On 11 March the Danish government decided that all public institutions, including all education establishments, should be closed to physical attendance from 16 March.
For vocational education this has meant a shutdown for all students who are in school. Due to the dual system in Denmark, not all VET students attend school, as some are working as interns in a company instead.
On 6 April the Danish Government announced gradual reopening of Danish education establishments, starting on April 15 with early childhood education and care, primary education up to fifth grade, senior year students in general, upper secondary education and special needs schools. Senior-year students in vocational education and training were to start as soon as possible.
Online and virtual teaching
Even while schools were closed and it was not possible for students to gather in classrooms and workshops, schools were still responsible for compulsory education, and teachers did their jobs through distance learning from home.
The Ministry of Children and Education provided guidelines for teachers on distance learning. These included suggestions for conducting distance lessons and how to design lessons that the students could complete at home using digital and/or analogue resources. It also contained links to web-based learning resources.
The types of online learning that the Ministry expected to be used included:
- distance lessons using Microsoft Teams, Google Hangout Meet, Skype, Adobe Connect or FaceTime;
- designing lessons that the students could complete via digital learning resources;
- teacher use of email or other ICT resources, such as the Aula platform (used in all public schools), Lectio, Ludus or other platforms (used in upper secondary schools), to send teaching plans, lesson plans and information on homework to students and parents. Students were then responsible for completing the work. Parents were informed about their role in supporting the distance lessons, as were the teachers.
Both Office 365/Teams and Google G Suite for Education/Hangout Meet were made available free of charge to all schools.
Some problems arose in the first days of school closure, preventing several people from entering the digital platforms together, as planned. The Ministry took on monitoring these issues in order to be able to prioritise ICT support.
A wide range of web-based learning resources was made available, with Danish publishers supplying them free of charge throughout the period of school closures. As private suppliers, they could be brought into a discussion on sharing Danish language resources with other EU member states.
The use of digital teaching resources grew steadily during the school closures. Many publishers and IT providers experienced three times the normal level of activity on their digital platforms.
For VET schools, the main focus of the teaching has been theoretical understanding of the different disciplines. Some teachers were able to instruct students successfully in hands-on exercises from a distance and online.
Upper secondary VET students about to take their final exams had these exams cancelled due to Covid-19, but schools that were closing had several options. The length of VET education could be prolonged, the final exam being held after the schools reopen. Final VET exams (with very few students) could be held where possible to do so while complying with COVID19 heath regulations. VET schools with students close to graduating (within three months) and who had to cancel final exams may provide a student with a degree and a diploma (an administrative diploma) if the school was happy that the student in question met the required level of skills, competences and knowledge, and if the trade council agreed. The diploma has the same legal status as a regular diploma (it is not temporary).
VET schools were able to replace an exam grade with a mark for continuous assessment.
Many upper secondary VET programmes have uptake several times a year. Existing minimum grade requirements have remained valid for enrolment and admissions to VET schools. Students who do not meet the grade requirements can take an admissions test. However, because of COVID19 and school closures, testing may be cancelled and such students admitted without taking the test. These regulations regarding grading and VET took effect by a Ministerial Order of 23 March 2020.
Special consideration was given to students and pupils from the most vulnerable backgrounds, especially those with special educational needs. Schools had an obligation to provide extra support and to make sure that they were in contact with the child and family daily. This was emphasised by the Danish Minister for Children and Education on national TV and in letters sent to municipalities and schools.
In VET schools there has long been a focus on vulnerable groups. However, normal initiatives in this respect could not be maintained during the Covid-19 outbreak, such as supporting teacher schemes to make sure that every student has close contact with an adult at school. One of the main concerns during the outbreak its potential impact on dropout figures. This is fully known at present and will only be so when all students are back at school or on internships.