The new Estonian government plans to change the funding model for schools, in order for local authorities to keep those with up to six classes and at least 30 pupils open, according to Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200), who has been nominated as the new Minister of Education.
"There will be a change in the funding model for schools, which have up to six classes. The current model does not enable us to maintain these schools, because there is too little money to keep them going," Kallas told ETV morning show "Terevisioon" on Wednesday.
Kallas said, that the move would affect children studying in the first and second grades (7-11 year olds), who ought to have a school close to home, rather than having to travel tens of kilometers to attend.
"The change to the funding model, which hopefully we will be able to put in place for the next school year, will give municipalities the opportunity to continue running these schools without their budgets going into the red," Kallas said.
Asked how many pupils should attend such schools, Kallas said the change would apply to schools with at least 30 pupils. "There will be a small point of transition - (for classes with) 20-30 pupils - but of course it will be more difficult for schools with fewer than 20 pupils," she said.
The new coalition agreement between the Reform Party, Eesti 200 and the Social Democratic Party (SDE) promises to develop a funding model for Estonia's school network, which will encourage kindergartens and basic schools teaching children up to the second grade level to remain open where possible, in order that children can attend schools close to home.
All rural schools teaching grades 1 to 6 will move to a system whereby funding is based on the number of classes taught, provided schools teach an average of 30 or more children over a period of three years.
According to the coalition agreement, this system will be gradually phased out for schools with between 20 and 30 children.
Editor: Michael Cole