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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