Czech EdMin closing one funding avenue for teaching assistants for socially disadvantaged pupils
According to recent reports, the Czech Ministry for Education, Youth and Sport has decided that as of September 2017 it will no longer continue its development program that finances assistants for teachers working with socially disadvantaged pupils. According to the website asistentpedagoga.cz, which serves teaching assistants, in practice this will mean an end to the vast majoirty of teaching assistants now working in the schools.
The website reports that until 2016 teaching assistants were financed by two different subsidy systems in the Czech Republic. One financed assistants for pupils living with disabilities, and another functioned as a development program to finance teaching assistants for socially disadvantaged pupils.
As part of the so-called support measures adopted in 2016, the ministry decided to combine both teaching assistant funding systems into one, which in practice has brought about just marginal changes for pupils living with disabilities, but for socially disadvantaged pupils means that it is necessary for schools to resubmit recommendations from school counseling centers to the ministry stating that such an assistant is in fact necessary. According to teaching assistants, precisely that measure is frequently a stumbling block, as the parents of socially disadvantaged pupils frequently do not cooperate with school counseling facilities, which means schools cannot request teaching assistant subsidies based on their recommendations.
According to statistical data from September 2015, there were 850 teaching assistants working in the Czech schools with socially disadvantaged pupils. It is assumed that even though some of the current assistants will be reassigned by principals to positions corresponding to their professional focus, the vast majority of them will lose their jobs as of the new school year.
Standpoint of the Czech Education Ministry
What is the ministry's position on this matter? "Assistants can continue their activities in the schools. If financing for a teaching assistant is provided by the support measures system, then they will be financed by the money for which they are eligible. Another option is the templates available from the European Social Fund (Operational Program Research, Development and Education), or to finance the assistant through the ministry's development program for assistant support, or a school can finance this from the regular funds provided as part of the per capita normative funding," the Department of External Relations and Communication at the ministry responded when asked for a statement by Romea.cz.
"Because of the amendment to the Education Act, arranging for the position of a teaching assistant is regulated in a different way now than it was before August 2016. Now it is primarily a support measure recommended by a counseling facility if the pupil requires an assistant because of special educational needs," the ministry officially replied.
Maroš Šandor, a graduate of a pedagogical secondary school who studied Pedagogy for Assistants in Education there, and of a Social-Legal Higher Vocational School in the field of Andragogy (adult learning), is of a different opinion. For 18 years he has been working as a Romani assistant at a primary school in the Most area.
"In my opinion the new Education Act is absolutely destroying assistants for socially disadvantaged children," Šandor told Romea.cz. "This is turning the clock back approximately 20 years."
"An assistant aids such children with integrating, and frequently it is he who convinces a pupil or leads a pupil to continue on to high school or vocational secondary school. If a school wants an assistant, it must first raise the money for one, which is not easy. I believe there should be a unified system for distributing the subsidies for teaching assistants and schools should not have to apply for such funding from several projects or public tenders. The financing of assistants is insufficient. Many of them work just half-time or three-quarter time. That means assistants must find second jobs in order to finance their households," Šandor said.
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