From Germany to Portugal, the proposal to open schools with extended hours is already working in Europe

It occurred to him to announce to the leader of the Socialist Party of Madrid (PSM), Juan Lobato, that if he wins the elections he will open the schools twelve hours a day eleven months a year to facilitate family reconciliation. And the mess was made. "They will not pretend that we teachers take care of it, we are teachers, not caregivers," reject the unions, open, however, to the idea of ​​using public centers more. "That is neither conciliatory nor leftist," some say, "attack the issue from the side of working hours." "That's very good, but while it's happening I need solutions," many parents replied, especially those from the most humble families.

The proposal is not an occurrence of Lobato. Years ago, countries like Germany or Portugal, among others, implemented what they come to call "full-time schools", with longer opening times than the school days in which non-curricular pedagogical activities are offered.

These programs refer above all to the need to improve the educational results of students by expanding the (voluntary) offer of activities, especially thinking of students with fewer means to pay for them on their own, although the need to facilitate the conciliation of the families that Lobato adduced. Cities like Strasbourg, in France, or Barcelona, ​​also have open patio programs in the afternoon, according to information provided by the Fundació Bofill.

"The problem is not exclusive to Spain," explains Marta Junqué, coordinator of the Barcelona Time Use Initiative. "The problem is the global context, although in Spain it is worse because the working hours end even later. But it is a problem in a world that is structured following the eight-hour scheme, which was an industrial scheme: eight hours to sleep eight for work and eight for free time. But when women joined the market, that ceased to exist."

The PSOE and UP included in their government pact a point by which they promised to "promote the reconciliation of work, family and personal life, and the necessary co-responsibility between men and women" through "the rationalization of schedules" and "a Law on the use of time". Little is known about this announced law, although the Minister of Labor, Yolanda Díaz, mentions it from time to time. From the side of the Ministry of Equality, an Advisory Board for care is also being prepared, which among its objectives has "advance in the development of the rights of conciliation co-responsible with employment".

"From the FAPA Giner de los Ríos we have claimed for many years the need to open educational centers as public spaces open to citizens", explains Mari Carmen Morillas, president of the main federation of associations of parents of the school Madrid public. "That citizens can enjoy these spaces for all is very necessary. There are neighborhoods in which in the afternoons there are children playing ball in the street or a park and you have the sports courts of the educational center next door without using", he adds .

Morillas concedes, however, that "the reconciliation of family and work requires a serious and profound debate with policies that protect families", but also recalls that "there are fathers or mothers who come home late in the afternoon-night; reconciling like this is very complicated and to cover this you depend on having a network of contacts or your socioeconomic level, and that is not a solution because it is not equitable. Opening the centers to resolve conciliation does not solve such a generalized problem, "he warns.

The people consulted to prepare this article agree: conciliation is a bank with many legs that should not depend on the school or on finding a place to park the children while the adults work. But they also admit that while the ideal arrives, it is necessary to attend to the urgent. "It is a patch to a fundamental problem, which is of state competence and which are work schedules, with little flexibility and that make conciliation difficult," summarizes Junqué.

In this sense, Lobato's proposal has mirrors in which to look beyond the Pyrenees: the full-time school in Portugal (School to Tempo Inteiro)a country that has gained international relevance in the sector for its educational policies in recent years, or the Ganztagsschulen german are some examples.

The Portuguese model, promoted from 2005 by the Ministry and implemented with the collaboration –and financing– of the municipalities, extended the opening hours of the centers that teach the first cycle of Primary (from 6 to 10 years in the country luso) until half past five in the afternoon, which means adding between three and five hours to the school day depending on the course. The activity usually starts at 9 in the morning. During this extended schedule, the so-called curricular enrichment activities are worked on, which include sports, artistic, scientific-technical, environmental or civic competitions.

The program is voluntary and free for families, but it is an obligatory offer for schools and has three main objectives: to reinforce the base of Primary learning, equity in access to non-formal education activities and adjust school times with work times. .

