Friday, May 27

The corona measures threaten the quality of the school

  • Lene Fosser Minge

    Principal, Stenbråten school

In the eagerness to shield children and young people from intervention measures, we may risk depriving them of the skills they need in the short and long term, the debater writes.

The government should consider giving the director of education significantly more space when the director of health considers matters concerning education.

This is a debate post. Opinions in the text are at the writer’s expense.

At the beginning of 2022, we recognize that the world community must deal with the pandemic over time. It is no longer sufficient to let health professional councils shape the conversation about organizing schools to the same degree as before. The requirements for quality in training also apply in our time with pandemics and requirements for infection control.

It is time to place greater emphasis on competence in educational management. This is how we can ensure the further development of a knowledge-based, sustainable society. It is time to give school leaders confidence and room for maneuver. They can organize and lead the businesses efficiently and predictably for students and staff in the short and long term.

The reason is obvious: The schools’ mandate is to provide all students with relevant competence development. Through the pandemic, the rules of the game have changed. Infection control will naturally play a major role. But it can not play the main role over time – even if the intentions of the health authorities are the very best.

Creates results over time

The government uses health professional advice as a basis for decisions that affect society in these times. We are grateful for all of that. The pandemic has taught us to value the knowledge that the health bureaucracy represents.

We who work in the education sector contribute in our arena to relevant knowledge about the coronavirus that flows to students and their families, and is transformed into competence through action.

Over the past 22 months, virtually the entire population has been gathered to confidently change practices in line with governments’ reasoned decisions. The education sector in Norway will create results over time. Then the government should consider giving the director of education significantly more space when the director of health considers matters concerning education.

In the eagerness to shield children and young people from intervention measures, we may risk depriving them of the skills they need in the short and long term.

The corona measures pose a threat to the quality of the education sector. Let me give some examples of this:

1. Karanteneunntak

Pupils in primary and secondary education are exempt from quarantine when they are close contacts with infected classmates.

Consequence: Real risk of infection for employees, students and their families – including students and employees in the risk group for a serious course of illness due to infection.

The quality of teaching is reduced by students not attending the training due to ongoing outbreaks, while the schools’ capacity is limited to taking care of students present.

Potential offense: Section 9A-2 of the Education Act: “All pupils have the right to a safe and good school environment that promotes health, well-being and learning.”

2. Employees are placed on leisure quarantine

Employees who are close contacts to infected students or colleagues are exempt from quarantine, but are placed on leisure quarantine.

Consequence: The quality of teaching is reduced by employees who are constantly exposed to infection at work over time, changing workplaces from areas with persistently high infection pressure to areas with lower infection pressure, or leaving the profession.

For employees in areas exposed to infection, the rule potentially entails months of reduced freedom of movement, including reduced contact with own family members.

Potential offense: Section 4-4 of the Working Environment Act: “Working environment factors shall be fully justifiable from the point of view of the employee’s health, environment, safety and welfare.”

3. Students fail to test themselves

Students are offered regular home testing, but are not required to take the test. Consequence: The infection in the school is maintained by a number of students failing to get tested. Reduced quality in teaching by maintaining the infection, and absenteeism continues.

Larger room for maneuver

The corona measures give the impression that the physical presence of students and staff is more important than the quality of the training provided. It pays too little attention to short-term and long-term consequences.

Schools need more room for maneuver during the pandemic than otherwise. In this way, the goals for social equalization and equal education can be better achieved through good quality for all students.

Equal expectations of infection control rules for the entire population and greater room for maneuver for principals locally can be part of the solution. It makes it possible to optimize the quality of teaching. It creates predictability for students, families and staff.

Sustainable education

Mandatory, regular testing of students and staff is a welcome tool for monitoring risk and tailoring organization. The probability of ending up in quarantine can be reduced by limiting the number of close contacts.

Possible room for maneuver may be partial digital teaching during periods of high infection pressure on stages. For example, in subjects where students are normally mixed across classes or the subject teacher is in quarantine.

Other examples can be reduced residence time at AKS / SFO in periods so that employees can be moved from AKS / SFO to teaching. Unvaccinated employees or employees in risk groups can digitally take care of those students who are occasionally in quarantine or isolation.

Through greater room for maneuver for principals and appropriate collaboration with FAU, we can create a sustainable education for students and staff who are now entering their fifth semester with corona measures.

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