Pre-school classes and gymnasiums are set to open on 1 June, if the evolution of the disease allows.
In the context of the COVID-19 crisis, all Portuguese schools have been shut down but still providing care for the children of parents working in critical sectors, namely healthcare or safety and security workers.
At the education level, a task force was created by the Secretary of State for Education, the Directors of the Directorate-General for Education, the Directorate-General for Schools and the President of the National Agency for Qualification and Vocational Education and Training. All the decisions are taken articulating the work of the different entities.
In the beginning, a two-phase national plan was implemented. In the first phase, support was provided at school level on how to organise their work internally, the work with teachers, parents and students in an administrative way. This involved issues such as how to prepare a communication plan, how to contact students, how to organise this new way of (distance) learning in a balanced way, how not to overload students with tasks or leave them on their own. The second phase includes guidance for teachers on how to use online learning tools, provide resources and materials.
Two platforms are in place, one for headteachers and another one to support schools in the challenge of continuing their teaching and learning activities with their students, at a time when face to face lessons have been suspended. The link for one of these platforms is https://apoioescolas.dge.mec.pt/. It is constantly being updated with information, guidelines, resources and tools for schools and teachers. Some of the challenges faced are adjusting to this new format for an undefined period of time as well as interacting with students and families with no computers or other devices and with no internet connection.
Simultaneously, different guidelines were produced in order to:
- support the headmasters on how to develop distance learning school plans, at the curriculum, pedagogical and administrative levels;
- support schools to continue working with children with special needs;
- provide information about technical information on distance learning tools;
- provide information about student data protection.
In order to support teachers, an online course was created in partnership with a university. The course targets headteachers and teachers with leadership roles, regarding the deepening of several themes related to the design and the implementation of a distance learning plan.
Furthermore, and with the purpose of extending the learning activities to students with no access to technology, the Ministry of Education will soon launch a TV channel that will broadcast lessons at national level targeting year 1 to year 9 students (primary and lower secondary level) and covering all subjects in the national curriculum.
Bearing in mind the importance of providing visual educational content in distance learning, the Directorate-General for Education Youtube Channel was created and provides videos organised according to school subjects.
So as to work closely with schools, Support Teams were created which include specialised teachers developing different projects, such as e-Twinning, Learning Labs, School Libraries Network, Programme for Aesthetics and Art Education. The purpose of these teams is to identify obstacles and solutions to overcome them as well as to endorse and monitor schools, by collecting and sharing good practice.