The Portuguese model took this last aspect very seriously. The mismatch between work schedules and school schedules caused "the neglect of minors in the afternoons" on the one hand and "difficulties in reconciling families, "which they often resolved by overloading the grandparents, reducing job opportunities for mothers or even opting for private schools that did have a complementary educational offer in the afternoons".

The program had –and has– great social acceptance, at least as far as numbers are concerned, according to an analysis carried out by the Fundació Jaume Bofill, which attributes it to a "solid political and social pact". The debate now is on how to improve activities and the convenience of extending it to the second stage of Primary, from ten years. 80% of students make use of this extended schedule in a country where the vast majority of students (88%) attend public schools, a situation that differs from Spain, with 67%.

The German school reform was motivated by what in the country was called the PISA shock, explains the Bofill Foundation, when the country saw that the results of its students in PISA were below the OECD average. The subsequent debate ended up giving birth to full-time schools, under the idea that increasing pedagogical time in school would improve results. Less than 20 years later, two out of three German schools left the morning shift under which they operated to go full-time.

Improving educational results, with an eye on the most disadvantaged, as Morilla claimed, was the main objective of the reform, but not the only one. Achieving a more holistic approach to education by promoting social skills in addition to cognitive skills or opening schools to their communities and making their educational resources –or materials– available to the population are mentioned among the achievements to be achieved.

Also promote conciliation, an aspect that Lobato focused on in his proposal and that perhaps caused part of the barrage of criticism. "The policy of reconciling work and family, being the full-time school model a solution to the incompatibility of work and school schedules of fathers and mothers, and a mechanism to promote the reintegration into the labor market of parents who had left the market employment after having children" is cited as another argument, together with "the constant increase in the demand for this type of school by families", analyzed from the Fundació Bofill. "In short, the GTS make it possible to respond to several simultaneous problems: poor school performance, social inequality among students and reconciling work and family".

In a decentralized state such as Germany, various models of Ganztagsschulen have emerged. They open until 3:00 p.m., until 4:00 p.m. or until 6:00 p.m. and there are some that offer voluntary non-teaching activities, but there are also some where they are compulsory and a third intermediate type, with some compulsory and others not. But in all of them, the teaching hours are the same as in the rest of the centres, although by having extended opening hours, class times can be distributed more flexibly or intersperse non-curricular activities between subjects. Since they were created, their use has not stopped growing and in 2017, 43.9% of students carried out some type of activity parallel to the classes.

In Spain, the Fundació Jaume Bofill has elaborated a complete time frame proposal "for full-time education" that starts from a much more extensive use of educational centers than the mere academic one, in line with the idea of ​​the PSM and the Portuguese program, although conciliation is not among its motivations; it is purely educational.

The authors of the report consider that the current schedules are "rigid and not very adaptable to educational needs", "too homogeneous" and do not favor the individualization of teaching, among other arguments.

The Foundation proposes that the centers start at least at eight in the morning and that they do not close before six in the afternoon, a timetable that can be extended if the center in question performs an equipping function for the neighbourhood, such as a library. This time slot includes "compulsory teaching time and activities" and the document specifies that this time "is different from the working hours of teachers" to allow "other professionals and educators" to enter.

But the idea is not that the students spend those ten hours in the centers because "a full-time education project cannot be detrimental to rest or family time", so the plan includes a maximum stay in the centers eight hours for each student. For example, a schedule from 9:00 to 17:00 is proposed. The use of tenses is complemented by a final instruction: teaching hours are framed between 9:00 or 10:00 and 12:00 or 1:00 and between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m. in the afternoons, with a lunch break boxed in between 12:00 and 2:00 p.m. .

Between the teaching hours, the document proposes, "optional educational activities" will be interspersed to be carried out in the center itself or outside of it. "These activities can be aimed both at complementing the base curriculum of the school hours and at developing other capacities through sports, art, etc", describes the text, with educators or other similar figures that complement the work of the tutors, " that under this model come to play a much more central role".

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