Parliament argues about the future of day schools

Parliament approved the nationwide introduction of day schools in the city of Zurich. However, some points were hotly disputed.

What should a day school do? In the beginning there was a simple principle: the compatibility of family and career. If children stay at school over lunchtime, it relieves the parents.

But it’s not as simple as that. When it comes to the direction in which day schools in the city of Zurich should develop, opinions differ widely. On Wednesday, Parliament approved the nationwide introduction of day schools, but only after a long fundamental debate.

To put it simply, they can be summarized as follows: If the day schools were a menu, then the bourgeois would have ordered Hörnli with minced meat and applesauce. The Left, on the other hand, wanted a 5-course menu with sustainably produced organic cattle from the Emmental. For them, the day school should be more than a relief for the parents.

In the words of the Green Balz Bürgisser, this meant: “The care over lunchtime should offer children an educational added value.” This is to be guaranteed by a “high proportion” of qualified personnel. At the other end of the spectrum of opinion was the SVP, which rejected the proposal. One resists “excessive costs” and against measures that force all parents into the day school system, explained Stefan Urech.

SP wanted a free offer

Essentially, three points were disputed: the registration conditions, the tariffs and the length of the lunch break.

The day school is voluntary. However, registration for the paid offer is automatic; Anyone who does not want to send their child to day school must explicitly deregister them several months before the start of the contract. Yasmine Bourgeois (FDP) criticized it as a “subscription trap”. “The procedure chosen by the city should never be permissible under private law.” FDP and SVP called for a system change, so parents should have to register their children. They couldn’t get away with that.

When it came to the costs, there was one point in particular to talk about: parents who only wanted to book individual lunches instead of the whole package would have been financially punished with the city council’s model. They should pay up to 33 francs per lunch, whereas the total package was estimated at 9 francs per lunch. Finally, the majority of the council lowered the standard tariff to 6 francs per lunchtime. Individually booked lunches now cost between 4.50 and 18 francs.

The SP had originally insisted on a free day school. Without exception, all children should be able to benefit from it, said Christina Horisberger, so the offer must be as low-threshold as possible. However, since the SP saw a no to this radical proposal, it withdrew its motion.

Longer lunch breaks also cost more money

Finally, there was also criticism of the length of the lunch break. The city council wanted to set it to 80 minutes. In exceptional cases, the break should be extended to 90 minutes, for example if schools have to offer lunch in stages.

The SVP thought that was not enough and demanded 100 minutes. In this way, children would have enough breaks to eat at home over lunch, argued Stefan Urech. “If you extend the lunch break like this, it will increase the price enormously,” warned school principal Filippo Leutenegger (FDP). The demand for such a long lunch is not there. In the end, the majority of the council followed the request of the SP and the Greens: schools can set the length of breaks themselves between 80 and 100 minutes.

It was after midnight and after a two-and-a-half-hour debate when the yes to the nationwide introduction of day schools was decided. School principal Filippo Leutenegger could not help but make a final remark. He was dismayed at how much the day school was embellished: Instead of additional costs of 70 million francs, it was now 114 million, he explained. That’s why you have to ask yourself how sustainable the day school is over a longer period of time. The start is planned for the 2023/24 school year.

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