The UK has been slow in its response to Covid-19 and only implemented a lock-down on 23 March 2020. This has been less strict then in most other countries in Europe and since the w/c 11 May is has been eased further, mainly to encourage people to go back to work ‘if they can’ , although much confusion consists about the exact regulations and advice. At the time of writing (17/5/20), the UK is generally considered to have the worst Covid-19 situation in Europe  with 243,303  confirmed positive cases and 34,636 confirmed deaths. All schools have been closed on 20 March 2020. It is not yet official when schools are due to reopen again, but in a televised speech on 10 May 2020, the prime minister announced from 1 June 2020 ‘at the earliest’ schools could be reopened again . It was later clarified that this would happen in stages with some primary school pupils first, others after that and secondary school pupils later.  Although the 1 June date is still not formally confirmed, there is resistance to this from some regional and city authorities in the North of England as well as several teacher trade unions and many parents who believe this is too soon. The closure applied to all schools, including nurseries and private (‘public’) schools. The school closure was announced on 18 March and effectively started on 23 March, so schools had a few days to prepare. This was 2 weeks before the official Easter break.

The government has asked schools to remain open for children of critical workers and vulnerable children where they can. The official guidance states that: “We understand that some [schools] may be unable to do so, especially if they are experiencing severe staff shortages. In that instance, we will work with local areas to use neighboring settings to continue to support vulnerable children and children of critical workers. To make this easier, we have made temporary changes to the law to allow vulnerable children and the children of critical workers to attend another school, on a temporary basis, if their school is closed. The changes ensure they can return to their normal school once it reopens” Due to relative autonomy of local educational authorities and (even more autonomous) academies and private (‘public’) schools, the way schools and teachers are coping with distant teaching & learning is highly diverse. The government has provided guidance for distant teaching and home schooling but this does not appear to be very directive.

The UK already has one of the largest attainment gaps between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils and many organisations and experts have highlighted how the current situation will only worsen this due to unequal study and support conditions at their homes. Comparison has been made with the annual “learning loss” that is experienced by pupils during Summer holidays. “The vast majority of children decline academically over the long summer break, but for disadvantaged children the effect is particularly pronounced: evidence suggests that the summer holidays might account for almost two thirds of the attainment gap between rich and poor children at age 14”. Responsibility for primary and secondary education is decentralized to local authorities, ‘academy trusts’ and (private) schools themselves and support given on this (and other) issues is highly diverse. A digital divide has become even more apparent during the current crisis. The central government does have a programme in place to provide support to these decentralized bodies, but it’s not really clear how effective this is.

No specific data is available on parents, but from the vast amount of guidance available on provision of mental health support of parents and carers (as well as their children) during the Covid-19 crisis, it is clear that many parents are having difficulty coping.

Centralized final exams that normally take place over the Summer have all been cancelled. At the moment of writing, it is not clear how and when these will be rescheduled. Fairly detailed guidance has been given to schools, colleges and universities on how to go ahead with pupil and student admissions to the next levels of education, which will how have to be based on previous work, school exams, etc.

The government did not officially close universities. Universities in the UK can make autonomous decisions about closures, so the actual situation is specific in each case. However, due to the overall measures of lock-down and social distancing, in practice the decision space of universities has been very limited.

There is a lot of anecdotal information available about the challenges teachers are facing balancing distance teaching with supporting the well-being and safety of their pupils in these difficult and often stressful times. This should also be related to the relatively high levels of child poverty and deprivation in the UK where schools/teachers often play a broader role in feeding and safeguarding many pupils. At the moment, there is a lot of concern as well about the government plans to reopen schools again at a time when many teachers don’t believe it’s safe to return.

No specific data available and this again depends hugely between universities, study areas (more or less intensive) and individual student characteristics. Some evidence shows that many students are having difficulty coping with distance learning. As disadvantage comes in different shapes and forms, it’s difficult to draw clear conclusions on where extra difficulties lie for disadvantaged students during these times. In the UK, there is much reference to the extra difficulties of poorer students who are now not able to work besides their studies as most of the jobs they hold (e.g. in hospitality) are being cancelled, students who suffer from mental health issues and students who are not able to stay with their family (e.g. many LGBTQ+ students).

