Hangers of a Barcelona primary school showing cultural diversity.
Hangers of a Barcelona primary school showing cultural diversity.CARLES RIBAS

The process is usually repeated every year: families stressed by the choice of school or institute, and after the pre-registration and the publication of the list of admitted students, the claims begin. But last year, in Catalonia, a new type of complaint was added: the lack of places in the desired public school, due to the reduction in ratios —from 25 to 20— in Infantile3 and the reservation of places for students with special needs (NESE). “Families are afraid because they see that there are fewer public places and fewer possibilities of accessing a public one, and instead there is a lot of offer in the concerted one,” says Lidón Gasull, director of Affac, the federation of family associations.

The reservation of places is one of the main measures included in the Pact against School Segregation, signed in 2019, with the aim of ending ghetto schools. Specifically, it is about allocating a certain number of places for students in situations of socioeconomic vulnerability. Thus, the Administration designates —with prior agreement with the family, if possible— the school where the child will be enrolled, so that these students are theoretically distributed equally among the different centers, preventing them from concentrating on one or more specific ones. . The final purpose is to ensure that each school is a reflection of the social composition of the neighborhood in which it is located.

The resolution of the Department of Education that establishes the norms of pre-registration sets, in general, this reserve in three for the Infant stage3 (I3): one for students with a disability and two for those who are at risk of poverty. But the figure, in the end, can vary according to the neighborhood or the municipality and each City Council sets it according to its reality. Barcelona is a good reflection of this disparity and the number of reserved places ranges from 2 or 3 to 11 in a single group of I3, depending on the area where the school is located.

The reason for the complaints from the families is that since last year there have been fewer vacancies: the starting point is no longer 25, but 20 in most cases (91%), a figure that must be subtracted those reserved for students with special needs and for siblings of current students. This generated a lot of commotion a year ago because Education took time to identify and quantify NESE students, and it did so once the pre-registration process had begun. Then, 20,851 were detected, which represented 18% of the students. The problem is that Education provided a reserve for 10%, so it had to increase the volume of saved places and families who already thought they had a place awarded at the desired school and in the end they could not count on it.

From the Barcelona Education Consortium they admit an increase in complaints from families due to this decrease in vacancies. “The landscape has changed. Those most demanded centers have come into tension because until now they hardly enrolled vulnerable students, and ordinary families have noticed that the chances of entering the desired school have decreased. And this is reflected in the figures: the current year, 91.6% of the Infantil3 families entered the center marked as the first option, when the previous year it was 94.7%. And in 1st ESO it also dropped from 91.6% to 89.8%.

But other types of complaints also arose, since some of the families were referred to subsidized centers. “Possibly those families want a public one and not a concerted one, surely religious, and where they make them pay some type of fee,” Gasull points out. From the Affac they criticize that the reduction of the ratios does not affect the concerted one equally. “We have fewer public places, but an oversupply in the concerted one, and what it does is weaken the public”, he adds. And it is that, according to data from Education, while 91% of public school groups start with a ratio of 20, in the concerted one they will only do so in 51% of the cases.

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In this way, subsidized private centers offer more places, and at the same time, more security to families that they will not have to suffer so much to get their child enrolled. This is well known to families in areas where the public offer falls short, as in some neighborhoods of Badalona. Last year a group of families joined the platform Families without a place in Badalona to claim more public places. “Families do not register their children where they want, but where they have the best chance of entering, and for this reason many end up opting for a subsidized one,” says Rafa Segovia, a member of the platform.

“The reservation of places limits the right to choose, because sometimes vulnerable families want to go to the nearest school, but they are not allowed and are forced to go to another. The problem is that these families don’t complain because they don’t have a voice”, they lament from La Pepeta, the platform that brings together the family associations of Terrassa, one of the cities with the most school segregation and which, together with Barcelona, ​​was a pioneer in the application of the reservation of places.

Those who do protest are those with more organizational capacity. This Monday the period for submitting applications ends, but when the list of admitted students is published in May, it is expected that the complaints will be reproduced. And it is that not even measures with kind intentions, such as ending the scourge of school segregation, have managed to appease the registration processes. “Everyone wants to give their children the best education and they don’t want to go to a segregated school. Policies against segregation are understandable, but when one is touched and assumes that your child may be left without a place, then things change. Families are not being able to accept going to some stigmatized centers. This is not fixed to patches. And the reservation of places are one more patch in the system ”, they settle from La Pepeta.

Less affiliated institutes

A group of families from the Poblenou neighborhood lives their own ordeal, but to access the institute. The Barcelona Education Consortium is reorganizing the relationship between institutes attached to schools, a fact that has meant that these families can only choose between two secondary schools, when until recently they had five. “Neither of them we like, one is of free education and the other is very conventional. But then we went to look at the concerted ones and it turns out that there are no places because almost all of them are reserved for vulnerable students ”, complains a father. Families ask for more public institutes to choose from, and at the same time criticize the effects of policies against school segregation. “These policies seem very good to us, but I also have the right to choose my daughter’s center. And if I want to go to a concert, they can’t force me to go to a public one.

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