Gebauer slows down online school for sick children, administrative court agrees

BOCHUM. An online school that cares for sick children has suffered a major setback in court. According to a decision just published by the Higher Administrative Court of Münster, pupils of the individual online school in Bochum are not allowed to take part in the final examination, which is conducted by external teachers, in a single place of examination. The school in Bochum, which is only a correspondence school and not an ordinary state-recognized school, had been doing this for a long time. However, the number of applicants increased and the effort increased. The NRW Department of Education rejected a settlement offer.

Stand firm: NRW Minister for Schools Yvonne Gebauer (FDP). Photo: NRW Ministry of Education / Thomas Banneyer

North Rhine-Westphalia Education Minister Yvonne Gebauer (FDP) had complained in the dispute that the district government of Arnsberg “could not organize permanent final examinations for the entire territory federal” – and had announced that it wanted to create a digital alternative to regular school attendance. “in the public education system” in the future – for those who cannot go to school for serious health reasons, the minister explained. The objective is to allow students “free of commercial interests to resume face-to-face teaching in the future or, when this is not possible, to successfully complete their diploma”.

However, she said nothing about why there was no such state offer in North Rhine-Westphalia more than two years after the start of the corona pandemic. She also did not explain why she was simply ending the school’s previous procedure, instead of seeking a compromise with education ministries in other federal states.

“This is a sad judgment for us and very bad news for families and students”

The need is undisputed: at the weaving school, children and young people who cannot attend regular school due to mental or physical illness receive individual online instruction. More recently, up to 120 schoolchildren have been taken each year to their Hauptschule or Realschule qualification, and 70 young people had to sit the examination phase which begins now.

According to the school management, they also have to be closely supervised during the exams and sometimes need very special conditions at the place of the exam – the teachers of the individual online school, who know the candidates well thanks to the online courses, must continue to be present during tests, distance school and refers to a promise to students and parents. However, this promise can only be adequately fulfilled if the exams of all supervised students take place at the same exam location.

However, this plan failed in court. According to the decision of the Higher Administrative Court, the ordinance on “external examination” does not provide for young people from other federal states to have access to the external examination in NRW. In addition, it was pointed out that the procedure of the district government of Arnsberg was “without error”.

Director Sarah Lichtenberger was shocked. “This is a sad judgment for us and very bad news for families and students.” During exams, the support of the usual teacher is therapeutically necessary, but this can no longer be guaranteed. Exams starting on Wednesday are expected to take place at more than 15 schools in NRW. The approximately 30 teachers in the one-to-one online school would be sent across the state in rental cars to try to support mentally or physically ill children and ‘to have a calming effect on children who are completely without leadership’ .

“How do you know that? They didn’t speak to any of us, didn’t ask anyone”

The Department of Education had previously rejected a settlement offer from the court. The comparison stipulated that the district government of Arnsberg would keep its hat on when planning and name five test sites. The individual web school should have formed five groups accordingly. It would be a lot of work, but all the students could be accompanied and taken care of on site, explained the director at the time.

The Ministry of Education justified its refusal by the fact that “a redistribution […] based on the proposed comparison […] a few weeks before the start of the exam on May 11 […] not in the interest of the test tubes which are already in high demand”. However, the parents of the pupils concerned defended themselves in a letter: “How do you know that? You have not spoken to any of us, asked anyone. “It also makes sense, because all of us, all parents, children, teachers, see it differently. We want our children to know that their teachers are nearby. We want to give you that security.”

It’s off the table now. News4teachers / with material from the dpa

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