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EDUCATION

Covid-19: Should Spain delay the start of the new school term?

Schools across Spain are due to go back after the Christmas break in the coming days but experts have asked regional health authorities to delay the return.

Covid-19: Should Spain delay the start of the new school term?
Image: Alexandra_Koch / Pixabay

Why are there calls to delay the start of the new term in Spain?

Because of the alarming rate of infections across many Spanish regions, and fear over the new British strain of the virus, some experts have been asking for a delay in the return to schools.

In Catalonia for example, infection expert Oriol Mitjà, physicist Àlex Arenas and geneticist Salvador Macip sent a letter to the health department asking them to delay the start of term until after January 11th.

Experts in other regions, such as Extremadura, one of the areas currently most affected by Covid-19 infections, with 604 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the last 14 days, were also asking for delays in the return to school.

Do all Spanish regions want to delay a return to school?

In short, no, like many other Covid-19 restrictions, most of the regions have differing rules and opinions.

Extremadura was in fact the only region which has announced that only nursery and primary school students will return after the Christmas break. Those in secondary education, Bachillerato or adult education will have to do online lessons from January 11th for one week.

Valencia and Aragón plan for their schools to return on January 7th, while the Balearic Islands, Asturias and Galicia will go back on the 8th. Madrid, Cantabria and Navarra still plan to return on January 11th.

Other regions such as Andalusia, Murcia and the Basque Country have differing return dates between their municipalities, but most fall somewhere between January 7th and 11th.

The Canary Islands and Catalonia were the only two regions, who at the beginning of December, decided to put back their original return dates until January 11th, as a preventative measure against Covid-19.

Castilla-La Mancha has also delayed their original January 8th return to the 11th, but have said that this is due to the snow, rather than the virus.

What do regional authorities say?

In Catalonia, the Director for the Centre of Public Education, Josep Cambray, said in a statement to Radio Catalunya “We are not considering delaying the opening beyond January 11th”. He continued by saying that “experts also told us not to open in September, but it has been a success”.

In Extremadura, vice president of the region and health advisor José María Vergeles, said that delaying the return to school was necessary in light of the growing number of infections, but maintained that “the little ones are not very contagious”, which is why they are allowing face to face lessons for nursery and primary only.

Other regional authorities have said that they plan to reopen their schools as normal and will not delay a return to the classroom.

READ ALSO: Q&A: What happens when there is a Covid-19 outbreak at a school in Spain? 

What do parents say?

The situation has been difficult for parents, many of whom don’t want a return to home education because they have to work and would have no one to look after their children.

Many who would have turned to grandparents for childcare, can no longer do that because of fears of infecting them with Cvoid-19.

Back in September 2020, the government said that parents could only take leave from work if their child tested positive for Covid-19, but not if there were simply sent home from school in order to quarantine.

News site Hoy, reported that parents in Extremadura have always opted for face to face lessons in school, but understand that exceptional measures must be applied in the current situation.

Eva María Rodríguez, president of the Regional Federation of Mothers’ Associations and Parents of Students told Hoy that parents understand, but that they “want teachers involvement, because there is still a digital divide and the lessons do not reach all students the same”.

Doctor Marta Quesada in Catalonia who has two young girls in school said “It would be very difficult if schools delayed reopening. I can’t take time off work and I can’t ask my parents for help with childcare and put them at risk. I have put an initial plan in place should the schools close again, but many parents don’t have another option”.  

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STRIKES

Doctors, teachers and taxi drivers strike across Catalonia

Wednesday is due to be a difficult day in Catalonia with planned stoppages across three different sectors in health, education, and taxi services.

Doctors, teachers and taxi drivers strike across Catalonia

Medical staff

The union Metges de Catalunya has called for five days of strikes for doctors and medical staff across Catalonia on Wednesday, January 25th and Thursday, January 26th, as well as February 1st, 2nd and 3rd.

They are demanding more resources and personnel for the Catalan public health system and between 25 to 28 patient appointments per work shift of 12 minutes each.

READ ALSO – Key dates: How planned health service strikes in Spain could affect you

After an unsuccessful meeting on Tuesday, January 24th to try and resolve issues and further talks on Wednesday morning that didn’t lead to any resolution, 25,000 health professionals from health centers and hospitals across the region have been called to strike. They have not demonstrated en masse like this in Catalonia since 2018.

Some 500 nurses and midwives also took to the streets on Tuesday, January 24th to ask for better working conditions. Their protest continues this Wednesday, when both nurses and doctors have gathered to march to Sants train station, where they are due to arrive at midday. 

The regional government has agreed to guarantee urgent health care as well as that of the neonatal units and vital chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments.

Teachers

Teachers and other educational professionals have also been called to strike with two days of planned walkouts on Wednesday, January 25th and Thursday, January 26th.

After a series of unproductive negotiations with the Minister of Education, Josep Gonzàlez-Cambray, the unions Ustec, CCOO and UGT decided to go ahead with the stoppages.  

The unions have said that the simultaneous strikes in education and health make perfect sense as they are “two pillars” of society that should be a priority for the government.

The union Ustec demands that the regional government should invest 6 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in public education as established by the Education Law of Catalonia. They are also asking to reduce the ratios in the classes and improve the working conditions of educational professionals. 

Schools will remain open during these days, however, and minimum services have been established such as guaranteeing 50 percent of the staff in special education centers and nurseries.

Taxi drivers

Taxi drivers have also joined in the protests and will stage a four-hour strike on Barcelona’s Gran Via this Wednesday, against driver apps such as Free Now, Uber and Bolt.

Negotiations between The Elite Taxi union and the city council broke down last week and the union has called drivers to gather from 10am to 2pm on Gran Via with Plaza Tetuán and on Passeig de Gràcia.

Taxi drivers will also be voting on whether to protest during the Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) and Mobile World Congress fairs. ISE will be held from January 1st to February 3rd and Mobile World Congress from February 27th to March 2nd.  

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