WHO/Europe advisory group publishes revised recommendations on schooling during COVID-19

The Technical Advisory Group (TAG) on Schooling during COVID-19, an advisory body to WHO/Europe, has released its latest set of recommendations on children and adolescents’ access to education during the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19. These recommendations replace and update the previous ones issued in June 2021.

Gathered in February 2022, for its 8th meeting, the TAG made 8 new recommendations to countries to ensure safe schooling during periods of high community transmission of COVID-19.

What’s new in the recommendations?

The revised recommendations should be used to reaffirm what is already known about ensuring that schools are a safe environment for child and adolescent health, as well as educational and social development.

Schools should adopt evidence-based public health measures; promote the participation of all children, including those from vulnerable groups; and adopting a ‘healthy school’ concept, which means that schools must constantly strengthen their capacity as healthy settings for living, learning and working.

WHO/Europe encourages countries to apply these recommendations beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, to promote enabling environments that promote resilience and preparedness.

The 8 recommendations should be seen as a set of connected themes that minimize the negative impact of the pandemic.

In particular, the recommendations:

  • explain why schools should remain open;
  • encourage countries to recognize the negative impact of COVID-19 on a wide range of outcomes, also beyond health;
  • include 2 cross-cutting themes that ensure all actions prioritize equity and participation;
  • include concrete actions that countries can take to ensure that schools are safe environments for children and adolescents;
  • call for schools to be understood as supportive environments that enable a range of positive outcomes, such as improved learning and mental well-being.

The recommendations have been updated with the most recent epidemiological data (at the end of February 2022). They have also been revised to reflect different country contexts, variation in uptake and availability of vaccination, and affordability of implementation (especially for measures such as COVID-19 testing) .

The TAG and WHO/Europe guidelines stress that failure to be vaccinated should never be used as a reason for interrupting a child’s school attendance or extracurricular activities.

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