Like many others countries around the world, the Covid-19 pandemic caught the authorities prepared in some areas and totally unprepared in others. Fortunately for Malta the strong ICT infrastructure with 99% coverage of the territory by fixed-line broadband Internet and mobile phone 3G/4G access complete with wireless broadband Internet supported the overnight switch from class-based to 100% online education in the second week of March. However, the support vulnerable students who face challenges at home the Ministry for Education and Employment (MEDE) in April 2020 announced a scheme to support such students with free Internet access and laptops. Furthermore, perhaps as a coincidence, in March 2020 The Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST) and the Foundation of Social Welfare Standards (FSWS) agreed to strengthen their collaboration to improve the wellbeing of young people at high risk of social exclusion. MEDE’s Institute for Education announced free online courses for parents and educators. MEDE also announced a think-tank with high-profile representatives from society about post Covid-19 education in Malta.

Schools have been closed since March 16th and expected to partially open end of May, starting with the graduate classes and the primary schools. School closures were only announced a few days before, so schools had little time to prepare. After school closure, lessons took place in a weakened form and most interaction is shifted to online classes and remote teaching. Teachers and headmasters fulfil their official duties and pupils of the primary and lower secondary level, who do not have the possibility of care at home, are cared for at the school location. On the advice of the Minister of Education, teachers should not teach new teaching content during the current school closures, but should only repeat and consolidate what has already been learned or taught – in order to avoid leaving behind those without the opportunity of sufficient parental support or technical equipment at home.

At hotspot schools in Vienna, Lower Austria and Upper Austria, up to one fifth of the pupils are not even accessible to teachers at all, according to a survey by the educational network “Teach for Austria”. Many young people lack the necessary hardware and the correct handling of different e-learning platforms as well as support from parents or other carers. Notably in the beginning, there was a huge variety of different tools and platforms uses by teachers even in the same class, but there are attempts to avoid such clutter the longer school closure is ongoing.

The Austrian Government has provided approx. 12.000 computers and tablets for those pupils do not have a PC or laptop at home, according to a needs assessment by the Ministry of Education. However, the measure is aimed at federal students only and school under the authority of the provinces don’t have this opportunity. The ministry has provided equipment on loan for these pupils from the beginning of May and budget funds of up to 5,5 million EUR will be used for this purpose. The equipment will be loaned out until the end of the year.

There is a wide range of support material and practical tips how parents could actually support home schooling and how their role could be, as well as partial evidence about how parents are perceiving the situation from their perspective. Needless to say that distance learning which shall take place in private homes and families has put a massive additional effort and responsibility on the parents, who are challenged by working home office at the same time or maintain their professional obligation under other difficulties.

Lessons for school leaving classes (“Matura“) started on May 4th 2020, after which Matura students will receive three weeks of targeted preparation at the schools. In general, the “Matura” consists of a written part and an oral part of the exam. Whereas the written part is intended to begin on 25 May 2020, despite the problems which are evident in face of the short time for preparation, the oral part will be waived this year for exceptional reasons, unless a candidate wishes to be orally examined in one or more subjects (option model). The written Matura papers will only be carried out in three examination areas, whereas the overall performance of the last school year will be included in the assessment, which is not the case normally. This means that the effort during the last term is rewarded and grades of the school-leaving certificate are not depending on one single examination.

At the same time as for the school leaving classes, vocational schools and colleges will resume school teaching. In vocational training, training that includes special lab or workshop activities can be replaced by specially organised distance learning offers if they would be fully missed elsewise. If necessary, practical lessons are postponed until the summer holidays or in the next academic year. As vocational training and apprenticeship is arranged in shared responsibility between vocational schools and businesses, notably for the practical parts, the actual implementation of supplementary training will be in coordination with the business sector, but the apprenticeship year can be completed in any case. If necessary, examinations will be arranged online or in vocational schools for individual cases, the latter in compliance with the hygiene regulations.

After school leaving classes and vocational schools and colleges, teaching in compulsory education (primary and lower secondary grades, May 18th 2020) and on upper secondary level (June 3rd 2020) will resume step by step. As a basic principle across all grades, teaching shall be in split groups and alternating study plans with elements of home lessons and school lessons in order to support social distancing in schools as much as possible. Hygiene regulations, including the wearing of masks in school areas outside classroom, need to be strictly obeyed. In face of the current situation, national lesson plans should be kept flexible and the focus should rather be on concluding the term and preparing for the next grades, rather than teaching new subjects by all means. New content and pace of teaching shall be reduced for the time remaining in order to rather allow, by contract, for a better consolidation of what has been acquired already and for an enhanced deployment of individualized and self-directed forms of learning. Pupils who belong to a risk group continue to be supervised via distance learning if their parents wish to have this so.

