Schools

COVID-19 in children and the role of school settings in transmission – second update

COVID-19 in children and the role of school settings in transmission – second update

ECDC has recently published the report ‘COVID-19 in children and the role of school settings in transmission – second update’, which revises our current understanding of the role that children play in the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, and the role of schools in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The aim of this document is to provide an update on the knowledge surrounding the role of children in the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and the role of schools in the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing in particular on the experience in EU/EEA countries since the beginning of the pandemic.

Children of all ages are susceptible to COVID-19 and can transmit the disease. However, cases of COVID-19 in younger children do not appear to cause onward transmission as often as cases in older children and adults. Children aged between one and 18 years of age have much lower rates of hospitalisation and severe disease requiring intensive hospital care than other age groups.

Although school closures could contribute to a reduction in COVID-19 transmission as a measure of last resort, the closures in themselves are insufficient to prevent community transmission in the absence of other non-pharmaceutical interventions. Moreover, vaccination coverage is now also increasing. Given the continued risk of transmission among unvaccinated children, it is imperative that there is a high level of preparedness in educational systems for the school year 2021−2022.

By the time schools reopen for the new school year, children and adolescents will have become the age groups with the lowest rates of COVID-19 vaccination coverage in the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA). Therefore, in the absence of strict adherence to effective public health mitigation measures, concentrated circulation of COVID-19 is to be expected, including outbreaks in this age group.

For more information and access to the full report

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Third High-level Meeting on Schooling during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Third High-level Meeting on Schooling during the COVID-19 Pandemic

On 2 July 2021, the Third High-level Meeting on Schooling during the COVID-19 Pandemic was held, organized by WHO/Europe, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The WHO European Technical Advisory Group (TAG) on schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic shared new recommendations with the best available evidence and expert advice on safe schooling during the pandemic.

Schooling and COVID-19

COVID-19 has disrupted schooling for millions of children and young people during the school year 2020–2021. After reopening schools in the autumn of 2020, rising infection rates in winter led to more stringent measures, including, in some areas, the closure of schools.

These measures have serious effects on the education, development, and social and mental well-being of children and adolescents – both in the short- and long-term. Children and adolescents in the WHO European Region have missed on average more than 30 weeks of schooling due to school closures.

This third high-level meeting followed previous meetings held in August and December 2020, and presented an updated version of the TAG recommendations, including updates on how to keep schools open, testing strategies in school settings, risk-mitigation measures and infection control, and vaccination strategies, among others.

In addition to sharing the updated recommendations, the meeting was meant to support countries in planning measures over the summer months, so as to minimize school disruptions in the academic year 2021–2022.

As a member of the TAG, Prof. Didier Jourdan contributed to the discussion by presenting the first results of the UNESCO Chair’s global survey on the safe reopening of schools.

More information about the event

Recommendations from the European Technical Advisory Group for schooling during COVID-19 (March 2021)

 

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Article: Co-operation and consistency: a global survey of professionals involved in reopening schools during the COVID-19 pandemic

Article: Co-operation and consistency: a global survey of professionals involved in reopening schools during the COVID-19 pandemic

During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, schools closed in haste and were expected to create virtual learning opportunities for their students while they waited to see when and how they might re-open. National governments issued reopening guidance at varying speeds. The purpose of the study described in this article [1] was to invite health and education professionals to share what was happening in their country about school reopening in terms of the features and implications of the guidance issued. A semi-structured questionnaire was distributed through the global community of UNESCO Chair ‘Global Health and Education’ and partner organisations.

There were 192 useable responses from 43 countries and territories and 1 multi-country region. 20 of these, mainly in the Global North, had received reopening guidance, 23 were still waiting and 1 had not closed its schools. Guidance prioritised public health measures like social distancing, with less emphasis on education impacts. Success came from partnerships between schools, families and local authorities, consistent guidance and enough time and resources for implementation. Fear of infection led to significant absenteeism among students and staff. Respondents waiting for guidance, mainly in the Global South, shared similar concerns and expectations.

Access the full article.


[1] Gray, N.J. and Jourdan, D. (2021), “Co-operation and consistency: a global survey of professionals involved in reopening schools during the COVID-19 pandemic”, Health Education, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/HE-07-2020-0054

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Tools to assess Girl-friendly schools, Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Youth-friendly Health Services

Tools to assess Girl-friendly schools, Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Youth-friendly Health Services

The University of Amsterdam (UvA) in partnership with the Her Choice Programme has developed tools in English and French to assess Girl-friendly Schools (GFS), Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and Youth-Friendly Health Services (YFHS).The development and evaluation of the use of the tools has been funded through two small grants of Share-Net International. The tools have been implemented in the Her Choice programme countries in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Comprehensive Sexuality Education tool: This tool allows for scoring a CSE intervention along different dimensions with a view to assessing the degree to which an intervention can be considered ‘comprehensive.‘

Girl-friendly school tool: This tool scores different dimensions of schools to assess whether or not they can be considered girl friendly.

