MADRID: Most schools in Spain still provide education. Concerns are there is no clear protocol from the government, which causes unrest among teachers and parents. Education guidelines have not changed since September.
Before the Christmas holidays, students from around 2,500 classes were at home because of the pandemic, now there are more than 5,800, according to the Ministry of Education. Yet no action is being taken at any level to draw up clear guidelines, as was the case in March last year.
Government calls schools safe
Despite the explosive increase in the number of covid infections, the government maintains its position that schools are a safe environment. Teachers, parents and students unanimously endorse the importance of classroom education but are at the same time concerned about safety. Drawn up at the beginning of the school year in September, the current protocols remain the same despite the situation deteriorating significantly since then. The Spanish Association for Teachers (ANPE) demands revision of these protocols, feeling education has been left behind.
For example, the union is asking for technically qualified checks of the ventilation systems, a PCR test plan, provision of FFP2 masks and priority for teachers in the vaccination campaign. “The ministry must lead and coordinate this project with the regional ministries and ensure that the guidelines are amended,” said the association. It regrets schools have to decide for themselves when a teacher should be in isolation, whether a test is necessary and when to return. When an infection occurs in a so-called “bubble”, in one school the entire bubble is sent home, in others it is only the infected pupil.
Distance learning as last measure
Student, parent and teacher organisations see distance learning as a measure of last resort. However, some regions with a high incidence rate, such as Valencia, now see it as the best solution. In Andalucia, unions and parents are requesting distance learning, or at least in towns with more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. This is now the case in nearly 31% of Andalusian municipalities.
Concerns education now may affect a generation
In many cases, the promised resources and technology have not reached the schools. A further stumbling block is the curriculum which has not been adapted sufficiently for homeschooling. According to the chairman of the association for parents, it will take a whole generation before the consequences of the digital division between students, as a result of distance learning, disappear.