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Massive school closures

MORE THAN 1,500 schools were closed in Portugal during the course of the last school year.

The majority of the 1,697 schools that were shut down were primary education institutions, with two being secondary schools in Lisbon and Porto.

This prompted protests in both areas and the Education Minister, Maria de Lurdes Rodrigues, was widely criticised.

Forty per cent of all primary schools with less than 20 students were closed and the students were integrated into existing institutions. Rodrigues said that one of the main criteria to remain open is that the school must have more than 20 pupils.

The north of Portugal was most affected by the closures, with 44 schools shut down in Vila Pouca de Aguiar in Vila Real: a region which saw a total of 274 schools close.

Cutting costs

In Bragança, 243 closed and 232 were shut down in Viseu, compared with regions further south like Évora seeing 39 closures.

Rodrigues wants to close another 900 schools in the next year to cut costs. A lack of students has also been given as a reason for the closures and Rodrigues believes that closing the smaller institutions will resolve the budget issues and funding will no longer be stretched too thin across the board.

Fewer schools will also mean that there will be a sufficient amount of teachers in posts where they are most needed. In the wake of all the closures, 22 new schools were opened in the last school year.

The school network reshuffle has come at considerable cost to the government. Ten million euros were given to the local câmaras to transport children, who live far away, to the nearest school, but the Education Minister is confident that the closures will be beneficial and cost effective in the long run.

She also believes that the money saved can be redirected to improve the school system as a whole, as well as the facilities available to the students and the teachers.

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