This weekend the teaching competitions are held in most of Spain –the Valencian Community held them in May– in one of the most numerous calls in the last decade, with more than 27,000 places signed. After a year of pause due to the pandemic, the autonomous communities resume the tests, in theory, aimed at stabilizing employment in Education and even reducing temporary employment, a problem that plagues the system and reduces the quality of education, according to the professionals of the sector. Most of the places that leave this year correspond to the Secondary body. Elementary teachers will have to wait until next summer.
The dream of low ratios lasted a year: “Increasing them is a health and educational error”
This school year has been bittersweet for the interim teachers. On the one hand, the pandemic and the need to separate students in class and therefore form more groups has led the autonomous communities to hire more than 35,000 additional teachers who would not have worked under normal circumstances, or at least not so much. But, on the other hand, these extraordinary incorporations have triggered the temporality in teaching and, in the absence of the autonomous communities finishing confirming their plans for the coming year, they point to the flower of a day: the agreement between the Ministry of Education and the autonomous governments allows the autonomies to return to the prepandemic ratios.
The sector, which has dragged on a precarious problem for years, has gone from having 22.6% of interns last September to 27.7% during the course, according to a CCOO study. The unions and the Government signed an agreement in 2017 that set the objective of lowering the interim in essential sectors, such as Education, to 8%. Europe has also pulled Spain by the ears for “abusing” the temporality in the administration.
And in the case of Education, the problem of temporary employment is not only related to work and teachers. Teachers and principals tell it over and over again: a temporary teacher also means a decrease in educational quality. For the center, because it is difficult for them to give continuity to educational projects; for the teacher himself, who may hesitate to become overly involved in promoting programs because he knows that the following year he will not be at the center, or that if he does, he will not be able to develop it; and for the students, especially the youngest ones, who see how each course has a different teacher.
“Schools and institutes cannot make long-term plans because they do not know which personnel they will have,” explains Luis Tovar, a temporary teacher in Ceuta. “It also happens that specific training is done, but then the teacher goes to another center. Educational projects in schools start from the first and go up, and so on. [cuando se va el maestro que lo ha puesto en marcha o no se sabe con quién se va a poder contar] everything gets complicated, “he argues. A 22% interim position means that, on average, one in five teachers from each school and institute will change schools each year.
Massive calls, but “insufficient”
And in those, the teaching competitions reach most of the autonomous communities this weekend, the main (only, actually) tool that the administration has to reduce the interim. After a year, last year, in which only Catalonia carried out the tests due to the pandemic, this summer the massive calls are back: in total, the different communities will offer 27,583 places in 2021. This figure is the second highest in the last decade and yet “insufficient”, in the opinion of the unions, to move towards the agreed reduction. According to CCOO calculations, to get closer to that 8% it would be necessary to approve 83,215 more places. It is estimated that some 177,000 people will apply for these 27,583 places: about six applicants for each position.
The supply of public employment in Education has moved between extremes in recent years. Between 2011 and 2017, both included, a total of less than 36,000 places were summoned. They were the hard years of the brick crisis and first Zapatero and then Rajoy basically prohibited the oppositions establishing a replacement rate (the percentage of retirements that are covered again) first of 10% that gradually rose to 50%. As a logical consequence, the temporality skyrocketed because the students were not going anywhere and the teachers were still missing; as no civil servants with a position could be incorporated, the interim were pulled. From 18% of temporary employment in 2010, it went to 26% in 2017.
The pact for job stability changed course. The 36,000 places offered in the previous seven years became 88,455 between 2018 and 2021 (including last year, when just 4,892 were called). But at this rate, the unions say, reaching the agreed 8% is going to be difficult in many communities. “These figures not only represent a flagrant breach of the agreement, but also represent a reduction in educational quality,” they explain from CCOO.
It is also true that the situation varies greatly between regions. Galicia was, before the COVID reinforcements, below the target set with 5.2%. It is the only community that complies, although Andalusia, Madrid, the Valencian Community, Extremadura and the Balearic Islands are below the average. On the contrary, in the Basque Country, Catalonia, Aragon, Navarra and the Canary Islands, one out of every three teachers is temporary.
The problem, the union organizations maintain, is one with two faces that feed back on each other. On the one hand, the replacement rate is still in force, at 110%, which means that in the best of cases, 100% of the places of people who retire and 10% more are replaced. On the other, the teaching body is aging: the largest group is made up of teachers between 40 and 49 years old, with 176,371 people. The next largest is made up of those between 50 and 59, which is a total of 157,386 teachers.
The third leg that makes it difficult to lower the interim figures is that, even though the calls are insufficient, not all the summoned places are covered. Between 2018 and 2019, 3,662 places remained unfilled because fewer teachers passed the test than the places that were offered.
And then there are stages and stages. “The general reduction in temporary employment comes at the cost of reducing it in some bodies, but not in others,” explains José María Ruiz, head of Public Education at CCOO. Examples: teachers are in numbers close to what was agreed, but in FP or Conservatories the interim reaches 50% or even 60% of the workforce. In some specialties of Vocational Training there are autonomous communities that have not announced places for more than a decade. This is the case, to name a few, of Production of Graphic Arts or Repair Services in Aragon: 15 years without taking a fixed place. In La Rioja, of the 29 specialties, places have only been summoned in four of them in the last 12 years.
In any case, tens of thousands of teachers or aspiring teachers will appear this Saturday for a test that comes with some controversy. The communities have had unequal behaviors when planning the exams, and in some autonomies there have been more uncertainties than certainties throughout the process. Unions have protested the lack of specific preventive measures in the face of the pandemic in many regions, supported by the fact that in many regions it is practically mandatory for a practicing teacher to appear for the call – beyond the possibility of obtaining a place fixed – if you do not want to run the risk of leaving the lists or dropping positions and staying without work the following year, which happens in the Canary Islands, Castilla-La Mancha, Madrid, Navarra, Ceuta and Melilla.
Protests have taken place in different communities. In the Canary Islands, STEC-IC took the matter to court and requested the suspension of the call, but the Superior Court of Justice has just rejected it. In Madrid, the regional government has published the conditions in which the test will be carried out a few days before the scheduled day, to the despair of the applicants. In Asturias the demonstrations followed one another so that the test was not carried out.
One of the thorny issues of this course is what will happen to the candidates who cannot finally appear for the tests because they are infected with COVID or because they are close contact and have to isolate themselves. “Allowing these people the possibility of taking the test at a later time, having duly justified their situation, is to guarantee equality before the tests and discourages them from attending the exam or hiding the symptoms of COVID-19 due to fear of lose an opportunity “, they explain from CCOO. A fear that is doubly justified if one takes into account that teaching competitions alternate every year: a Secondary teacher who does not take them will have to wait until 2023 to have another chance.
According to a study by the union, only eight of the 17 communities (Canarias, Cantabria, Catalunya, Castilla y León, Galicia, Navarra, Comunitat Valenciana and La Rioja) will repeat the test to applicants who cannot take it, be it the first phase (written exam) or the second (practical part). Another three (Andalusia, Aragón and Extremadura) would only repeat, in their case, the second test.