The fight for the continuous working day is festering in schools: “The conflict is increasingly virulent”
It’s six in the afternoon on a Monday and the Ramiro Jover public school in Valencia is strangely lively. A melody is heard in the courtyard that anyone who has had children in the last decade could identify as Sing games, there are babies with their faces painted, a table with orange juice and ensaimadas, and a voting table with several people sitting very close to each other. A mixture of joy and tension floats in the air. The school holds a consultation between the families at the same time to decide if it will have a continuous day, and a party organized by the management of the center to encourage electoral participation. Both coincide despite the attempts of the largest federation of public school families to avoid it: in the morning, the educational center received a burofax from Fampa-Valencia urging those responsible to cancel the invitation to snacks and other recreational activities when considering them interference in the electoral process.
The continuous day, a school schedule that concentrates classes in the morning, has been introduced in public schools in almost all of Spain despite the growing number of studies that advise against it due to its impact on children’s health and work-life balance. and familiar. It has replaced the traditional split shift, which includes more patio time, a lunch break and two sessions in the afternoon. Already implemented in almost all territories, except in Catalonia and the Basque Country, whose educational authorities have blocked it, the battle to establish the intensive schedule is centered in Madrid, where at the beginning of this course it was operating in 66% of public schools, and the Valencian Community, where from September it will do so in 76%. In both autonomies, however, there are large territorial differences: in general, the continuous working day has less presence in urban areas and those with a higher socioeconomic level. “Families with greater cultural capital are more likely to resist teachers’ attempts to implement the continuous shift, because they tend to seek more information and discuss the school’s arguments,” says sociologist Daniel Gabaldón. It is a phenomenon almost exclusive to public education; in the subsidized and private schools, where the strength of the teachers is less, it hardly occurs.
In Madrid capital, the intensive schedule has only replaced the traditional one in 38% of public schools (with data from September, because this year’s voting has not yet finished). And in the city of Valencia, by 41%. The municipality has held referendums this year in seven schools: six have rejected the continuous one and the one that has approved it is located in Malva-rosa, one of the neighborhoods with the lowest income in Valencia.
The continuous journey continues to expand, but at a slower pace. The dynamics of big waves, such as the one that in little more than five years made the province of Alicante go from not having schools with a continuous day to reaching 98% of the public ones, has been replaced by a stabilization of the front. In the Valencian Community, votes have been held this year in 46 of the 1,008 public schools and 23 have succeeded. In many centers the positions of the parties have hardened, those responsible for the large federations of school families agree to regret public of Madrid and Valencia, Mari Carmen Morillas and Rubén Pacheco, and the heads of education of CC OO and UGT in the Community of Madrid, Teresa Jusdado and Isabel Galvín. “A very virulent confrontation is taking place in the educational community, more and more,” says Galvín. “There are educational centers that have been dealing with this issue for years: one course after another, and another, and another… And that generates fatigue and bad feelings that you cannot imagine,” adds Morillas.
Implementing the continuous shift requires reinforced majorities in family voting. The education unions attribute to this circumstance, which they consider undemocratic, the tension that surrounds the debate. The federations of fathers and mothers argue, for their part, that what is undemocratic is that no school in Spain has held a referendum in the opposite direction -to go from continuous shift to departure-, since to approve them the regulations also require qualified majorities in the school councils, where teachers and administration staff have more representatives than families, which allows them to block it.
To implement the continuous day in a school in Madrid it is necessary that two thirds of the families participate and that two thirds of the votes cast are positive. The Valencian Community requires the support of 55% of the census of parents. Participation is key in both cases (not voting is equivalent to opposing). And this is increasing the use of debatable formulas to encourage voting, such as the party at the Ramiro Jover school in Valencia. The Carmen Iglesias school in Tres Cantos (Madrid) organized a market and recreational activities in January to raise funds for the end-of-year trip for sixth graders on the day the school day was voted on, laments a parent who prefers not to be identified. And the presidents of the Ampas federations of Madrid and Valencia claim to have received numerous complaints from centers full of posters in which they urge people to vote (and sometimes to do so in favor of the continuous day), statements from some school administrations that make families understand that participation is mandatory (when it is not) and teachers who tell the students in class how good they would be with the intensive schedule.
Voting since 2012
Emili Meseguer assures that the latter happened to one of his daughters at the Ramiro Jover school in Valencia, a center that, in addition to inviting people to have a snack on the day of the referendum, resorted to another shocking initiative. Three weeks before the vote, he offered families to do it in advance by certified mail for free. “The director told us that the teachers were going to pay for it out of her pocket. But some parent denounced it to the ministry and they stopped it”, says Meseguer. The director, Eva Tarín, also assured this newspaper that the food distributed at her school on the day of the referendum was “a donation” from the company that manages the dining room. Neither the families of this school nor the one in Tres Cantos that organized the market approved the change to the continuous day.
The continuous shift advances more slowly, says Daniel Gabaldón, professor of Sociology at the University of Valencia, because there are fewer schools with split shifts, and because over the years there has been a certain decantation of families and, to a lesser degree, teachers, when choosing a school. This, Carolina Domínguez affirms, has happened in the center of her daughter, the Andrés Segovia de Leganés, who has been voting and rejecting since 2012 the proposals of the management to implement the continuous day (except in the pandemic courses, when the schedule intensive was imposed without consultation). “In Leganés there are many cabbages with a continuous shift, and those who have been coming to ours have already done so in many cases looking for the split shift.” Keeping the debate on hours open for more than a decade has, however, clouded the atmosphere of the center. “In our school it has never come to blows, as in others in Leganés, where there have been parents who have come to stick to the door of the center, but a climate of discomfort and division has been created. Not only among families and teachers, but among the families themselves and among the few teachers who are in favor of the split shift and the rest”.
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