the work of her ministry together with the Malta Union of Teachers and the Council for the Teaching Profession in Malta.

She said that one could not tolerate a situation where teachers made a business out of the students in their own classes, but there could be situations where parents insisted that their children go to private lessons with the same teacher they have at school. There could also be situations where pupils were only comfortable with their class teacher.

She said the code formalised what the majority of teachers already put into practice. This was the second revision of the code that was made to keep it up to date with new trends.

Adrian Camilleri, the president of the council, explained that the code was based on six key principles: Maintain trust in the profession, maintain a professional relationship with students, respect the uniqueness and diversity of students, collaborate with colleagues, parents, guardians and carers, act with honesty and integrity and keep their professional knowledge up to date.

Dr Camilleri said that if a teacher breached the code the council had the power to recommend to the minister what action to take. Action could include reprimand and censure.

Ms Cristina added that the council was working on drafting, for the first time, a code of ethics for learning support assistants and kindergarten assistants.

She said that she was currently in discussions with the MUT to explore ways of setting up structures to make schools safer to avoid instances when parents assault teachers. However, she cautioned, such incidents were very rare and one had to go about this sensitively as schools could not be locked up for  parents.

Among other sections, the code lays down that teachers are to:

"Maintain professional boundaries whilst in school and out of school, avoid improper physical contact, avoid inappropriate communication via any form of media and avoid inappropriate relationships with students.

"The members of the teaching profession are duty bound and are ultimately responsible to maintain a professional distance;

"They are to refrain from taking advantage of professional relationships with
students for their own personal benefit, including by giving private lessons to students from the classes they teach or who are under their administrative responsibility, against payment, whether monetary or in kind;

"Teachers are expected to conduct pastoral interventions with students professionally, and behave in keeping with their unique position of trust and status as role models;

"Teachers are expected to follow behaviour management and safe schools policies and guidelines as directed by the relevant school, college and education authorities;

"They are expected to act appropriately towards students exercising care in their language, gestures and attitudes, ensuring that they do not act in such a manner that is embarrassing or disparaging and ensuring that they do not use abusive language or offensive names or make inappropriate remarks; and Act with a professional attitude and behaviour at all times."

The new code can be seen at

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