The impact of economic adaptation on the school network  

Joensuu currently has an extensive education service network in relation to the number of pupils

Joensuu currently has an extensive educational service network in relation to the number of pupils. The City of Joensuu has 17 primary schools, four comprehensive schools, three secondary schools and four upper secondary schools.

In addition to these, Joensuu also hosts the University of Eastern Finland Teacher Training Schools on Tulliportinkatu in central Joensuu and in Rantakylä. The Tulliportinkatu unit is home to a primary school, a secondary school and an upper secondary school. The Rantakylä unit operates as a comprehensive school.

In addition to these, two private education providers operate in Joensuu: The School of Eastern Finland and Steiner School. The School of Eastern Finland is managed by the School of Eastern Finland Foundation founded by the three cities of Joensuu, Lappeenranta and Imatra. The School of Eastern Finland provides upper secondary education in addition to primary and secondary education. Most of the upper secondary education is provided by the upper secondary school of the University of Eastern Finland Teacher Training Schools. Steiner School offers primary and secondary education.

The schools of Joensuu have received plenty of investments in the recent years. New schools have emerged or are emerging in the old town as well as the villages. The schools in Eno and Hammaslahti are currently under construction.

Balancing the economy would mean major changes in the school network

The City of Joensuu proposes a narrowing of the service network as part of balancing the economy. In practice, the proposal involves the closing down of nine municipal primary schools and one upper secondary school, discussions about the closure of school operations in the school of Eastern Finland, the conversion of two comprehensive schools into secondary schools, abandoning the construction of one school and altering the admission areas of nearly every school in the network. The proposal is based on children born and living in Joensuu.

The time span of the proposal is long. The proposed adaptation of the school network will be completed in 2031.

In addition to cost savings, the aim of narrowing the service network is to equalise the quality of teaching and to aim for pedagogically sensible teaching groups of one age group.

Aiming to balance the quality of teaching

In addition to cost savings, the aim of narrowing the service network is to equalise the quality of teaching and to aim for pedagogically sensible teaching groups of one age group. In larger schools, it is possible for pupils to study with others their own age, at their own age and skill level.

The proposal is based on ensuring that every pupil in Joensuu has sufficient and equal teacher time, regardless of which school they attend. If the declining resources in education are devoted to maintaining school walls, i.e. the maximum number of separate premises, the saving measures will inevitably lead to fewer hours available for teaching. By focusing on teaching, we want to create an opportunity to divide and differentiate teaching resources according to students’ needs. In addition, we want to enable a wide range of means and methods to support learning. These include small groups, wide-ranging special teaching and support from instructors.

By concentrating teaching at fewer locations, we also ensure the pupils have access to educational resources from their own schools. In addition to this, more and more children are receiving help and support from wellbeing counsellors.

– Joensuussa on tällä hetkellä oppilasmäärään nähden laaja koulutuksen palveluverkko, toteaa koulutus- ja nuorisojohtaja Aatu Mustonen

School admission areas must be updated

The proposed reorganisation of the service network requires a reorganisation of the school admission areas. The changes will allow us to create geographically sensible school admission areas, especially for the city centre. At the moment, some pupils may live much closer to another school than their designated local school. This is particuarly true in the Penttilä area, from which children are directed to the University of Eastern Finland Teacher Training School on Tulliportinkatu.

The City of Joensuu has a duty and a strong interest in securing the number of pupils at the University of Eastern Finland Teacher Training Schools. Teacher training schools require a certain amount of teaching to be able to implement Finland’s most extensive teacher training programmes.

Impact on the distance between a pupil’s home and school and the vitality of the area

It is understandable that the closure of local village schools is a source of strong feelings and resistance. There are also relevant questions about how the pupils’ school commutes will be extended and whether an area can be expected to remain viable if no local school exists.

When it comes to the distances between a pupil’s home and school, we can guarantee each pupil school commutes that do not exceed the statutory limits set out in the Basic Education Act. The majority of pupils will enjoy shorter school commutes, and for those pupils whose school commutes are extended, they will nevertheless fall clearly short of the statutory limits.

When it comes to vitality, we must admit that while some areas have had new schools constructed over the recent years, the new services have not resulted in a positive impact on the birth rate in the area or the number of pupils attending the school. We believe that a well-run school that can offer a wide range of methods but is located a little further away can improve the vitality of a larger area.

Although the proposal for adapting the service network extends to 2031, the City of Joensuu’s officials and decision-makers must be prepared to change the plans if it appears that the number of children in some regions in the coming years will be different from the current estimations.

With the service network adaptation, we will continue to maintain an extensive regional education service network. There is still a school in every corner of the city, with excellent teaching and education, and with the ability to meet the needs of our children. Even after the adaptation measures, our service network will remain credible and extensive, and Joensuu and the surrounding areas can still afford to grow and develop.

Column’s main image by Jani Kaasinen, Director of Education and Wellbeing

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