Germany: Trade unions support extension of lockdown

published 8 January 2021 updated 11 January 2021

Education International’s German affiliates have backed the decision of the federal and state governments to extend the COVID-19 lockdown. Schools and day-care centres will remain closed, with some exceptions, until 31 January.

On 5 January, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the prime ministers of the federal states (Länder) agreed on the lockdown as the Coronavirus rages across the country. On 25 January, this situation will be reviewed before a decision is made on whether to extend the lockdown into February.

Most schoolchildren in Germany and many Kita (pre-school) children will stay at home for the next three weeks. Schools and day-care centres will close until at least the end of January or would be limited to emergency services.

The Länder themselves will regulate the procedures at schools and day-care centres. For example, day-care centres were not closed everywhere during the previous lockdown. Instead, parents were asked not to bring their children to the centres. Education ministers in the Länder had already agreed on 4 January that, in the event of a return to face-to-face teaching, primary school students would return first, followed gradually by classes for older pupils.

Days of leave to take care of a child are doubled

As a result of the lockdown extension leading to childcare issues for many parents, the federal and Länder governments also agreed to double the number of days’ leave – from 10 to 20 – that parents can take to care for a child this year. Single parents may take 40 days instead of the usual 20 days to care for their ill children.

The regulation is expressly intended not only to cover a situation where children become ill, but also where children must be looked after at home because the school or day-care centre is closed or has limited operations.

GEW: Advocating for hybrid education after lockdown

“The Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft (GEW) supports the decision to extend the lockdown for schools and day-care centres until 31 January,” GEW president and Education International vice-president, Marlis Tepe, said. She reported that “COVID-19 is still keeping Germany under its grip. Day-care centres and schools continue to face immense challenges.”

GEW advocates for blended learning once the lockdown is over. “It would have been better if the education ministries in the Länder had used the Christmas holidays to do their homework: namely to create the conditions for proper hybrid, face-to-face and remote lessons,” Tepe stressed.

“This is the only way to effectively protect the health of teachers, learners, and their parents. This also applies to primary schools, which are not spared by the Coronavirus. The fact remains: the right to education and health protection must be brought under one roof.”

VBE: Cohesion is crucial

The state chairman of the Verband Bildung und Erziehung (VBE) branch in North Rhine-Westphalia, Stefan Behlau, explained that “it's a tough decision demanding a lot from all of us. Parents are required to leave their child at home and look after them. Children of school age have to learn under difficult conditions.”

He said teachers, education support personnel, and school leaders will facilitate education despite the necessary distance and ensure care and support where necessary. “What our colleagues achieve despite challenging conditions deserves respect and recognition,” he underlined.

“These tough measures are an enormous burden, especially in the school sector, but they have to be suffered if we are to achieve the goal of coming back to a more continuous school life. Everyone's health comes first. Everyone has a responsibility. A strong cohesion is crucial now.”

He also said that in his Land, parents are required to keep their child at home, making a “strong contribution to health protection.

“The goal must be that normal life in day care can soon resume. For that to happen, we all have to take responsibility. Keeping your distance doesn't work when working with small children,” he concluded.