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Ministers explain new school rules

Finland’s rules on schools and daycare were clarified at a press conference on Wednesday.

Finnish school face a big upheaval over coronavirus. Image: Jarkko Riikonen / Yle

Daycare centres are to remain open, but parents are advised to keep their children at home if at all possible, said Education Minister Li Andersson at a press conference on the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday.

The rules were clarified by Andersson after confusion among parents and daycare providers about which services were open and which were closed.

Andersson said that daycare centres remained open to ensure the basic functioning of society, and to prevent the possibility that young children would be left with elderly grandparents who, because of their age, are more at risk of serious complications from coronavirus.

"We also want to ensure that parents can continue to work, if they have the chance," said Andersson. "Experts have warned that if early-years education centres are closed, there’s a greater probability that care responsibilities would transfer to grandparents."

No school lunches for remote learners

However parents were urged to keep their children at home if possible, to help slow the spread of the virus. If parents are working from home and unable to look after their kids at the same time, however, they can send them to daycare.

The government is recommending that municipal daycare providers do not charge families for daycare provision if the child is kept at home during this period.

Parents with children in grades 1-3 are able to send their children to school if they work in a job defined as critical to the functioning of society. The full list of professions is here (siirryt toiseen palveluun) (in Finnish).

Students who don’t fall into that category are to switch to remote learning, said Andersson. Schools would not be required to provide lunch for those students.

Vulnerable family support

In response to a question from Ilta-Sanomat, Andersson said that support for children in unstable homes would be maintained by phone and via digital chat services, adding that many municipalities have mapped out the children in such circumstances.

There has not yet been a decision on extending the academic year, according to Andersson.

Earlier in the press conference Prime Minister Sanna Marin had explained the decisions of the EU Council in a meeting last night to limit travel of people between countries, while ensuring the flow of goods.

Pharmaceutical exports outside the EU would need a permit during the pandemic, said Marin.