Parents and students demonstrate against the closure of Spanish classrooms in London

Dozens of parents and students demonstrated outside the Spanish embassy in London on Sunday against the closure of the school Spanish language and culture classrooms (ELK). Chanting «Yes we can» and «Less fusion and more education», those affected called for the maintenance of the 25 classrooms in the British capital and in the south of the United Kingdom currently financed by Ministry of Educationincluding historic ones in Sloane Square and Hammersmith in the city centre, which could disappear in September.

The embassy’s education advisor, Fernando Bartolom, went to meet the parents, with whom they have been meeting for the past two weeks, and vowed to continue exploring alternatives. The Ambassador, José Pasqual Marco«It is monitoring the matter and there is great interest in resolving the situation,» a spokesperson for the diplomatic delegation said.

Fernando Bartolom assured that it is not exactly a closure but rather «a merger of classrooms for economic and pedagogical reasons», which The number of seats (approximately 2,200) will be maintained and may also be increasedand that the restructuring does not even affect the number of teachers.

However, parents assure that 23% of families could be affected by the disappearance of classrooms., that the restructuring was carried out without prior consultation and that many found out about the closures when they went to enroll their children in the next course. 97% of the 164 affected families oppose the closure and 81% believe their children will abandon the program. He Council of Spanish Residents (CRE) in the south of the UK and the Coalition of the Spaniards support parents’ requests.

Elena Rodrguez García, daughter of Federico Rodrguez Pérez (the immigrant who promoted the creation in 1984 of the Spanish classroom in Bromley, the embryo of the ALCE programme), joined the protests when she was personally affected: «My two daughters, Isabel and Luca, they go to the class in Sloane Square and it would be completely impossible for us to go to Portobello, which is where they propose us.

“It would be a shame if the granddaughters of one of the founders of ALCE could not benefit from the program,” warns Elena Rodrguez. «It is heartbreaking to see threatened the incredible effort that has benefited thousands of Spaniards abroad. For all these people, myself included, maintaining that connection through language is essential not only because it reflects our heritage and heritage, but because that cultural identity runs through our veins.

The closure of Sloana Square, where you learn the Spanish language and culture more than 200 children, was one of the triggers for the protests. Veronica Dominguez also takes her two children there, aged 11 and 14, and assures that she cannot afford an extra 30 minutes of travel per child: «I am very disappointed with how it was done; we parents could have helped look for solutions» .

Nader Fernando and Aurora Díaz find themselves in the same situation with their two children. Nader points out that the parents have offered the possibility of a financial contribution or the support of a non-profit organization to cover the equivalent of 30,000 euros in which the savings with the renovation are encrypted.

The Minister of Education, Fernando Bartolom, acknowledged that although «alternative formulas» are being studied, the ALCE program is considered «free public education» and there are legal problems in having private contributions.

“The current situation is unsustainable and if we did nothing we would have to cut the program in several areas of London and forget about growth in the future,” said Bartolom, who insisted on the need to exploit the public benefit of the institution’s own classrooms Vicente Caada Blanch in Portobello to centralize the program.

Bartolom assures that «there is no intention to reduce the ALCE program, on the contrary,» and warns that the embassy’s education advisor will propose to the Ministry «a pilot program for the center and north of the country (where on the initiative ) of parents works Our schoolwith offices in Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Milton Keynes).

Parents highlight the contrast between the proposed cut in ALCE classrooms in London and the increase in the population of Spaniards living in the UK, which has doubled in the last decade (from 81,519 to 189,779) and tripled that of children aged five to five . 14 years (from 10,259 to 30,536).

The ALCE program, aimed at children aged 7 to 17 of Spanish origin enrolled in non-Spanish education systems, spans 12 countries with more than 300 classrooms. Students obtain a certificate of Spanish language and culture issued by the Ministry of Education, which qualifies the program as «the bridge to culture and language for Spanish citizens abroad».