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Longer Christmas holidays in NRW, starting on December 18: Bonn parents fear childcare problems

Longer Christmas holidays in NRW, starting on December 18 : Bonn parents fear childcare problems

The earlier start of the NRW Christmas holidays meets with divided reactions in Berlin: Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) praises the idea in advance, while the SPD warns against chaos. In Bonn, parents are worried about childcare problems.

The Christmas holidays in NRW begin two days earlier than planned. This is to reduce the risk of corona infection. Even in the run-up to the decision announced early Wednesday evening, the plans of the state government caused divided reactions.

Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn has commented positively on considerations by Prime Minister Armin Laschet (both CDU). "This is certainly part of the debate", said Spahn on Wednesday morning. For parents, children and teachers, planning is important. "That would be made feasible with such a measure.“ In contrast, the SPD faction in the Landtag accused Laschet of having only increased the chaos with his statements. Only a few days ago, education minister Yvonne Gebauer (FDP) had called the idea of extending the winter holidays not appropriate. "How are those responsible in the schools and amongst the educational institutions and also the parents supposed to know where they stand now", criticised deputy faction leader Jochen Ott.

Violent exchange in the Landtag

The government and opposition engaged in a fierce exchange in parliament. SPD opposition leader Thomas Kutschaty spoke of "government failure", because rising infection rates were reported, but the state still insists on compulsory education. Josefine Paul, co-leader of the Greens, also spoke of a "worsening situation in schools". It was negligent to prohibit alternative forms of teaching.

On Wednesday, the Mayor of Bonn, Katja Dörner (Greens), also called on the state government to allow alternative teaching models to face-to-face teaching, in which online lessons alternate with classroom attendance: "In view of the increasing number of infections in schools, it is incomprehensible that the state government is prohibiting hybrid teaching concepts. Instead, it should actively promote the development of such concepts". Furthermore, in the opinion of the City of Bonn, it is the responsibility of the state to equip primary school teachers with FFP2 masks, Dörner continued.

While a large proportion of teachers favour split teaching models, according to Rolf Haßelkus, Chairman of the Education and Science Union (GEW) in Bonn, many parents view this with scepticism. At least if hybrid teaching were to be introduced at short notice. After all, they would have to organise home care for the younger children again.

Parents react with restraint to earlier start of holidays

Opinions are reserved about the decision to bring forward the Christmas holidays by a few days. "I know many parents who have no more holidays. They're all up in arms," says Karen Marwinski from the parents' association at the Erich Kästner primary school in Kessenich. As department head of a large company with full order books, she herself is also unable to take any more time off before Christmas. She would however be happy with hybrid teaching during the pandemic, if there were a long-term concept for it.

For GEW president Hasselkus, the most important point of all the proposals, "which should not all be condemned", is: "We need a long-term teaching concept for all schools at long last. The GEW does not want to release the state from its responsibility in this respect. "Next year, the Abitur and other exams will again be on the agenda. Something has to be done now."

The headmistress of the Siegburger Gymnasium Alleestraße is relaxed about the decision to extend the winter holidays in North Rhine-Westphalia by two days. "We'll let the situation develop and then we'll see how it all turns out,“ said Sabine Trautwein in the run-up to the Ministry's decision. For example, the question of whether the two days would actually be holidays or whether distance learning would take place on these two days is still not resolved. After all, a relatively large number of lessons had already been cancelled. "We are prepared to go into distance learning at very short notice," says Trautwein.

For the chairman of the Sankt Augustin school board, Hinrich Pich, Laschet's initiative looks like "a relatively helpless decision". This would mean that the parents would again have a childcare problem and there would be a lack of teaching time. For Pich it is clear: there should have been considerations much earlier on how to continue at the schools in autumn and winter. "The situation at the schools is getting worse and worse. Bringing forward the winter holidays won't help us there either," he says. "We need action now, not at Christmas." In his view, alternative concepts such as halving classes, dividing walls or ventilation units should be tackled now - instead of just relying on open windows and masks.

GA readers on Facebook on the Internet are also worried about childcare for additional days off before Christmas. So Robin Drews asks: "What do the kids do if the parents don't have spare holidays and days off?“ Others advocate an early start to the Christmas holidays. Patrick Stolz writes: "A sensible decision! In the schools they usually don't really teach anything during those days anyway. So it's no loss."

Original text: Lisa Inhoffen and Hannah Schmitt (ga/dpa)

Translation: Mareike Graepel