Youth-friendly Health Services tool: This tool scores different dimensions of health services to assess whether they can be considered youth friendly.

For more information and to download the tools.

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Global survey on the safe reopening of schools available in 6 languages

Global survey on the safe reopening of schools available in 6 languages

The global survey on the safe reopening of schools in now available in Arabic, English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish. You are invited to complete the survey and to share the survey within your network. The aim of the survey is to gather the experiences and opinions of education and health professionals about the processes in place in their countries and territories to reopen schools safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to keep them open.

The survey explores the public health measures that have been put in place in schools; communication of guidance at national and/or local level, and the facilitators or barriers to safe reopening. The survey should take 10-20 minutes to complete. It is a follow-up of the survey which was conducted in May/June 2020.

The survey is conducted by the UNESCO Chair and WHO Collaborating Center in Global Health & Education with the support of its consortium partners from ASCD, CHAIN, Education InternationalEUPHA Child and Adolescent Public Health, EUPHA Health PromotionGCU London, IAAH and their Young Professionals’ Network, IUHPE, NCD Child, UCA and the SHE Network.

More information and access to the survey links  

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What does the evidence tell us about keeping schools open safely – High level ministerial meeting UNESCO

What does the evidence tell us about keeping schools open safely – High level ministerial meeting UNESCO

As the world enters a second year living with the COVID-19 pandemic, half of the global student population is still affected by full or partial school closures. To mobilize and support learning continuity, UNESCO established the Global Education Coalition which today counts 160 members working around three central themes: Gender, connectivity and teachers.

On 29 March 2021, UNESCO convened a high-level ministerial meeting “One year into COVID: Prioritizing education recovery to avoid a generational catastrophe” to take stock of lessons learnt, the greatest risks facing education today and strategies to leave no learner behind. During this meeting, Professor Didier Jourdan, chair holder of the UNESCO Chair and head of the WHO Collaborating Center Global Health and Education, was invited to present a state-of-the-art review of the evidence about keeping schools open safely.

Professor Jourdan presented three solid facts:

  • schools should be among the last places to close and first to reopen
  • school reopening, with comprehensive infection prevention and control measures in place, and when the community infection levels were low or moderate, did not increase community transmission
  • the mechanisms of implementation in schools involve institutional, contextual and personal factors

Read the transcript of the presentation

More information about the high level ministerial meeting

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One year into COVID: Prioritizing education recovery to avoid a generational catastrophe

One year into COVID: Prioritizing education recovery to avoid a generational catastrophe

Monday 29 March, 14:00 CET, a high-level Ministerial on-line event

As the world enters a second year living with the COVID-19 pandemic, UNESCO will convene a high-level ministerial event on 29 March to take stock of lessons learnt, the greatest risks facing education and strategies to leave no learner behind, building on the actions of the Global Education Coalition (GEC) established in March 2020 that marks its first anniversary.

The meeting will provide the global education community with a space for policy dialogue to assess lessons learnt and the most pressing current challenges, informed by the presentation of key data sets. Main participants will be Ministers of Education, high-level representatives of partners within the GEC and of sister agencies. The debate will be framed around three key topics related to:

  • School dropout & learning loss: what are the top policy measures taken to mitigate against school drop out? What remedial actions have been most successful so far to make up for learning loss?
  • Keeping schools open, prioritizing and supporting teachers: how to keep schools open as a priority and ensure a safe learning environment? How to ensure that teachers are safe, considered as frontline workers and supported to adapt to a new learning reality?
  • Digital transformation and the future of education:  what are the key strategies for digital transformation of education systems? How can public-private partnership contribute to advancing the digital transformation? How has COVID-19 impacted the future of education?

Professor Didier Jourdan, chair holder of the UNESCO Chair Global Health & Education will deliver an opening presentation about emerging evidence on safe school reopening.

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Coronavirus: what we know about the risk of reopening schools – and how best to limit it

Coronavirus: what we know about the risk of reopening schools – and how best to limit it

Across the world, over 1.5 billion children and young people were deprived of school during the first phase of the pandemic. We know this has had a negative effect on learning. And research carried out in England has shown that children in deprived areas have fallen furthest behind.

We know too that physical attendance at school has health benefits. Time spent with friends during adolescence helps brain development. Compulsory physical activity can protect against future chronic illnesses. And many young people benefit from school-based services such as free lunches and sanitary products.

Young people clearly benefit from being in school. But as many countries reopen, do the benefits of sending our children back outweigh the risks, and if so, what are the conditions of a safe return?

In the article published today in The Conversation, Didier Jourdan, Nicola Gray and Michael Marmot review the available data on the risks of returning to school and argue that the best means of mitigating them are locally driven control measures, based on national guidance.

Read the article.

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