For the university sector, all teaching was suspended and switched to virtual teaching/distance learning/home learning in the week between March 9th and March 16th 2020. The examinations are currently held online or on location in compliance with the hygienic rules of conduct, as far as this is reasonable due to the local situation – or will be postponed. University sports have been temporarily suspended, the reading rooms of the university libraries have been closed and events have either been cancelled or postponed, taking into account the relevant decree of the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection. Unless specifically instructed to maintain it, most academic research came to a still-stand as well, based on decisions made by the university managements, however there was no general advice by the government.

For the university sector, this step-by-step plan means that teaching will continue to be implemented as distance learning for the time being, that the possibilities for holding examinations, for example via video conferences, will be exhausted and that research will be continued – as far as the local situation allows. There will be no kind of academic events or conferences, also in accordance with the general legal situation and in any case, the necessary rules of conduct also apply in the university sector (keeping distance, limiting the number of persons, mouth and nose protection, etc.). From the beginning of May, operations at universities are to be gradually ramped up again. The Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research has issued uniform recommendations for all universities. However, the individual institutions are free to adapt their specific procedures to the specific local conditions.

Representing the biggest full university in Austria and in the German speaking countries, the University of Vienna has now officially extended home learning until June 30th 2020 – this implies that there will be hardly any face to face lessons in the current term any more. After Easter at the latest, home learning should be implemented in all courses by all lecturers. However, there are no standardized guidelines for the implementation of distance learning at academic level. It is up to the lecturers themselves which technical tools and methods they use. The Centre for Teaching and Learning of the University of Vienna provides a guide and list of tools for the implementation of home learning on their homepage.

There is currently no overview of teachers’ perceptions, difficulties and challenges in dealing with distance teaching. Especially at the very beginning of this phase, there were an increasing number of reports about lecturers who were overwhelmed by the technical implementation and did not have the knowledge of how to hold the units online – and this will maybe even more apply to teachers at school level as well.

How students deal with the situation, which measures have worked and which areas need to be improved is being investigated in an ongoing study by the Faculty of Psychology at the University of Vienna on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research.

An administrative order of the Minister of Science, which is currently under review, provides that if there is an entitlement to study support in the summer term 2020, this will remain in place even if there is a predominant impediment to studying as a result of the COVID19-related restrictions on the operation of the university. The period of sponsorship is automatically extended by one semester.


Universities and Upper Secondary Schools are closed since mid-March, but pre-schools, primary and secondary schools are open. There is no recommendation from the government to close schools but there’s a possibility for a school leader/headmaster to decide to close an individual school. The government has also made changes in the legislation to make it possible to very quickly decide on a number of actions if the situation should become worse, such as change of term, a possibility to schedule education on weekends and evenings, change of last day for final exams etc.

The reason to keep the schools open are multiple:

  1. To avoid loss of competence in critical areas such as healthcare, if parent are forced to stay home with their children
  2. The wellbeing of children
  3. To assure equivalent education
  4. The understanding that young children are not that vulnerable for the Covid.-19

When the Universities and Upper Secondary Schools closed down it happened very quickly.

A few Universities had made autonomous decisions to close the week before the government on March the 17th decided to close all higher education institutions from March 18th.

The curricula will be followed, although all national test in upper secondary schools have been cancelled. We don’t have final exams so all students are excepted to graduate as planned but there will of course not be much celebration.

The Scholastic Aptitude test has been cancelled and as a result, a number of young people who has this as a second chance if their grades won’t let them into the education they wish for, are at risk not to be able to start their University studies after summer. On the other hand, the government has increased the student numbers to meet the expected unemployment. (We have a cap on student numbers)

Many researchers have started to collect data from both students and teachers on how they experience this change and some reports have already been published. The transformation into digital/on-line teaching has gone surprisingly smoothly at both Universities and Upper Secondary Schools.  Thanks to the fact that learning management systems and videoconference tools were already in place at most institutions, the teaching could switch into distance teaching more or less overnight. It has, however been a high pressure on teaching staff to, not just, master the technique but also to adopt and develop the pedagogy.  The biggest challenges are connected to proficiency and vocational training and to assessment. There are many initiatives to support teacher, to share best practices and resources at both institutional and national level. Some support is organised though the Swedish National Agency for Education.

