The Education Department's decision to allow students to return to face-to-face classes for final courses of ESO, FP, Bachillerato, Special Education and Early Childhood Education from May 25 has been heavily criticised by the Unions.
“It’s inappropriate, we are not very clear about the teaching criteria or the logistics of offering face-to-face and telematic classes at the same time. The question of infants returning has also still to be resolved and Primary students aged 6-14 who can't be left at home alone or stay with grandparents because they're in an "at risk" group, should be able to return to school,” said Albert Lobo, President of the Federació d’Associacions de Pares i Mares, or FAPA.
He continued, “The santiary criteria is very clear, but it’s not the only issue. The Education Department foresees a return to the classrooms for the courses that have the most established electronic monitoring, as recognised by the Ministry, but we suspect that Primary School Children have not been given the option to return to class because that's the age group with more students and it would be more difficult to organise social distancing.”
Cosme Orell, Secretary of Ensenyament Públic of the STEI union, says it’s impossible to go ahead without all the necessary health information.
“The measure is impossible or unfeasible. There is no guarantee that the Education Centres won’t act as a source of contagion. If there are no tests, it is not possible to go ahead, especially without information on disinfection methods at Centres and the use of masks and gloves,” he said.
Secretary Orell continued. “It is absurd that we have adapted to a telematic end of course and the Ministry has supplied 3,000 Chromebooks, to then change everything for just three weeks, or 20 business days. We believe that it would be much more effective to leave the course as it is and start preparing for next term taking into account two possible scenarios: with or without a vaccine. Another question to consider is whether a student, teacher or someone from Administration has coronavirus symptoms. Especially with Infants because it will be very difficult to stop them coming into contact."
Orell also has doubts about how to start the return to the classrooms "without increasing the teaching staff to cope with face-to-face and telematic classes. In the last quarter, teachers have been working very long, intense days," he says, adding, ”we are aware of the problems that families have, but Educational Centres are not there to solve those problems or to provide assistance services.”
ANPE Union Representatives have also rejected a return to the classroom saying that without negotiations, clarification of protocols and health guarantees, there is unnecessary risk.
"There are urgent questions that still need answers, such as the disinfection of Centres, the sealing of computers, instruments, educational material, door knobs and school transportation which could cause problems for students, parents and teachers, said Joan Ramon Xamena, President of the Association of Directors of Secundària. “We are faced with uncertainties every day and cannot duplicate templates and spaces. We expect clear instructions on what we have to do, without ambiguity,” he added.