Kids are clamouring to get back to school on September 10, but the threat of strike action by teachers is hanging over the start of the new term.
Unions say they’re concerned about the conditions for the new term, which are scheduled to begin as normal, but there is a possibility that restrictions will be introduced to prevent the spread of Covid-19, according to the Department of Education.
“The UOB has already called for a walkout at the beginning of September, before the General Strike that’s scheduled for September 14", said Josep Palou, UOB Representative, who claims industrial action is "a last resort.”
The UOB stressed that “teachers are tired, alarmed and outraged." saying "the problem of the coronavirus pandemic can only be fixed with more space and more teachers. We have already heard through the press that there’s a possibility of starting the new term with restrictions," said Palou, "which would mean reducing ratios in Primary and Infant classes, but the number of teachers and spaces is not guaranteed.”
If restrictions are confirmed it would change the Agenda for Secondary pupils and generate more work for the teachers.
"If there’s not enough teachers, they will have to double their work and take the face-to-face classes as well as the online ones," said Palou.
STEI Union Reps pointed out that teachers in Madrid, Andalusia and Asturias have already called for a walkout, but said they would prefer not to take industrial action.
“We can’t rule anything out but strike action is a last resort and we are in favour of exhausting the negotiation path,” said STEI Secretary of Public Education, Cosme Orell. "We will convene a Union meeting next week and consult with our members, but it’s a complicated subject. To comply with security measures and lower ratios it’s essential to negotiate working conditions, so we will have to study the fine print for blended teaching.
The ANPE is demanding a Sectoral Board for negotiation in case the term does begin under scenario B, with blended classes for pupils over the age of 14.
Infant and Primary student attendance would be guaranteed if the restrictions are confirmed, but classes would be split into groups of 10-15 pupils.
"We do not want Education Centres to become the focus of infection”, stressed ANPE Spokesperson, Víctor Villatoro.
The Unions say they’ll present their demands at next week's meeting with Councillor Martí March, which include, "the urgent rental of modular classrooms to provide more space in all schools, more teachers, in addition to the 400 announced by Educació, and a school nurse.”
They’re also calling for a new Sectoral Board “to negotiate working conditions before the start of the new term. Under scenario B, afternoon schedules could be set for teachers and everyone would become tutors,” added Councillor March.
Last year 2,000 new students arrived in the Balearic Islands, whereas the student population has declined in Communities such as Asturias, Extremadura and Castilla y León.
"Enrolment is down this year, supposedly due to the pandemic," said a UOB Spokesperson.
Despite that drop in enrolment the Unions claim no extra resources have been allocated to cope with the increasing number of students coming to the Balearic Islands.