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EDUCATION

CONFIRMED: 25 percent of school lessons in Catalonia must be taught in Spanish

At least 25 percent of classes will have to be taught in Spanish in schools in Catalonia, following the latest ruling by the region's Supreme Court which quashes regional government appeals to stick to the full-Catalan language model.

Schools in Catalonia must have 25% of classes in Spanish
Supreme Court rules that 25 percent of classes in Catalonia must be taught in Spanish. Photo: Josep LAGO / AFP

The divisive matter of Catalan vs Spanish for official matters in Catalonia is making headlines again, this time with regard to education.

Catalonia’s Supreme Court on Monday rejected the appeal from the Catalan Generalitat against an earlier ruling that required a quarter of lessons to be taught in castellano (Spanish) in schools in the northeastern region.

This means that the decision by the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC) becomes final and puts an end to the linguistic immersion model that all classes apart from Spanish class and other languages such as English, be taught in Catalan.

The Minister of Education of the Catalan Generalitat government Josep González-Cambray appeared on Tuesday afternoon together with the Minister of Culture Natalia Garriga to report on the court’s decision, which he has defined as a “new frontal attack by the judges on the educational system in Catalonia”.

González-Cambray also sent a message to Catalan schools, assuring them that despite the new situation, there will be “no change” in the current system. “The centres must continue working as before and do not have to make any changes,” he said.

The minister has pointed out that the fact that “it is a judge who arbitrarily determines the percentage of hours that are necessary to learn a language is an anomaly and a contempt for education professionals”.

“School in Catalonia will be in Catalan,” he said at the end of his message to the schools.

The first ruling on this issue was back in 2014  

The Catalan model of linguistic immersion has been questioned by the Justice for years and in 2014, the TSJC already established that the Department of Education should ensure a minimum of 25 percent of classes in Spanish.

At that time, the ruling referred to just eight students but stated that this was the rule to be followed when a student requests classes in Spanish.

The 2014 ruling was the first to set this percentage after several courts urged the Government of Catalonia to teach more classes in Spanish, although without specifying the percentage.

Later, in December 2020 the TSJC issued another ruling that obliged the entire Catalan educational system to teach 25 percent of its classes in Spanish, a ruling which the Catalan government appealed and now the Supreme Court has rejected.

How many students requested to be taught in Spanish?

According to the Catalan Minister of Education, there have “only been 80” families who have requested classes in Spanish since 2005 and he has denied that there is a linguistic conflict in Catalan schools.

This is despite the fact that only 14 percent of secondary school students and 35 percent of primary school students speak Catalan in the playground, according to data from the Llengua Platform. 

Even though families may not have formally requested it, in the capital of Barcelona, where 25 percent of the population of Catalonia live, the University of Barcelona, says that 98 percent of those speak Spanish and only around 50-60 percent speak Catalan.

The reaction from the Catalan government and pro-Catalan associations 

The president of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, has described the Supreme Court’s decision as a “very serious attack” and a “lack of respect for teachers”. “Catalan should not be touched be touched in schools. The immersion model that we have is a guarantee of social cohesion and equal opportunities in the country,” he added.

Aragonès assured schools that he will find “all possible ways” to overcome the situation and that he sees it as “fundamental” to increase the use of Catalan in schools further.  

The Òmnium Cultural Catalan association has asked that disobedience not be ruled out to defend linguistic immersion after the Supreme Court’s decision.

The Catalan Civil Society, on the other hand, celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision, which they have defined as “a historic triumph for equal opportunities in the face of a reactionary model.”

The reaction from the Spanish government

The Spanish government believes that the judgment of the TSJC “must be carried out” like all sentences, “because it has been ruled upon”, but it will not expressly request this to happen because it believes that the TSJC itself should request compliance.

The Ministry of Education and the Ministers of Justice and Territorial Policy, Pilar Llop and Isabel Rodríguez said on Wednesday that once the ruling is final, they maintain, it is up to the sentencing court to see it through and not the government.

