Single-sex schools denounce withdrawal of funding as "attack on plurality"

Schools tell families they are working "intensely" to "firmly" defend subsidies

2 min
The El Valle de Bellaterra school is for girls only. It is one of the 17 differentiated schools in Catalonia.

BarcelonaThe new attempt by the Catalan Government to withdraw subsidies for the eleven single-sex schools in Catalonia has caused a stir in the education sector. In spite of the fact that the Education Department had already announced its intention three years ago, the approval of the new education law has opened a new crack that establishes schools supported "partially or totally with public funds" must develop "the principle of coeducation in all educational stages" and "will not separate the pupils by gender". However, as this part of the law is being examined by the Constitutional Court, which is yet to rule, schools and families are confident that the announcement will not have consequences and that the court will overrule it again. For the affected families, withdrawing the subsidies is an "attack on plurality and diversity".

In a statement, the Federation of Associations of Parents of Free Schools (Fapel) considers it intolerable that Catalan Education minister Josep Gonzàlez-Cambray said that separating boys and girls in the classroom was discriminatory, "increases stereotypes and legitimises sexism". "It is a serious insult and [shows] contempt to thousands of parents who want to educate their sons and daughters on equal terms, fairly and in freedom," they have stated, and recall that the Constitution makes it clear that they have the right to be financed with public money after the Constitutional Court endorsed the subsidies in 2018. "What the Catalan government is doing is to discriminate against those who are different, those who want to choose a different school from state schools, making it difficult for parents to exercise their fundamental right," they add. For these families, the new announcement seeks to divert attention from the Government to "failure" over vocational training places or unresolved problems such as inclusive education.

Back to the courts?

Today, the heads of the eleven schools, most of them linked to Opus Dei, remain silent. They have sent a letter to the families in which they say they are working "intensely" with lawyers to continue "firmly defending" the families' right to receive the subsidy. However, it is not easy to take it to court right now because for the moment it is only a political intention that has not been included in any government agreement, nor has any binding decision been published in the Diari Oficial de la Generalitat de Catalunya.

In the circular that has been sent to the parents, the schools also completely reject the Cambray's statements and they say that "they reveal a deep ignorance of the reality of single-sex schools and ignore the families who have chosen them freely". The schools affected by the decision are Canigó (Barcelona), Pineda and Xaloc (L'Hospitalet), Bell-lloc del Pla and Les Alzines (Girona), Institució Lleida (which became co-ed due to insufficient student numbers), Escola Campjoliu (L'Arboç) and Institució Tarragona, La Vall, La Farga and Viaró (Sant Cugat).

One of the few supports these eleven schools have received came from Vox. Catalan MP Ignacio Garriga has said that "sports clubs like Barça and Espanyol, sports federations, clothing stores or gyms" also separate men and women.