Back to school safely: what happens in the rest of Europe?



It is one of the countries where the measures adopted are particularly stringent, especially from the point of view of hygiene. In addition, the minimum safety distance between students has been set at 1.5 meters (in our classroom it will be 1 meter). With lessons that will take place in small groups: maximum 15 children at a time. For this, if necessary, the times of the lessons and breaks will be reprogrammed; because groups of pupils will have to remain separate from each other at all times of the day. With almost everyone (including students, teachers and school staff) obliged to use a mask.


Here a distinction is made between nursery and primary schools, on the one hand, and colleges and high schools, on the other. In the first case, the masks (they are fine even if they are self-produced) must be worn only by teachers and school staff, always in the presence of the pupils and in any case each time it is not possible to guarantee the distance of at least 1 meter. With the children in the classroom they will have a space of about 4 square meters each. The older boys, however, it is not yet clear if they will have to wear a mask but it is sure that they will have to keep the distance of 1 meter; here, too, professors and staff will obviously have to do it, with the same indications set for the colleagues of the lower level schools.


The Iberian country extends the minimum safety distance up to 2 meters, always and in any case. But at the moment it does not impose the obligation to use the mask – both for teachers and pupils – in all those cases in which social distancing can be guaranteed. Only if this cannot happen will everyone be required to wear a mask. Spain, however, introduces an additional precaution: the obligation to wear a mask for all staff involved in school transport.


In Britain, an even softer approach is followed than in Spain with regard to protective devices: in schools and in all other educational contexts, the use of masks or face covers is not recommended (these tools are considered useful only in indoors but for short periods). To preserve the health of the school community, the focus is rather on organizational measures. In primary schools, classes should normally be divided in half, with no more than 15 pupils per group (plus the teacher). In secondary schools and colleges, the halving of classes will be practically mandatory and classrooms and laboratories are also expected to be remodeled with workstations spaced 2 meters apart.


Even the Swiss, as well as the British, have set the minimum interpersonal distance at 2 meters and do not provide for the use of a mask. At least in compulsory school (which, depending on the canton of reference, reaches up to 12-15 years). Only in post-compulsory school, but from 16 years of age, its use can be considered but without being able to force anyone. In general, the mask will be worn in specific training contexts, when the distance of 2 meters cannot be respected. However, it must be said that, based on the characteristics of the classroom, in some cases schools are now given the faculty to carry out partial teaching only.


The Netherlands, to avoid contagion, push above all for the alternation between students. The teaching hours in presence, in fact, will be divided into the various days, in order to limit travel as much as possible; the pupils will carry out 50% of the lesson time in the classroom and the remaining 50% of the distance learning time. This does not mean that those present, including children, in the classroom and in the rest of the school environments must respect the distance of 1.5 meters. The only exception will be for primary school children: they will be advised to stay as far apart as possible from their classmates (but teachers and staff will still have to observe the distance from them). The masks? In primary school they will not be necessary.


Even more restricted classes are planned for the next school year in Belgium. Here the maximum capacity of the classrooms will be 10 students at a time (plus the teacher), with a minimum of 4sqm of space between the boys and 8sqm between pupils and teacher. Not only that: within the school premises, group travel must be limited to the minimum, always respecting the social distance of 1.5 m. This will require a deep planning of the entrance and exit times, of the recreation, of the lunch break. Mask chapter: the obligation will start for the pupils of the sixth year of elementary school and for all those of the secondary school, as well as for all the staff. However, you can also wear fabric ones.

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