Athens nursery schools short of places

Families living in central Athens who want to send their children to municipal nursery schools from September are facing a struggle because of dwindling funding and resources.

The City of Athens council met this week to discuss the problem after it emerged that there have been 6,807 applications for just 5,402 places. The most severe oversubscription is in the neighborhoods of Sepolia, Kato Patissia and Attiki Square, where 1,420 children have applied for 918 places.

Municipal nursery schools often have to draw lots to decide which children to accept, leaving the parents of those who are omitted to search for places at private kindergartens, which often charge upward of 4,000 euros a year.

The shortages could be exacerbated in a few months due to the uncertainty surrounding the future of nursery school teachers who have been hired on fixed-term contracts. The government is not renewing these deals as part of its wider cuts to public spending but a court has ruled that the municipal employees should be kept on until December when it will give a final judgment on whether the termination of their contracts is legal.

About a third of the nursery school teachers and attendants in the City of Athens, who total some 1,200 employees, are on fixed-term deals. Their possible departure in December would clearly create a sizable shortage in teaching personnel.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou is set to unveil tomorrow her proposals for the overhaul of Greece?s tertiary education sector. Among the key reforms will be the creating of a nine- or 15-member council made up of each institution?s professors, one student representative and someone who has no links to the university. The council will be responsible for administrative matters, including checking the institution?s finances, and for electing a rector.

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