All Day School (Ganztagsschule)

Here in Eppelheim (near Heidelberg), there has been a lot of controversy about the new Ganztagsschule that started this school year. There had been talk of it for ages, but it finally came to fruition for this school year. However, many, many people are unhappy with the way it was implemented and with the results of that.

Last year sometime there was a survey of all parents asking who would be interested in sending their kids to all-day school. Apparently 51 parents said they would be interested in the school, but the survey was unverbindlich (non-binding). The next thing we heard, they were closing the Hort and no one had a choice any more. We always knew that the first graders would have to do Ganztagsschule, but the 2nd – 4th graders were supposed to have a choice in the  matter. Now, for working parents, there is no choice. There has been an uproar since, especially because they changed the pricing scales for the so-called Randzeiten (7-8am and 4-5pm, plus Fridays from 12 noon and during school holidays). Because the state is no longer subsidizing the care, and is instead putting money into the all-day school, many people are paying a lot more for a lot less. The costs worked out well for us because they based them on the number of kids under 18 in the household. But I can imagine that single parents or parents of only one child will really be forking it over for the child care. What a mess!

The second big issue that parents have is that the Vereinsleben will become more complicated. Clubs are very important here for sports, because there are no team sports in the schools. Kids join these clubs when they are quite small and stay in them often throughout their lives. I always find the training times to be difficult for working parents, but often the kids can walk there on their own from school. The kids who are in the second to fourth grades and decide to do all day school are required to be in school until 4pm. If they have training, they need some special Attest to get out of school. Since it is only clubs and not actual school during this time, parents are naturally annoyed by those circumstances as well. We’ll see what happens on this end.

When all the uproar began, my thoughts were more, “What the heck, we all survived all-day school in America!” I mean, it didn’t hurt us. We didn’t really have homework in elementary school. And that is how the Ganztagsschule is supposed to work. I know that they have school all day in many other European countries. But all of those who grew up with the German school system think that all day school is a travesty. (See Jane’s blog on the Cult of the warmes Mittagessen). But for working parents, this school until 12.30 thing is very complicated. And the amount of homework that even first graders have is enough to drive you round the bend when you try to deal with it at 5pm on a school night – and don’t forget, school starts at 7:55 am on many days of the week — and you can’t count on the schedule being the same every day. But that is another story.

So far, after one day of school, my 3rd grader is happy. She is seeing the same Erzieherin before school that she always had. But I am a bit worried about how homework will go in the school. She always did better working in Hort than she did in the one offered by the school. I am interested to see how it all pans out. Do any of you have kids in schools that are transitioning to Ganztagsschule? How did it go?

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