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Communities will do without most of the 35,000 backup teachers when the health crisis passes

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A class from the Pare Vitoria institute in Alcoi (Alicante), in March.
A class from the Pare Vitoria institute in Alcoi (Alicante), in March.Joaquin de haro

The autonomous communities have begun to organize next year. And, as educational managers of a dozen of them explain to EL PAÍS, two great ideas are making their way. The first is that the course will once again be, at least at its start, exceptional due to the health situation, which will make it necessary to maintain certain restrictions in the centers, such as the use of masks and interpersonal distance. And therefore to extend the hiring of part of the large additional contingent of teachers that joined in September due to the covid.

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The second is that once the health crisis is over (or, at least, that it has improved a lot), the regional executives will dispense with the majority of said backup teachers ―which came to be close to 39,000 at the beginning of the year. This academic year, 35,012 of those who remain in their positions today, according to the last of the counts carried out regularly by CC OO―. His hiring was necessary to reduce the number of students per classroom and allow the unfolds required by the sanitary-hygienic protocols approved to prevent infections. Despite the fact that the main unions, associations of directors and families have asked to keep them as a way to improve the quality of the system, the communities consider it, in general, to be unsustainable in the budget.

The heads of regional Education departments interviewed for this article – among them councilors, deputy councilors, chiefs of cabinet and communication, all of whom agreed to speak on condition that they were not cited, since the organization of the next course is not only potentially controversial outside, but is also being debated within many autonomous governments – they agree that the final decision will depend on what the health authorities establish. And they take it for granted that the matter will be addressed jointly with the Ministry of Education in an upcoming Sectorial Education Conference.

Avoid chaos

The school organization is, however, an autonomic competence, and several territories have already very decided, in some cases ready, the model that they will apply next year. A common ambition is to try to guarantee full presence. Although there are still two months of classes and the summer, the educational leaders of these communities want to avoid a repetition of the uncertainty that was experienced last year, when the decisions were delayed to July or August, which generated many problems in the planning of schools and institutes, forced a hasty search for reinforcement personnel, and made part of the teachers join with the classes started.

The communities that have already advanced the organization of the next course take for sure – and most of the others consider it very probable – that in September the health context will have improved a lot, but that neither the epidemic will have ended in Spain nor the students will have been vaccinated. This will force, they continue, to extend the use of masks, to maintain a density in the classrooms lower than usual and to continue applying strict dining shifts. Some territories plan to start the course with the same template they have now. Others estimate that more teachers and monitors will be needed than a normal year, but surely not as many as there are today (among other reasons, because all teachers should be vaccinated in September). There are also differences in the duration of the contracts: some managers state that their idea is to keep them until the end of the course, while others point out that it could be done for a few months, perhaps until Christmas.

A teacher, during a class at the Mare Nostrum public school, in Valencia.
A teacher, during a class at the Mare Nostrum public school, in Valencia. Monica Torres

There is a greater consensus that once the health emergency is closed, most of the teaching staff will not continue. Many nursery and primary classes have less than 20 students in this course and there are secondary school groups, especially in the first and second years of ESO, that are around 15 (although as the key is interpersonal distance, at this stage there are also 30 students in large classrooms). To finance them, the communities used the 1,600 million euros that the Ministry of Education gave them, in addition to their own funds. But the idea was always, says a regional official, that they were posts “with an expiration date.”

Economic situation

Those autonomies that had been increasing the number of teachers each year – largely to compensate for the loss experienced after the 2008 crisis – multiplied in September by two and up to three the number of hiring they had planned. “We negotiated with the Ministry of Finance on the grounds that it was an extraordinary situation that required an extraordinary response,” says a senior educational official. “But when the pandemic improves it is clear that it will not be able to be maintained, and less with the economic situation we have. What we will do is return to the levels of progressive increases in the workforce that we had planned ”.

Autonomous officials argue that the drop in students, which is already taking place and will worsen in the coming years, means that just by maintaining the number of teachers, the ratio of students per classroom will improve. And they add that the great commitment for the coming years is to develop Vocational Training and the first cycle of Infants, which will require concentrating hiring in these two stages, in addition to expanding the PROA reinforcement programs for students with difficulties, which will also finances the ministry.

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