System satisfies parents but has its shortcomings

Most working parents profess themselves satisfied with all-day schooling, which they have greeted with relief, saying it has solved a problem for them. But having noted certain weaknesses, they suggest particular changes that would improve the system. Looking after small children is a basic problem for working parents, especially after school hours and before the parents return from work. «Knowing that your child is at school until 4 p.m. means a lot to us who work, because you don’t have to worry about their safety and you know they’re spending their time creatively,» Nelly Papahela, mother of a child who attends an all-day school in Vathis Square, told Kathimerini. But parents see quite a few problems with the all-day schools, and are mainly concerned with doubts about how creatively the pupils are spending their time. They see an urgent need to upgrade the system to meet not only parents’ needs but also pupils’ academic and pedagogical needs. «The problem of space, which concerns mainly schools in Athens, where the practice of double shifts is still in force in some cases, limits children’s activities to a great extent,» says Papahela, who blames the lack of prerequisites for all-day schools. «For lack of a dining room and staff, the children eat at their desks. The food isn’t checked by anyone, and they clean the room themselves after their meal,» says Thomas Tsoupas, member of the Panhellenic Parents’ Union. Complaints have also been voiced about the new subjects. Computer studies and theater sound attractive, but without classrooms, they are unlikely to get off the ground. «Apart from studying, children can’t do things like sports because there aren’t enough facilities, so they stay cooped up in their classrooms for hours,» says Papahela. Athanassia Galanopoulou, mother of a pupil at the 54th all-day school in Athens, takes a more lenient view of the system: «The curriculum isn’t tiring; it’s quite satisfactory and advanced, largely due to commendable efforts by the teachers,» she says. But she points out that the lack of buildings limits the implementation of many of the activities that the Education Ministry anticipates.