Around 8 million people are reported to speak Catalan, one of Spain’s six official languages. 

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ENERGY

How to change the title holder of utility bills in Spain

When you move into a new property in Spain you will need to change the account or contract holder over, so that any future water, electricity or gas bills will be in your name. It's not as easy as you may think; here's how you go about it.

How to change the title holder of utility bills in Spain

Changing the name on your utility bills and the payment details should in theory be relatively straightforward, however you may come up against some common problems which can make the change pretty complicated.

Firstly, you will need to find out which energy companies have been contracted for your property.

You can do this by asking the previous owner themselves, contacting your landlord if you’re renting or asking your estate agent to find out for you.

When it comes to water, this should be provided by your local council or city, so you won’t need to contact the previous occupant for this one. 

How do I change the title over?

When you first move in, remember to note down the numbers on the gas, electricity and water meters, so you can give these to the utility companies and they can record how much you should owe, instead of having to pay for the previous occupant’s consumption as well.

Next, you will then need to contact the energy company supplying your property or water provider and ask for a cambio de titular a nombre del arrendatario o comprador (ask for a change of ownership in the name of the renter or buyer).

The process should be completely free for electricity and gas, but in some cities, you may need to pay a deposit for changing the title of the water bill, which you should get back when you vacate the property. The deposit can be anywhere between €50 and €100.

Contacting the energy company by phone may be the best way to make sure everything is done correctly, but some companies also have online forms where you can request a title change. When it comes to water, most cities will have water offices you can visit or specific e-mail addresses if you can’t contact them over the phone. 

There are a few pieces of information you’ll need to have on hand before you contact the company. These are:

  • The full name of the previous person who had the bills in their name
  • Your NIE / DNI
  • The address of the property
  • The date you moved in
  • The CUPS code (not needed for water)
  • Your padrón certificate (for water only)
  • A copy of the deeds of the property or rental contract
  • Your bank details

With all this information, they should be able to change the name over on the account relatively quickly, so that any future energy bills will go directly to you.

At this time, you can also change your tariff or amount of energy contracted to suit your individual needs.

How do I find the CUPS code?

The CUPS code or Código Unificado del Punto de Suministro (Universal Supply Point Code) is a number that identifies each individual property that receives electricity or gas. The number doesn’t change, so you could ask the previous occupant for this as it will be written on their energy bills.

Alternatively, if this isn’t possible you can contact your energy distributor – these are assigned by area and stay the same. By giving them your name, address and ID number such as NIE, they will be able to give you the CUPS code associated with your property.

What if I want to change to a new energy company?

If you’d prefer not to contract the energy company that the previous owner had, you can also choose to go with a new one. In this case, you will still need all of the same information and numbers as above, but you will contact the energy provider of your choice and the type of tariff you want to pay.

How long will it take to change the name over?

It can take between 1 and 20 days for the bills to be changed over into your name. The previous occupant will receive their final bill and then you will receive the new one from the date you moved in.

What are some of the problems I might come up against?

The most common problem is when the previous occupant is not up to date on paying their bills and has some outstanding debt. In this case, if you try to change the title over into your name, you will also be inheriting the pervious owner’s debt.

In this case, you will have to get the previous occupant to pay their outstanding bill before you can change it over into your name. If you have problems getting them to pay their bill, then you can show proof of the date you moved in by sending in a copy of your deeds or rental contract. This should in theory allow for the transfer of ownership without having to take on the debt, however it can be tricky process, often calling the energy company multiple times and waiting for verification of the proof.

What if the energy services have been cut off?

In the case that the property has been uninhabited for some time, the previous owners may have deactivated or cut off the utilities. If this is the case, then you will need to call the energy providers to activate them again. This will typically involve paying several fees to be able to get them up and running. The amount you pay will depend on the energy distributor and where the property is based in Spain. 

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