Response to Covid-19 during the school year 2020-2021
In Portugal, face-to-face schooling was resumed on 14 September 2020 (schools may open between the 14th and 17th September). The reopening of face-to-face classes has been prepared in close cooperation with the Ministry of Health.
While preparations have been made in terms of hygiene, social distancing and practical organisational measures, the Ministry of Education has published the roadmap “Guidelines for the Recovery and Consolidation of Learning throughout the 2020/2021 Academic Year” as a tool to support schools planning the 2020/2021 academic year. The roadmap includes supporting measures and ideas to address teaching, learning, monitoring, assessment as well as mentoring subjects.
Schools were sent the document "Reference for schools - Control of COVID-19 Transmission in School Context”, which was designed in partnership with the Directorate-General for Health. This document aims at presenting not only information about COVID-19, but also the measures to be implemented by different stakeholders in the educational community. It will be a benchmark in the prevention and control of SARS-CoV-2 transmission concerning case management, contacts and outbreaks of COVID-19 in the school context.
The Resolution of the Council of Ministers no. 30 of April 21, 2020, provides the implementation of the Programme of Digitalization for Schools within the scope of the Action Plan for Digital Transition, for the beginning of this academic year.
This Action Plan foresees the development of a programme for schools digital transformation which includes the provision of personal ICT equipment for both students and teachers and free mobile connectivity.
The programme also provides for a strong commitment to teachers’ continuous professional development to ensure the acquisition of the required digitally based teaching skills.
Directorate-General for Education (DGE) is taking all the necessary measures to provide about 100 000 teachers with the suitable digital skills to make them more digitally empowered. The program also provides teachers and students with access to digital educational resources such as textbooks, activity books, interactive classes, interactive tests, exam preparation, etc.
In this context, a pilot project to replace printed schoolbooks with digital books is being implemented with the aim of generalizing to the whole country in the next school year.
Response to Covid-19 during the school year 2019-2020
Pre-school classes and gymnasiums opened on 1 June 2020.
In the context of the COVID-19 crisis, all Portuguese schools were 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.