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The September slope that is about to end has been the hardest in history and has been especially cruel to the most vulnerable students. An average of 329 euros have been spent this academic year 2022/23 Spanish households in the return to school, between textbooks, stationery, uniforms and laptops. But the scholarships of the Government and the Autonomous Communities are not as effective as they could be. The aid does not reach 60% of the poorest families while it benefits 13% of the richest.

This is stated by the largest scholarship study carried out to date, which has also updated the estimates of expenditure on school supplies from the crossing of two statistics from the INE. The study, which the think tankEsadeEcPol will publish on Tuesday, shows that the return to the classroom involves three times more effort for poor families than for rich ones. In addition, he warns that the money is being distributed badly: while in the post-compulsory stage of the Baccalaureate 40% of students have scholarships, it barely reaches 14% of ESO students. "It is worth stopping to consider whether a system with a high volume of school failure can afford its protection coverage at this crucial stage of ESO to be so scarce in scholarships," the report warns.

The authors have seen that "the system is not progressive enough" because only 40% of the poorest 20% of households receive any scholarship, aid that also reaches 13% of the richest 20%.

"Something is not working well when only 40% of households with fewer resources receive scholarships. These families should be guaranteed this aid. Why isn't this? Fundamentally they are people who do not ask for them because they do not know they have the right or who are denied because they lack documentation, "responds the economist Ángel Martínez, one of the authors of the report. As for the 13% of high-income families that enjoy scholarships, the EsadeEcPol researcher believes that "it is not an exaggerated figure" and interprets that they are households that meet the requirements, either because they are large families or potential beneficiaries of universal aid.

The work proposes to "make the system more accessible", improving the channels of information to families. It also urges the Government to set "a minimum national threshold of coverage" common in all the Autonomous Communities – now each one has its own – because the authors have seen that there are "very considerable differences" and a "strong heterogeneity" depending on the territories. For example, the free textbooks of Andalusia is very different from the more "restrictive" model of Aragon, conditioned by income criteria. On the other hand, if in the Canary Islands 55% of students are recipients of a scholarship, in Murcia or the Balearic Islands the coverage is less than 10%, according to data from the Ministry of Education.

Also the expenditure per student in school supplies and textbooks is very disparate according to the autonomies (396 euros on average in Madrid compared to 255 euros in Andalusia); the educational stages (318 euros in Primary, 398 euros in ESO and 474 euros in Baccalaureate), and the ownership of the centers (282 euros in the public and 434 euros in the private). The authors warn in this whole matter "a lack of coordination that can lead to an unequal education system".

But are scholarships working to reduce inequality? "The current system reduces inequality but has a lot of room for improvement," replies Ángel Martínez.

The data collected indicate that the current scholarships are not sufficient to alleviate the needs of families with lower incomes. "The Ministry is mainly responsible for the aid of Baccalaureate and University, which have increased, but has a residual weight in Infant, Primary and ESO, where around 80% are given by the Autonomous Communities. That is why the Ministry must play a greater role and the autonomies, take a step forward, "says Martinez, convinced that "an improvement of the scholarship system could help reduce abandonment."

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