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Reopening in Denmark

May 19, 2020

While Early Childhood Ireland is conducting ongoing consultations with our members on the topic of re-opening, it is critical that we examine how our early years colleagues in other countries are managing the process. Their plans and experiences can help to inform our own work and that of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) to allow children and practitioners to return to settings in the safest manner possible.

As part of its exit from their lockdown, the Danish government announced that early years settings (børnehaver) across the country would reopen on April 15th. As part of the planning for re-opening, the Danish Health Department published these guidelines  (in English) for early years settings. The guidelines stipulate the practicalities of cleaning, distancing, drop-offs and so on that have to be adhered to. It is likely that at least some of these regulations, or very similar, will come into force in Ireland when settings re-open. As part of the re-opening, the government have also produced the below poster to be hung in all early-years settings to advise parents about drop-offs.

Reopening in Denmark

The text roughly translates to:

Keep Your Distance

  • Drop your child off as far away as possible [from the entrance]. Keep distance from others
  • If you drop off your child inside, you must immediately wash both your and your child’s hands.

This article gives a very comprehensive overview of the challenges that settings are facing trying to operate with the new restrictions. The core of the Danish strategy seems to be that children are divided into small groups that they have to stick with for play and activities to reduce contact and interaction between these small groups. The argument is that this will limit the potential for infection to spread to the whole setting. This segregation is complemented by extensive cleaning and hand-washing. Most børnehaver seem to have moved to outdoor activities as much as possible to avoid the need to segregate children into different areas using tape or floor markings. It seems also that the requirements for distancing are less strict in an outdoor setting as this video shows. However, segregation cannot be avoided when indoor play is involved.

While it is too early to say exactly how settings have managed, capacity is becoming a serious issue as more parents return to work and settings start to fill-up. This sentiment was echoed by the president of the Danish Municipal Association, Jacob Bundsgaard who said:

“The municipalities make a huge effort to provide the children with a good and safe everyday life. But we also have to understand that rooms, outdoor areas with many children does not really work anymore. It is difficult to see how, with the National Board of Health’s current guidelines, we can get enough room and staff for all children when society reopens further, and more parents will need care. When there are more children, but guidelines, ratios and the number of workers are the same, it may mean that you have to look at scheduling, so that the individual child’s day is shorter than usual.” [Translated from Danish]

As part of our ongoing work around re-opening, Early Childhood Ireland will be monitoring international best practice and examining how this could be applied to the Irish context. This information will be fed into DCYA and back to our members as we develop our policies around re-opening. If you have seen best practice or innovative solutions from settings abroad, don’t hesitate to share this with our policy team who can be reached at: policy@earlychildhoodireland.ie.

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