FOR many families the cost of childcare is one of the largest monthly expenses, so the announcement yesterday that two and three-year-olds will be given free nursery places will be welcome news.
Speaking in the Valencian Parliament, regional education minister, Vicent Marzà, outlined how money destined for his department would be spent over the coming year. This year the regional government has allocated 5,202.7 million euros to education, an increase of 365 million euros, 7.6%, on last year.
Marzà reiterated his pledge to change, through education, towards a “more feminist, egalitarian, democratic and qualified society”, as a way out of the crisis. He also spoke of his commitment to bring down school dropout rates adding that the region is below the national average and that it is “starting to be a point of reference within Spain.”
Free nursery for 2-3-year-olds
Marzà explained: “In the next academic year all enrolled school children in the 2-3 year age group will have a free place in Valencian nurseries, both public and private.
“This policy is directly related to our social policies to break the inequalities of birth among Valencian students. For some years we’ve been creating classes for two-year-olds with free places and next year all two-year-old classes in the network of authorised nursery schools will be free. As a result some 24,000 children will have free places in this non-obligatory educational stage. Marzà said that to achieve this aim, funding to this area has been increased by 9 million euros.
In some areas, however, the news of free nursery places has been given a cautious welcome. Private nurseries, who have been struggling in recent years, due to the declining birth rate, fear that they may lose out if the free classrooms are created in state-run nurseries.
The Pla Edificant, for the improvement of educational buildings and equipment, has been allocated 425 million Euros (17 million more than in 2021), while the XarxaLlibres, the book bank system, will receive 60.98 million euros to change all the books in the free school book banks because in 2022 curriculums will change under the new LOMLOE education law.
Other measures proposed include restarting foreign trips for teaching staff with a further 27% more dedicated to training so they can continue learning languages, as well as 74.5 million given to school canteens and the aim to attract 30% more students to professional training (FP).
There are also plans for a virtual EOI (Official Language School) offering both English and Valencian classes online.
Valencian culture has received a boost with 170.4 million euros (an increase of 18.8%) while encouraging reading has become a priority with a planned investment of 12.29 million euros. There will also be new ways to support bookshops to encourage reading and sales of books by Valencian authors.
Finally “free sport” is a novelty, being prescribed as both treatment and cure for “those who are going through a hard time and where sport could improve their health.·
The Big Question
Do you agree with this allocation of funds?