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Summer School in Spain

By Jo Green - Thu 7th Jul 2011

From the start of June Schools in Spain switch across to summer hours - meaning that classes run from 9am until 1pm Instead of 12 Noon, however in summer there are no lessons in the afternoon between the hours of 3pm and 5pm. (Now you understand why so many parents put their kids in 'Comedor' for 3 hours...) The hours are the same for September, and then from the end of September through to the end of May they revert back to the Winter hours.

This just leaves school being closed for the whole of July and August.

After 3 years of our daughter being at Nursery we were used to having Augusts to contend with and the childcare nightmares that this brings, but having July to contend with as well this year made the prospect quite grim.

Yet another reason why so many Spanish parents chose to live in the town centres, close to the schools and with the grandparents.

Fortunately, at the start of June some of the other Spanish parents made us aware of Summer School.

Basically Summer school is run by the Ayuntamiento - as opposed to the Regional Educational Authority - but has their support and uses their facilities. For just 50 Euros for the whole of the month they take children from 3 years old through to the 12 year olds and occupy them from 9am to 1pm. Fantastic value : Cheaper than any childminder, a safe and familiar environment, and it means she will be playing with all the kids that she already knows from School.

So on the Friday (which was the 1st) I packaged her off to 'very big school' with a snack and a bottle of water, not knowing exactly what to expect as no details had been provided. When I came back at lunchtime she was clutching a note inviting us to a meeting at the town hall on the coming Monday evening.

There was only perhaps about 25% of the parents in attendance and my heart slumped a little when the flyers were handed out and the meeting commenced in raving Valenciano, as opposed to Castilian as I had hoped. The usual question was asked - could the meeting be held in Castilian - the answer came back, as expected, no.

From what I could gather the 8 teachers on the stage were not in fact teachers. They were trainee teachers, and their running of the summer school was basically an assessment in itself, and their chance to prove to the educational authorities that they were fit teachers. They were not supervised at all, and basically our kids were their Guinea Pigs.

The student teachers went on to talk the few parents present through their plans for the activities to be held over the next few weeks. It started off quite well : The Games they would play; the sports they would get involved in; they would be learning a few dance routines and put on a show; a few very basic cooking skills; painting and drawing etc... so far, so good and all as I would have expected.

Then came the next bit. It seems that part of the assessment for the student teachers must have been something to do with their organising activities or events either off-site or out of normal hours - something that they would be expected to do as fully qualified teachers.

To start with they offered us parents details of the excursions and activities that they had in mind :

- A visit to the local 'Careneceria' where they could watch pig carcasses being butchered and sausages being made (watch those little fingers in that bacon slicer there ...)

- Another one was a visit to the municipal swimming pool. 8 unqualified student teachers with no life-guard or swimming experience looking after 90 or so kids. You do the maths ...

- A visit to the local Bodega. I kid you not, 90 kids wandering around an alcohol production facility...

- A Trip to the local Garden Centre. Not too controversial in itself, were it not for the fact that getting there involved 90 kids wandering for about half a mile along a busy main road.

- A Trip to the Outward bound activity centre (Think Krypton Factor : ever seen a 3 year old on a Cargo net or Zip-line ?)

- A Camping night. Honestly, apparently they expected the parents to forgo the usual 9am-1pm time (when we are all at work and need out kids to go to summer school) and instead drop them off at school at 5pm where they would CAMP OUT, ready for us to collect them at 9am the next day. Aside from the issue of it totally buggering up out childcare arrangements, how many 3 years old going camping in a school field in the searing mozzie ridden heat of July ?

Now, I'm a big fan of Not mollycoddling my daughter and letting her try new things, but it seems that the (Student) teachers have totally lost sight of their prime responsibility here - looking after the kids - and are instead focussing on the goal of passing their assessment to graduate as fully qualified teachers at all costs.

Secondly, when they asked for some parents to volunteer to 'lend a hand' I was a bit stumped. I thought I had paid 50 Euros for the privilege of having my daughter attend summer school to enable myself and the other half to do some much needed work (as one of us would be babysitting through August) - not paying my money to sacrifice my commitments and then look after other kids as well !

My over-riding concern though, is this : If the students are looking after the kids, who is looking after the students ?

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