Barcelona’s kindergarten model challenged by budget cuts
Barcelona City Council is concerned about being able to maintain the current public kindergarten model taking into account the budget cuts announced by the Catalan Government to reduce public spending. While in 2011 the Government contributed €1,600 per child, next year the quantity might be reduced to €1,000.
Barcelona (CNA).- Barcelona\u2019s kindergarten model, the public education centres from 0 to 3 years called \u2018Escoles Bressol\u2019 in Catalan, is at risk according to the Barcelona City Councillor for Education, Gerard Ardanuy, from the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU). This statement comes after the Catalan Government (also run by CiU) announced a reduction of funding of the \u2018Escoles Bressol\u2019, in its global strategy to reduce public spending aiming to reduce Catalonia\u2019s public deficit. While in 2011 the Catalan Government contributed \u20AC1,600 per child, next year the amount might be reduced to \u20AC1,000, although it has not been definitively decided. If it were confirmed, it would represent a reduction of \u20AC600 per child, which would have to be added to the cut of \u20AC200 already applied this current year. Besides, the Catalan Minister for Education, Irene Rigau, announced that the Department she manages owes a total amount of \u20AC70.9 million to Catalan town halls to finance kindergartens. When it found out about the new scenario, the opposition Socialist group (PSC) at the Barcelona City Council asked Ardanuy to guarantee that these cuts will neither affect the quality of the service offered by the city\u2019s \u2018Escoles Bressol\u2019 nor will it involve an increase in the registration quotas paid by the families.
The origin of the \u2018Escoles Bressol\u2019
The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) led the Barcelona City Council for 32 years until May 2011, when the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU) won the elections. Barcelona City Council has been promoting a high quality model of public kindergarten education, which is now challenged by the budget cuts, implemented to reduce public spending. This model was based on ones from Scandinavia (especially Sweden) and from Reggio Emilia (in northern Italy). It is characterized by outstanding and spacious equipments, very well paid staff (with salaries over the average) and a low pupil-teacher ratio.
The goal of this model was, on one hand, to help conciliate the professional and the family life of the parents and, on the other hand, to maximize the early stimulation of the children since neuro-scientific studies show that the 0-3 period is a milestone in the education process.
The \u2018Escoles Bressol\u2019 are very popular among local citizens and are appreciated as an excellent public service. Proof of this is that during the last 6 years the number of \u2018Escoles Bressol\u2019 has increased from 40 to 95. Moreover, since 2009-10 the number of student posts has passed from 4,000 to the current 7,000.
According to a technician from the Barcelona City Council the \u20AC7,300 cost per year of each child placement was supposed to be equally funded by the City Council, the Catalan Government and the families. However, the current funding is 50% from the City Council, 27% from the Catalan Government and 22% from the families. In a context of expansion of the \u2018Escoles Bressol\u2019 model, the announcement of cuts from the Catalan Government is a reason for concern in the City Council.
Actions to preserve this model announced by Barcelona City Council
Last February, the Barcelona City Council announced three actions that they will put into practice on September 2012 in order to preserve the \u2018Escoles Bressol\u2019 model. First of all, the teacher-child ratio will be increased from 7 to 8 (period 0-1 years old), from 10 to 13 (period 1-2 years old) and from 18 to 20 (period 2-3 years old). Secondly, there will be a 15% reduction in the number of support staff at lunch time. Finally, the management of the kindergartens will be given over to private companies. According to a City Council technician this will not affect neither the public ownership of the service nor supervision from the public administrators. These actions will entail a saving of \u20AC2.61 million.
Although the following information has not been officially confirmed, the same source from the City Council told CNA that there is probably going to be another action to preserve the model: an increase of 10% in the quotas paid by the families. If this measure was finally decided, it means that while in the current year families were paying an amount of \u20AC2,650 per child, over the year 2012-2013 the amount would be \u20AC2,915.