Students in Universities are overall finding that education works quite well but they miss the social interaction. Some students with special needs report that they actually benefit from on-line learning but at the same time others have big difficulties and are at risk of dropping out.

From upper secondary schools, there are some reports on improved attendance among students since the transformation into distance learning. As a result of the recommendation to stay at home even with the slightest symptom of a cold, the absence in schools has increased. On top of that, some parents kept their children home from schools since they didn’t agree with the decisions made by the authorities. To deal with the latter there has been a massive information campaign targeting the parents explaining the rationale behind the strategy but also reminding of the fact that school attendance is regulated by law. This has been translated into 10 different languages and seem to have had a positive effect on attendance.

There are also reports on children living in dysfunctional families suffering extra from this situation; there has been an increase of violence in close relations as well as in sexual abuse of children. There is great pressure on help lines for children and young people.


On 15 March the Dutch government decided to close schools, first until 6 April, but later that period was extended until after the Spring Break, 4 May for some schools, 11 May for the majority. Middle and secondary schools will not be fully open even after that period, many school leaders report they will only open for end-of-year exams. The final exams determining further study paths for students were abolished for this year, and students will be evaluated on the basis of their long-term schoolwork. This has eased the pressure on both schools and families. Primary school curriculum makes it possible for children to catch up even if they miss school for a few months, so for these children parents mostly received advice on reading practice and supporting well-being. It also helped that these children were not explicitly advised to stay at home and playgrounds have been open. For older children, teachers have designed and provided online teaching and learnings. In this field there were equity issues for children from disadvantaged backgrounds in access. Larger municipalities, such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam, have provided thousands of laptops and tablets to disadvantaged families. All schools were obliged to stay open for children of parents who couldn’t organise child care and those in vital professions, and explicitly asked for it. Some school heads incentivised the most disadvantaged families to use this opportunity and send their children to school.

Some universities made the decision to switch to mainly or fully online teaching even before 15 March, but after that date all universities remained close. For them there was a preparation period as this coincided with midterm holidays in many cases. While schools are opening in May, universities have announced to remain closed for the rest of the academic year, and some are planning a partially online next semester, too. This is partly because of the large number of foreign students many of whom went home for midterm and are now stuck in other countries and because large numbers of movements in public transport have to be prevented as much as possible. The fact that restaurants can currently only be open for take away and delivery also hit disadvantaged university students hard. Student grants (of international students) are tied to a minimum of 56 hours a month employment, and with many students working in the hospitality and catering sectors as there employment is flexible, many are not only losing their salary, but as a result their governmental financial support, too. Losing finances is also a big problem for the Dutch students. Some students have also problems in following the online classes because of lack of Wi-Fi and laptops. Testing is a challenge for most universities as not all tests can be conducted online (practice-oriented tests). In collaboration with the exam boards alternative and innovative solutions are being searched for. For the coming year, a lot has to be invested in additional coaching and mentoring of the first years. If the first semester will be online, engagement and connection will be a big challenge.  Another problem are the apprenticeships. For vocational education and universities of applied sciences this is a big issue as most apprenticeships have been temporarily cancelled or postponed. For students who cannot graduate in time because of the crisis and/or have a delay because of the cancelling of apprenticeships, the government announced compensation.


Italy was the country hit first by the outbreak and the number of cases as well as fatalities have reached alarming levels in February. For formal education there was a series of ordinances and circulars. First they stopped educational trips, then classes were suspended and finally, schools were closed on February 23rd. First they were expected re-open on March 15th, then on April 13th and May 3rd, but now it is very likely that they will only re-open in the next school year. There was no preparatory period for schools, they had to dive into distance education from one day to the other. Probably because it was hardest hit by the infection, Italy did not arrange any childcare for children of emergency workers, parents were made fully responsible for this. Regarding curricula, schools have a certain degree of autonomy: they define a 3-year plan of their educational offer. Due to the current emergency, schools organized peer training activities for teachers to help everybody become digitally fluent to a certain degree. The Ministry, has given very general guidelines with only a few days’ delay, but most of the work was done at school level. Generally, schools started using their digital register of grades as a common basis for homework and communication with families, then most of the school subscribed to digital platforms such as Google Suite, Microsoft Teams or Edmodo. There are major discussions about how big platform will use the data they’re collecting and how they will be compliant with European privacy regulations. Although the Education Ministry made a survey, they haven’t released data yet. In general, there is an estimation that 6% of students have not reached by remote education.

