Kindergarten and primary school children will be first to return to face-to-face learning, says education minister

Portugal’s Education Minister revealed on Monday during a visit to São Brás de Alportel that students will be returning to school “as soon as possible”, with the plan being to start with children in kindergarten and primary school.

“We know it is harder for children in kindergarten and primary school to be autonomous and to learn from a distance,” said Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, adding however that any decision will be based on feedback from epidemiologists.

Addressing reporters during a visit to São Brás de Alportel’s primary school which has been looking after children of “essential workers”, Rodrigues said that the government’s focus is on creating “safety conditions” to reopen all schools.

But if this is not possible, the idea will be to start with students based on “how dangerous the existing variants are” and the risks they pose.

Rodrigues stressed that “nothing replaces” face-to-face learning and added that students who do not have the means at home for distance learning should all be allowed to go to their schools to attend online classes.

In fact, during his visit, the minister spoke to teachers and school staff but also schoolchildren, some of whom were at the school precisely because they lacked the means at home to attend the virtual classes, which resumed on Monday for first to 12th grade students.

“Knowing that we can only return to face-to-face classes when the sanitary conditions allow us to, it is important to see what happened here today,” said the minister, praising the joint effort of teachers, school staff, parents and students at the São Brás school.

Reports Lusa news agency, there are 1.2 million students across Portugal who must “indefinitely” replace their classrooms for their homes, nearly one year after the country’s first lockdown which also forced the closure of national schools.

Secondary school content available on the digital platforms of the #EstudoEmCasa project have also started being broadcast on national television.

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The primary school is looking after children of “essential workers” as well as those lacking the means at home to attend online classes

Education minister Tiago Brandão Rodrigues (second from left) during his visit on Monday to São Brás de Alportel’s primary school