Second pandemic academic year starts on September 13 – here's all you need to know
1.5 million students head back to school for 100% in-person learning
On September 13, Catalonia's 1,561,627 students will be heading back to school for the second pandemic-altered academic year.
And with over a year of Covid-19 experience under their belt, the Catalan health and education departments have determined that opening schools for 100% in-person learning, as was done last year, will be the way forward in 2021-2022.
"There is never 0 risk," education minister Josep González Cambray said on Wednesday. "But the benefits of opening schools outweigh the risks."
Most of the Covid-19 restrictions in place last year – for example, compulsory face mask use for students 6 and over – will remain in place this year.
But with vaccination rates picking up speed among school-age children over the age of 12, one of the main differences is that fully vaccinated students will no longer have to self-isolate if one of their classmates tests positive.
"Now is the time to get vaccinated," González Cambray said. "Everybody 12 and over should be getting their jabs."
41.5% of 12- to 15-year-olds and 64% of 16- to 19-year-olds are, as of September 7, fully vaccinated, meaning that far fewer students are likely to miss out on learning this year than last. Health authorities aim to fully vaccinate two-thirds of students in this age group before the school year starts.
Students from different stable 'bubble' groups will be allowed to interact with one another this year as long as they are wearing masks, while children from the same group will be able to play together outdoors without masks.
Parents and guardians, unlike last year, will be allowed on school grounds as long as they comply with health and safety regulations, such as mask-wearing. They have also been advised to get vaccinated.
2021-2022 academic year in figures
There are over 1.5 million pre-school, primary, secondary, and trade school students in Catalonia who will be back in the classroom on Monday. Around 67% study at public schools, while the remaining are in private and semi-private educational centers.
For demographic reasons, among others, there are fewer students in most age groups except pre-university Batxillerat, the last two grades in secondary school. In total there will be 2,173 fewer students this year than last, with 1,563,800 enrolled.
Despite this, the additional 8,200 teachers and other staff members who were hired last year will hold on to their jobs, and another 1,200 people will be employed, with the education department aiming to reduce the number of employees on temporary contracts from 24% to under 10% by 2024. There are also 21 new schools in the public school system this academic year.
As is frequently the case in times of crisis and unemployment, trade schools have received far more applications than usual. In order to ensure everyone wishing to study a mid-level course will be able to, the education department will allow an unlimited number of students to enroll in online classes at the Institut Obert de Catalunya (IOC).