On Tuesday of this week teachers across Spain went on strike to protest against proposed cuts in education spending that would see class sizes rise by on average 20%, decreased salaries and the loss of up to 100,000 substitute teachers.
With my son due to start school in September the state education system is naturally a subject close to my heart. It is also one of the hot topics of conversation on the street, along with more general ‘crisis’ musings.
The consensus of the crowd in Casa Joselu (our local bar) last week was that our local school should be safe from closure or loss of teachers. Being a tiny country school with only two teachers to begin with (one for Infants and one for Primaria) they’d be hard pushed to cut teacher numbers.
Interestingly, class sizes in the school have already increased organically over the course of the last year and this trend looks set to continue. This is also due, at least in part, to the effects of the economic crisis. As unemployment soars in the cities we have seen a return to the countryside of a number of young families in a quest to live more cheaply, with extended family and/or off the land.
In an area which has suffered from severe depoplulation over recent decades and with the oldest demographic in Europe this influx of new life is very much a cause for celebration.
It has also almost certainly saved the local school from potentially severe cuts. Two years ago when my neighbours’ two children were starting school here, student numbers were worryingly low – the mayor feared the loss of staff, or worse. Last month, when I went in with Jack’s application the Infants teacher told me how her class size had almost doubled over the course of this academic year (from 7 to a still very manageable 12).
While the economic news continues to go from bad to worse it’s comforting to remember that every cloud has a silver lining and that people and communities are constantly surprising in their resourcefulness and ability to adapt in times of adversity.