All-through schools complain over use of temporary modules

Parents and teachers warn quality of education will be affected

4 min
A banner calling for a new building for ESO at the Pallerola School Institute

BarcelonaFrom being the the Department of Education's favourite to having no space to teach. Three years ago, the Department of Education announced that it would double the number of all-through schools in Catalonia, a formula that brings together infant, primary and secondary education – as many chartered schools do – with the aim of trying to reduce segregation and absenteeism in secondary education. Most of the new centers were created by adding the first year of secondary education to a primary school, a measure that, as well as the pedagogical reasons, was also "of budgetary efficiency", since it is cheaper to have more groups in a school that already exists than to build one from scratch. Despite the fact that the Catalan Education minister at the time, Josep Bargalló, guaranteed that no prefabricated modules would be used, three years later secondary school students in some centres continue to be housed in temporary modules in the palyground.

One of these cases is the Institut Escola Pallerola de Sant Celoni, created three years ago by extending the school. In a letter to the current Catalan education minister Josep Gonzàlez-Cambray, they warn that "currently" they have no physical space for the three groups of first-year secondary education students that will go up next year, since the playground is full of barracks. "In the first year we lost the English and music classrooms to house the first set of secondary school students. We understood, it was a temporary measure. The following year we lost two more multipurpose rooms and the vegetable garden to make room for the modules. We accepted it as an acceptable waiver for one year," they recall in the letter. Now, however, they are standing up: "We cannot and do not want to allow them to fill the playground with more modules. The families regret that three years later not only have the works of the promised secondary school building not started, but the project has not even been tendered out and have already called a demonstration for next April 2 to denounce it. "The reasons for the delays are multiple: from technical errors to renunciations by the companies that had won tenders, including the pandemic, but the victims are always the same: children and teachers", they say in the letter, in which they ask for the Education Department t get involved to solve their situation: "Starting construction is a matter of political will"

A very similar situation has also mobilised some families in Premià de Dalt. In this case, the department committed itself three years ago to transform the Escola Santa Anna into a secondary school with the same name because the other seconadry schools in the town were overcrowded. This commitment included a promise to build a new building to house the secondary school and, in order to implement the project "imminently" in view of the "unsustainable" situation of the other school, the City Council offered to hand over the land next to the school for free and pay part of the cost of the work upfront. But in these three years the administrations have not reached an agreement and the building has not yet been built. The school's Parent Association has mobilised, because the department has confirmed that they will provisionally install prefabricated modules so that secondary school students have a place to teach. "The school has suffered a loss of space to accommodate secondary school students to the detriment of the educational quality on offer," the families say, who are collecting signatures to demand an acceleration of the works agreement between the department and the City Council and oppose the more temporary modules being set up in the playground.

Baccalaureate groups slashed

The discomfort of some high schools also reaches Barcelona, after the department announced a few days ago a merger of primary school La Prosperitat and secondary school Galileo Galilei to create the new all-through school El Molí. The educational community says it learnt of the decision "the day before" it was publicly announced and that it is an "imposed" measure. "We have not had the opportunity to discuss the wisdom of the project in depth. It has simply been decided to create this new all-through school and we are ordered to start implementing it next year," they stated, lamenting that the Department still talks about "school autonomy" and "involvement of the entire educational community".

Families and teachers are particularly concerned about the disappearance of baccalaureate (all-through schools do not include post-obligatory education) at high schools, a stage that "has been made more flexible to ensure students' academic success". They believe that eliminating baccalaureate "will logically lead to a reduction in secondary school groups", which will result in a reduction in free-choice subjects and the "probable loss" of the curricular adaptation group. The director of post-compulsory education, Gemma Verdés, explained to ARA that, exceptionally, baccalaureate will be kept for two years in this school so that students who are now in the last years of secondary education may complete it. In Barcelona there are now only two or three secondary schools which, like Galileo Galilei, have only one group per year of baccalaureate students, and Verdés points out that this model is not the one they want to promote. On the contrary, they are encouraging large post-compulsory schools, able to attract students and offer more optional subjects, even if this means students have to move further afield.