“All the great European countries have kept the school open, even in the last two years” (Min 22:33)
guest on 20 january Radio Imagine, Secretary of the Democratic Party Enrico Letta he defended (Min 22:30) Government’s decision to have face-to-face lessons in school, despite a sharp rise in coronavirus infections. According to Letta, “it is important to reiterate and remember” that “all the great European countries” – from France to Germany – have not closed their schools in the past two years. There “the school has always been open,” the secretary of the Democratic Party said, except for isolated quarantine measures.
We have checked and Letta is wrong. Because of the pandemic, our country was not the only one that limited face-to-face teaching, even though it was one of the most closed schools.
Also read: Invalsi: What do school statistics really say?
who has closed the most
To see what other major European countries have done on school management, let’s take a look at database UNESCO, United Nations agency that deals with culture and education , Here, since the start of the pandemic, the periods of school closures and openings in dozens of countries around the world have been collected, even partially. UNESCO data with “partial opening” they refer Closed localized in some areas or valid only for specific levels of education, with a mix of face-to-face and distance learning.
Italy and Germany at the forefront
Italy at the end of October 2021, according to UNESCO’s findings it was closed Schools for about 13 weeks leave them partially open for about 24 weeks (Graph 1). Normalized closures for all levels of education (purple in graph) were concentrated during the first wave, so starting in spring 2020. During the second wave, in autumn 2020, mainly the relevant high schools remained closed, while primary and middle school remained in attendance (except in areas ending in red, where the second and third secondary schools received distance learning).
Graph 1. Closed and open periods of schools in Italy – Source: UNESCO
The data from Germany are largely in line with the Italian ones. From the start of the pandemic to the end of last October, the country’s schools, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel at the time be closed For about 14 weeks, the remainder remains partially open for less than 24 weeks (Graph 2). Unlike Italy, the general shutdowns in Germany were mainly concentrated in the winter between 2020 and 2021. Recently, the German school last December they closed Again in some areas of the country, due to the new wave which mainly affected the younger sections of the population.
Graph 2. Closed and open periods of schools in Germany – Source: UNESCO
France and Spain closed
According to UNESCO findings, France and Spain have instead kept schools less closed than Italy and Germany. Last October, France what happened Schools closed for less than seven weeks and partially open for less than five weeks; Spain he locked them open for ten weeks and partially open for five (Figure 3).
Graph 3. Closed and open periods of schools in Spain and France – Source: UNESCO
UK is also closed
The numbers were higher in Britain. Across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, British schools remained closed for about 16 weeks (particularly spring 2020 and winter 2020-2021), while they remained partially closed for about 11 weeks (Figure 4).
Graph 4. Duration of school closures and openings in the United Kingdom – Source: UNESCO
Before drawing conclusions, we underline that these comparisons between large European countries should be taken with due caution. As shown in the case of the Italian territories, or the German federal states, the rules for opening and closing schools have often changed at the local level, making precise comparisons between different countries complicated.
According to Enrico Leta, “all the great European countries” have “kept the school open” in the past two years, from France to Germany. We checked what the latest UNESCO findings say and what the Democratic Party secretary is wrong.
From the start of the pandemic until the end of October 2021, Italy and Germany had schools closed or partially open for almost the same number of weeks. Fewer closures have been introduced in the UK, and fewer in France and Spain.
Of the five major European countries, Italy was among the countries that took tough measures at the school level. But other states have also followed this line, somewhat similarly, to a lesser extent.
In the end, Letta deserves a “Pinocchio Andante.”
 Select individual countries from the “Country” drop-down menu.
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