Czech School Inspection finds school's "Romani class" offers substandard instruction, fee charged for regular instruction
The Czech School Inspection (Česká školní inspekce - ČSI) has found many deficiencies during its inspection of a public primary school in the town of Krásná Lípa, the most essential of which involves the poor level of education provided in its Class 1A, to which primarily Romani children were assigned at the beginning of the school year. On the basis of a complaint filed by Romani parents, the Inspection began working at the primary school last autumn.
The reason for most of the complaints was the suspicious concentration of Romani children into a single common class. Given that the children were first-graders, the question was what criteria had been used for dividing them a priori into specific classes.
According to the ČSI inspection report, principal Ivana Preyová created three first-grade classes this year (1A, 1B and 1C). The public school also instituted a fee, presenting it on its "application form" and website, for the assignment of pupils into Class 1C.
According to the Inspection, the enrollment of children into the first grade at the school "was not based on the principle of equal access to education and contravenes the principle of offering primary education at no cost in schools established by municipalities." The investigation has reached many conclusions about some very basic flaws at the school that cannot be easily remedied.
The principal did not make sure that the education offered in Class 1A would be up to standard in terms of expertise and pedagogy. The school also failed to take the individual educational needs of its pupils into account.
The school did not monitor the fulfillment of various tasks in a way that was differentiated according to the grade the children were in. The composition of the first-grade classes did not conform to either the school's own conceptual documents or to its own plan for inclusive education.
The principal's approach led to the creation of classes in which mostly Romani pupils were educated. The enrollment of children for primary education into class 1C and the education of pupils repeating first grade were not based on the principle of equal access to education free of charge.
The school's own monitoring of the course and results of education in the first grade and its adoption of effective measures to improve the existing state of affairs in the school did not function at all. The principal's communication with the legal representatives of the pupils in Class 1A was substandard.
For assigning pupils into Class 1B, according to statements made by the principal and according to the background documentation submitted to the Inspection, what was determinative was whether a child had attended nursery school. The principal claimed that pupils who were not attending nursery school at the time of their registration into first grade were assigned to Class 1A, as were pupils needing catch-up and support measures for their education and pupils repeating first grade.
"The Czech School Inspection has ascertained that through the principal's approach, most of the pupils being educated in Class 1A are Romani," states the Inspection report, confirming the Romani parents' claims. The principal, however, said she did not assign pupils to Class 1 A on the basis of ethnicity.
"This decision does not correspond to the intentions of the Czech Education Ministry's strategic documents - its White Paper, its Long-term Aims for Education and the Development of the Education System of the Czech Republic for 2015-2020 - nor does it correspond to the principles of inclusive education. The composition of these first-grade classes does not conform either to the school's own conceptual documents nor to the school's own plan for inclusive education," states the report.
Previously the principal mainly defended herself by saying the assigment of a majority of Roma children into a single class (1A) had not been done out of ill intent, but because it afforded her the option of offering the children a teaching assistant to aid them in class. "The instruction in Class 1A is being provided by a beginning educator without the professional qualifications for teaching lower primary school, together with a teaching assistant for disabled pupils," the Inspection report finds.
Moreover, the Inspection's observations have ascertained that the teaching assistant who had originally been placed in Class 1A because the Romani first-graders were concentrated there was not actually working with that class at all, but with socially disadvantaged pupils in other classes. According to the Inspection's conclusions, the principal has not upheld the level of education in Class 1A in terms of either expertise or pedagogy.
The School Inspection also found a rather large number of other deficiencies that had (or are still having) a basic influence on the quality of education provided to children there, definitely including the fact that the principal never monitored whether the special educator or teaching assistant were doing their jobs. That means the principal did not fully have the procedure for enrolling new pupils under control, nor did she have the allegedly "much-needed" work of the assistant in the "Roma" 1A class under control.
According to the ČSI, the pupils who were assigned to Class 1A because, according to the principal, they needed support measures, were then never provided the support they needed. "The course of education in Class 1A was substandard and the course of education needed improvement in Class 1B, but in Class 1C it was of the level expected," the ČSI report states.
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