Parents pulling kids out of nurseries over costs

The soaring costs of nursery school provision in Madrid have resulted in thousands of families turning down coveted places at kindergartens over the last few months in favour of keeping their toddlers at home, new figures revealed on Tuesday.

Parents pulling kids out of nurseries over costs
Photo: Howard County Library System

Despite pressure for places around 20,000 families have pulled their toddlers out of nurseries across the Madrid area so to avoid paying the spiraling costs, new figures revealed on Monday.

The data made public by the Board of Representatives for Infant Education and the association ‘AMEIGI’ has revealed how the rise in costs has changed the priorities for parents when it comes to early years education.

"My husband works, but I'm unemployed. We cannot survive on his salary so I will take care of my daughter,"  Tania, a 42-year-old mother, who told Spanish daily 20 minutes that she is taking her daughter out of nursery that costs €275 a month.

"I can clean a house four days a week for €250, but I will have to take the child with me and if I get a job interview, I'll have to take her too," she said.

When authorities opened the application process in May 2012 for the 44,000 state funded nursery places at the 463 infant schools across the region they were bombarded by requests and were left with a 20,000-strong waiting list .

However, at that point parents had no idea how much they would have to shell out to pay for one of the coveted places.

When the prices were announced in June last year it was revealed nursery fees had risen by as much as 175 percent for some families, putting the average cost of a place at nursery between €180 and €225 a month.

If parents wanted the child to be given lunch then they would have to hand over on average another €100.

The cost had a dramatic impact on families with around 35 percent deciding to reject the offer of a place at a nursery school and another 15 percent had to pull their children out once the term had started because they could not afford the costs, AMEIGI claims.

“We lost a lot through drop outs,” one director of a school in Madrid told Spanish online newspaper 20 Minutes. “When I spoke to the parents they just told me they could not afford to pay the monthly charges.”

The number of people on waiting lists has reportedly been halved in some areas. Organizations also claim that a drop in state aid and scholarships for poorer families has added to the reasons why more and parents are keeping the children at home.

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Inquiry calls for free after-school care for 6-9 year-olds in Sweden

Children between ages 6-9 years should be allowed admittance to after-school recreation centers free of charge, according to a report submitted to Sweden’s Minister of Education Lotta Edholm (L).

Inquiry calls for free after-school care for 6-9 year-olds in Sweden

“If this reform is implemented, after-school recreation centers will be accessible to the children who may have the greatest need for the activities,” said Kerstin Andersson, who was appointed to lead a government inquiry into expanding access to after-school recreation by the former Social Democrat government. 

More than half a million primary- and middle-school-aged children spend a large part of their school days and holidays in after-school centres.

But the right to after-school care is not freely available to all children. In most municipalities, it is conditional on the parent’s occupational status of working or studying. Thus, attendance varies and is significantly lower in areas where unemployment is high and family finances weak.

In this context, the previous government formally began to inquire into expanding rights to leisure. The report was recently handed over to Sweden’s education minister, Lotta Edholm, on Monday.

Andersson proposed that after-school activities should be made available free of charge to all children between the ages of six and nine in the same way that preschool has been for children between the ages of three and five. This would mean that children whose parents are unemployed, on parental leave or long-term sick leave will no longer be excluded. 

“The biggest benefit is that after-school recreation centres will be made available to all children,” Andersson said. “Today, participation is highest in areas with very good conditions, while it is lower in sparsely populated areas and in areas with socio-economic challenges.” 

Enforcing this proposal could cause a need for about 10,200 more places in after-school centre, would cost the state just over half a billion kronor a year, and would require more adults to work in after-school centres. 

Andersson recommends recruiting staff more broadly, and not insisting that so many staff are specialised after-school activities teachers, or fritidspedagod

“The Education Act states that qualified teachers are responsible for teaching, but that other staff may participate,” Andersson said. “This is sometimes interpreted as meaning that other staff may be used, but preferably not’. We propose that recognition be given to so-called ‘other staff’, and that they should be given a clear role in the work.”

She suggested that people who have studied in the “children’s teaching and recreational programmes” at gymnasium level,  people who have studied recreational training, and social educators might be used. 

“People trained to work with children can contribute with many different skills. Right now, it might be an uncertain work situation for many who work for a few months while the employer is looking for qualified teachers”, Andersson said.