Public schools shrink as reform starts second year

When school resumes on Monday, more and more students will file in to private schools instead of the public system, which is entering the second year of a historic reform programme.

Public schools shrink as reform starts second year
Photo: Jonas Skovbjerg Fogh/Scanpix
The percentage of Danish students enrolled in the public school system fell from 82 percent in 2008 to 78 percent in the 2014-15 school year, numbers from the Ministry of Education reveal. The number of students now attending private schools, meanwhile, has reached 16 percent. 
Many are seeing the decline in public school enrolment as a sign of frustration over last year’s school reform, described as the most comprehensive education reform in modern Danish history. The biggest changes to the public school system included the implementation of a longer school day, more hours in Danish and maths, and an increased focus on foreign languages. 
Another element is the concept of ‘inclusion’, which has seen a slight increase in the number of special-needs students who have been brought in to the public schools’ normal classes. The Ministry of Education said in a press release this week that the number of students in special classes has fallen by around 6,800 since the 2010-11 school year. 
For many parents, the reform has been a disappointment and still carries with it the bitter memories of a conflict over teachers’ working hours that resulted in some 67,000 teachers nationwide being locked out from their jobs for three weeks in April 2013. 
When classes resume on Monday, there will be 21 brand-new private schools nationwide, the largest number of new schools in several years. 
The chairman of the Danish Union of Teachers (Danmarks Lærerforening) said the new private schools are a direct result of the school reform. 
“These are schools that are opening in protest,” Anders Bondo Christensen told Politiken. 
Kirsten Von Wildernradt is one of the parents who have opted to send their children to brand-new private schools rather than keeping them in the public system. 
“The framework after the public school reform has become too rigid. It is very stiff in comparison to the opportunities one has in a private school,” she told broadcaster DR. 
Von Wildernradt’s daughter will attend the new Marieskolen in Tønder, where the school’s associate leader said that the conflict surrounding the school reform still lingers. 
“There are a lot of things that take the focus away [in public schools, ed.], including the new school reform and the lockout. It has unfortunately taken the focus away from the things that the public school system can do,” Birgitte Klippert told DR. 
Christensen from the teachers’ union warned that Denmark is quickly approaching the “pain threshold” when it comes to the number of students who are choosing private schools over the public system. 
“If the resourceful residents turn away from the public schools, there is no one left to carry them,” he told Politiken. 

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What you need to know about sending your child back to school in Denmark

Denmark on Monday announced plans to open kindergartens and schools next week, along with lifting a range of other coronavirus restrictions. Here's what you need to know.

What you need to know about sending your child back to school in Denmark
Year five at a municipal school in Rungsted. Photo: Thomas Lekfeldt/Ritzau Scanpix

When are schools and kindergartens reopening? 

Kindergartens and the first five forms in primary schools are set to reopen on April 15, which will give teachers and other staff one day of preparation after the Easter Monday bank holiday.

But on Wednesday, Health Minister Pernille Rosenkratz-Theil conceded that some schools and some municipalities may need more time to prepare, so it's best to check with your local school. “They will not be allowed to reopen until they can be sure that the rules are being complied with,” she said. “It doesn't matter if it's one date or another one.”

Is it compulsory to send my children back to kindergarten or school? 

Sending your child to a kindergartens is not compulsory in Denmark unless you live in a so-called ghetto district. But it is compulsory to attend school from the age of 5-6 until the age of 15-16. If you are worried about sending your child, to school, however, few questions will be asked if you inform them that either the child, or a member of your household is sick with coronavirus-like symptoms. 

What do I have to do as a parent to reduce the risk of spreading infection? 

Do not allow your child to bring toys from home to kindergarten or school, and make sure that your child has washed their hands thoroughly before arriving on the premises. 

Your child's school or kindergarten is likely to contact you with guidelines on picking up and delivering children. This will require you to arrive at a precise time to reduce the risk of crowding. 

Rather than entering the premises and helping children dress, children are likely to be got ready by staff so that parents can pick them up outside the institution.  

When picking up or delivering your child, avoid any physical contact with staff, other parents, or children who are not your own, and try to maintain a distance from others of at least two metres. 

Do I need to make sure my child sticks to social distancing guidelines? 

No. That is the responsibility of staff at their school or kindergarten must try to ensure. “We do not make guidelines for children. We make guidelines for adults,” Søren Brostrøm, the head of the Danish Health Authority, stressed in a press conference on Wednesday. “We know at the health authorities that children are children.” 
Children will be made to play in smaller groups, will be made to wash their hands frequently, and there will be extra staff employed at schools and kindergartens to make sure they are run in as safe a way as possible. 

When should I keep my child home? 

According to the Danish Health Authority, children with “even mild symptoms like colds” should stay home until at least 48 hours until the symptoms have ceased. If this happens, you should inform staff at the school or daycare.

If your child belongs to a risk group, suffering from diabetes, obesity, a blood disease, or if they have had a transplant operation, or are being given drugs that suppress their immune system, you should discuss whether it is safe to return to school or kindergarten with their doctor, and if it is, you should work with teaching staff to draw up a plan. 

Even if a member of a child's household is within a special risk group, the child can still return to school.

What if someone else in the household is sick with coronavirus-like symptoms? 

According to the Danish Health Authority, you can send a child to school or kindergarten even if a parent or sibling is sick, although of course the sick parent cannot fetch or delivery them. 

Isn't this a crazy experiment putting all our children at risk? 

Not according to Brostrøm.

“This is not an experiment by gradually opening kindergartens and schools,” he said during the press conference on Wednesday. “We are not using children, young people and teachers as guinea pigs. It is our clear assessment that this is safe in terms of health. This is not an experiment.” 

The official guidelines for the controlled reopening of kindergartens can be found here, and here is a Google Translation of the document.  







you stay home until you are well