According to Istat data, 12.3% of children between 6 and 17 (850.000 in absolute terms) do not have a computer or tablet at home. Half of those who do not have one are in Southern Italy, where the problem affects almost 20% of children. Moreover, 57% of those who have one, have to share it with others. The Education Ministry made a survey to understand how schools are coping with using digital platforms and how many students are not able to follow the lessons due to lack of connection and devices. Having an understanding of the situation 85 million Euros were allocated for schools to buy what they needed. In a few days money was transferred to schools, but now then there were problems due to increasing demand. In Torino, the Municipality started a project of Digital Solidarity, called TorinoCityLove and they also supported schools in different ways: organizing a virtual markeplace for donating PC to schools, collecting PC donations Universities and companies, agreeing with TELCO operators on donating internet connection to 500 students.

There is a long-time discussion and many complaints about the role of parents in supporting children with homework. Now, many parents are complaining about too much homework while other are about not enough screen lesson time. Many schools offered online meetings for parents to prepare them for online lesson management and ask them for collaboration. Most of the students in the last year of school feel sad. One of them said “It makes me a little sad that I might have done the last day of school in my life without even knowing it was my last.” In general, in the schools they had experienced a bit of a mess in the first days because every teacher organized lessons on their own, but they appreciated every effort made by schools and teachers. Nevertheless, for most it is very difficult attend lessons as they share computers with brothers, sisters or parents. In general students miss school very much.

Some teachers working with migrant youth are building deeper relations with their students. Moreover, they are using WhatsApp other or digital tools for creating virtual collections using fairy tales from their origin countries. See example here:

Italian Universities made autonomous decisions on closure before it was made mandatory. They are managing remote teaching using different platforms like Teams, Moodle,  Adobe or even YouTube. E-learning had already been used and it was made more wide-spread now. The national research network that connects all the Universities registered an increase of about 60% of traffic.

Schools have been closed since Monday, 16th March. The Prime Minister announced it in a televised speech, and they call it digital working order rather than school closure. The arrangements have no official end date, but the common assumption is that it will continue into the schoolyear of 2020/2021. The announcement was made at 8.30 pm on a Friday and obliged the schools to start this digital working order on Monday morning while children were forbidden to enter school buildings. They have relaxed the rules a few days later to allow the children of essential workers to be at school for childcare.

Teachers are obliged by the national school authority to provide actual teaching digitally for the compulsory number of lessons and to follow the curriculum meticulously. This means that children are at school digitally from 8 am until early afternoon and they have “homework” after that that they are obliged to send to the teachers. This creates a nearly impossible situation in families with more than one child, especially if either or both of the parents also need to work from home. In the majority of schools there is no single platform teachers use, so many students and their parents also struggle with having to use several platforms in a single day. The majority of teachers are untrained and inexperienced in digital learning. They do not receive professional support officially, but there is a lot of self-organised support, especially on Facebook. However, according to research data about 20% of children cannot and have not been reached by these digital provisions due to lack of devices or internet connection. In about another 20% of families there are no possibilities for multiple connections having only one suitable device. Many families were forced to also buy printers as most activities, especially homework is to be printed, hand-written, and sent back as a photo. There is no state or municipal solution for this problem, but some NGOs try to bring devices and connections Some municipalities have introduced visits to families not connected to see if children are actually inside the house from 8 am to 4 pm in the case of primary students and 8 am to 2 pm in the case of secondary ones. If they are not inside, their “unjustified absence from school“ is recorded. 5 days of unjustified absence leads to a withdrawal of family support for a year, and these are those families in real need.

Final exams at secondary school, the so-called “Matura” should start on 5 May, and there is no official decision on their organisation at the time of writing, 13 April. As for vocational training, those students, who have a compulsory practice they cannot do it, will not be allowed to pass.

Universities are also closed, they were closed on 11 March and students are not allowed to enter the buildings. Most universities had started this period with a short emergency break of a few days followed by a Spring break held earlier than normal, so there was about 3 weeks to prepare for switching to distance learning. At universities the biggest challenges are the lack of experience of teachers and the closure of libraries as most study material in Hungarian is only available in physical copies. Many students expect to not be able to finish their studies as they cannot finish their thesis, cannot do laboratory work or – in case of dual training – their practice. Some universities are hoping for a possibility to re-open and they officially extended the semester until the day before the start of the new one in September.