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MaltaToday 9 November 2022 MIDWEEK

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2 NEWS maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 9 NOVEMBER 2022 2 KURT SANSONE JULIE Zahra would not repeat on television claims of impropriety she made in parliament about the Planning Minister's father and his role in a cultur- al heritage advisory board. The Nationalist Party heritage spokesperson in- sisted on TVM's Xtra yesterday that she had noth- ing to add to what she said in parliament last week. Zahra had claimed that Joe Zrinzo, minister Ste- fan Zrinzo Azzopardi's father, was the "go-to guy" for developers seeking a favourable recommenda- tion from the Cultural Heritage Superintendence. Zrinzo senior sat on a 13-member board that advised the Superintendence on issues related to development that required the watchdog's input. However, the PN MP did not substantiate her claims made under parliamentary privilege and thus protected from any action for slander and re- fused to repeat them on television. "I said what I had to say and have nothing to add. People can now judge for themselves," Zahra said yesterday when asked by Xtra host Saviour Balzan to elaborate on the serious accusations she made in parliament. She also did not acknowledge the fact that Joe Zrinzo was removed from the heritage advisory board by Culture Minister Owen Bonnici after the last election when Zrinzo's son was made plan- ning minister. On Xtra, Bonnici said it was unfair for accusa- tion to be thrown about against someone who he knew as an upright person. "This advisory board is made up of 13 people and Joe Zrinzo was one of these but after the election I did not appoint him given that his son (Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi) was made planning minister," Bonnici said. Julie Zahra refrains from repeating Joe Zrinzo wrongdoing claims on TV Unimpressed by results, ministry ditches charity's 'expensive' English language programme Nationalist Party heritage spokesperson Julie Zahra used parliamentary privilege to allege wrongdoing by minister's father and refrained from repeating them on TV PN heritage spokesperson Julie Zahra KURT SANSONE THE Education Department will not renew an English language programme offered by the Eng- lish-Speaking Union after the en- tity's financial request ballooned to €411,000. ESU has provided spoken Eng- lish sessions at the Zabbar and Valletta primary schools for more than a decade, operating on a con- tract worth €40,000 annually. But it appears the education- al authorities were not too im- pressed with the results achieved and decided to discontinue the contract when the sum requested ballooned. The education authorities' deci- sion was criticised in a Facebook post by ESU, which described its programme as a "game-changer" that has helped "hundreds of stu- dents to excel". Contacted by MaltaToday a spokesperson for the Education Ministry defended the decision, saying ESU's latest request was for €411,000 over a three-year period, which was "way above the con- tracts awarded until the last scho- lastic year". ESU's request was to extend the programme to at least 11 schools but the ministry has questioned the educational outcome from the programme over the years. "The programme 'Arm of Sup- port' has been running at the Żab- bar Primary School A since 2009 and the statistics available to the department over time, including literacy assessment, end-of-year exam results and benchmark ex- ams, do not show any particular improvement in English language use by students who participated in this programme," the spokes- person said. He said an evaluation showed that the students who participat- ed in this programme remained at the same level as peers who did not take part in it. "The ministry strongly believes in the skills of its educators and entrusts them with the teaching of English at all levels, even spo- ken English," the spokesperson said. He likened the programme to the "privatisation of spoken Eng- lish teaching", adding that if the ministry had the intention to outsource such a service it would issue a public call in line with procurement regulations. "The sum requested would necessitate a public call," the spokesperson said. The English-Speaking Union of Malta is an education charity affiliated with a UK-based organ- isation that aims to broaden and deepen the use of English through debate and spoken sessions. On its Facebook wall, ESU (Mal- ta) says its aim is to "ensure that the Maltese are able to main- tain both Maltese and English as strong languages and thus main- tain and improve this economic advantage". The NGO provided education- al activities for children aged be- tween three and six in primary schools and organised debates and workshops in all sixth forms to encourage the better use of the English language.

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