Denmark has become the first European country under lockdown to start reopening schools, sparking conflict between health officials and concerned parents.
Around 650,000 children have returned to day care centres and primary schools in the first phase of the Danish government’s reopening strategy.
So what is actually happening in Denmark?
Kindergartens and the first five forms in primary schools were reopened on April 15th across Denmark. Children aged over 12 must remain at home for now. Universities are closed until at least May 10th.
Kindergartens and primary schools have been issued with a list of government instructions designed to minimise the risk of children spreading the virus amongst each other.
Parents are asked to drop their children off at the front gates in a staggered system and are not allowed to enter school buildings.
Children must wash their hands as soon as they arrive and every two hours after. They must stay in small groups when playing outside. In classes, pupils must sit at desks or tables at least two metres apart.
The children are not allowed to bring toys from home, and the nurseries or school’s own toys and equipment has to be disinfected twice a day, along with surfaces such as sinks, toilet seats and door handles.
Attendance rates are 90% in most schools which indicate most parents trust the new system.
Will the UK follow suit?
Speculation surrounding when and how UK schools will re-open is causing much debate.
The general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said this week that the earliest schools might realistically reopen would be in June after half-term.
“It can only happen when supported by the science, and there will need to be a lead-in time of several weeks to ensure it is carefully planned,” Geoff Barton said.
“It is then going to be necessary to maintain social distancing in schools as much as possible. It is likely that we will need to reintroduce certain year groups in the first instance, rather than fully reopening schools to all pupils.”
The Department for Education has refused to speculate about when such a process might begin. “They will remain closed, except for children of critical workers and the most vulnerable children, until the scientific advice changes and we have met the five tests set out by government to beat this virus,” a spokesperson said.
“We will work in close consultation with the sector to consider how best to reopen schools, nurseries and colleges when the time is right so that parents, teachers and children have sufficient notice to plan and prepare.”