Tampere teachers received a chilling summer holiday send-off last week from city hall in Tampere: because of an 800,000-euro budget deficit in secondary education funding, authorities would have to cut back on education programmes.
As part of its savings programme, the city of Tampere intends to eliminate more than 200 upper secondary school courses.
Additionally full-time teachers will not be paid for classes missed during examination weeks. If the city council accepts the proposals, the cuts will represent about a five percent drop in salaries for teachers.
Tiina Ahde, a shop steward for the city’s upper secondary schools, say teachers have are up in arms over the proposed cutbacks.
“When we cut courses, that affects education. In some cases, groups will get larger and some courses simply will not be available. The quality of education will suffer,” she said.
Will to develop vs need to save
Alongside the savings programme, the city is also pushing forward with its Top School project, which aims to modernise Tampere schools and their learning environments, including teaching technology and software.
However, the need to conserve on funds has forced the city to reduce the number of courses offered, cut salaries, and abstain from hiring teaching substitutes. According to Matti J. Mäkelä, chair of the city’s secondary education board, there’s a positive side to large teaching groups.
“Based on my experience, the attitude that no one should be left behind works better than in a small class,” he declared.
No pay for missed lessons
The proposed reduction in the number of classes will cut teaching hours to the tune of ten teachers. Teacher Annukka Virtanen of the Sampo Upper Secondary School fears that the city will also stop paying teachers for classes missed because of examination weeks.
“I don’t exactly know why we have seven-day test weeks. Maybe the reason is that students would have only one exam each day. But no one has realized that students miss two lessons that way,” she noted.
Teachers would not be paid for those two missed lessons. Virtanen said the problem is that teachers aren’t given the opportunity to provide make-up lessons.
“I’m sure every teacher in Tampere would be in favour of a five-day test week that would allow us two additional classes,” she pointed out.
Shop Steward Ahde said the timing of the proposal is no coincidence.
“They obviously think that teachers will forget the whole thing when they go on vacation, but I guarantee that this will continue in August!” she declared.