Parents and teachers suspect late start to school year is “pre-election move”

Portugal’s parents and teachers have voiced their fears over the Ministry of Education’s decision to start the coming school year a week later than usual, saying it could all be a way of “avoiding school issues before the legislative elections”.

While teachers fear they won’t have enough time to teach all the subject matters they’re supposed to, parents are worried about how they will look after their children during the extra week of holidays.

As Jornal de Notícias explains, schools will be given the choice to start classes between September 15 and 21. Last year, they were allowed to open between September 11 and 15.

Education Minister Nuno Crato says the goal is to make the three school terms the same size, as the winter stretch is usually much longer than the spring and summer ones.

He added: “There are parents who think the school year is too long and others who think it is too short. We have to keep adjusting as we think best.”

But very few are impressed by Crato’s explanation.

João Louceiro, the head of Portugal’s teachers union FENPROF, claims it is nothing more than a “pre-election move”.

“The ministry is trying to buy time to assign teachers to schools and avoid the chaos and spectacle of incompetence that marked the start of the last school year,” he said.

Jorge Ascensão, president of the national parents’ confederation, is also highly critical of the plan.

As he pointed out, there will be more subject matters for Portuguese and Maths teachers to teach next year, but there will be less time to do so.

“I can’t understand it. How will teachers do more with less time? In social terms, it will also create problems for parents,” he said, adding that “many do not have the means to look after their children at home” for such long holidays.

Meantime, it has been reported that the Communist Party (PCP) and Left Bloc (BE) have already requested a hearing with the education minister.

Earlier this month, news reports carried a parent-related story that suggested most of the country’s families wanted far shorter holidays, as not only do children get bored, but parents are at their wits’ ends trying to cope with jobs and the need to supervise their children.