COVID-related restrictions on education gradually lifted in Finland from 14.5.2020
According to the Government press release, international and national experience show that the role of children in the dissemination of coronavirus infections is not similar to that of adults. Children are essentially not a source of infection. Based on current information, the opening of schools will therefore be safe for both pupils and staff, and there are no longer grounds for extending the Decree on the Application of the Emergency Powers Act concerning education, on which the earlier restrictions were based.
The decision was taken first at the end of April regarding early childhood education and care as well as primary and lower secondary education, and subsequently on 6 May regarding general upper secondary schools, vocational schools, higher education institutions and liberal education.
In early childhood education and care as well as primary and lower secondary education, contact teaching will resume on 14 May 2020, albeit in a controlled manner and with care for safety. Once the Decree on the Application of the Emergency Powers Act is no longer effective, education providers cannot organise teaching in the form of distance teaching. Local authorities themselves cannot decide to close schools, nor can local authorities decide to organise teaching only in the form of distance teaching. The right to basic education is a subjective right laid down in the Constitution and belongs equally to everyone.
Restrictions on general upper secondary schools, vocational schools, higher education institutions and liberal education will also remain in force until 13 May. As of 14 May, contact teaching can be resumed in these in a controlled and gradual manner. However, the Government recommends that universities, universities of applied sciences, upper secondary schools, vocational training institutes, liberal adult education and basic adult education institutes continue distance teaching until the end of the semester. Education providers can decide for themselves the extent to which they will arrange contact teaching as necessary. In the summer, contact teaching will be arranged in line with the guidelines on hygiene and physical distancing.
Instructions and guidelines to support education providers and schools
Education providers have time to arrange to resume contact teaching by informing staff and making other arrangements.
The Ministry of Education and Culture and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare have clarified and specified the instructions given to education providers. The starting point is always that no child or adult should go to school or early childhood education if they have any symptoms that indicate a possible illness. Further instructions relate to avoiding unnecessary physical contacts and arranging teaching premises more spaciously than usual. School break times and school meals must also be held with the students’ own class or group. Large gatherings, such as spring festivals, will not be organised. Personnel must also work with the same group of children and hygiene guidelines must be strictly respected. Education providers will make decisions on more specific arrangements.
The Finnish National Agency for Education (EDUFI) has already issued some guidelines for schoolwork until the end of the school term, and further guidelines continue to be prepared. The instructions by EDUFI complement other instructions issued by authorities particularly relating to protection from COVID virus. The EDUFI guidelines prepared so far relate to student assessment, learning support and student welfare services. Instructions have also been issued on how to deal with situations where pupils are absent from school.