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Minister: Distance learning increased number of school dropouts

The education minister said government will introduce minimum staffing levels for school counsellors and psychologists.

Li Andersson Yle:n Ykkösaamussa.
Education Minister Li Andersson (Left). Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Distance learning during the coronavirus epidemic last spring increased the number of school dropouts, according to Education Minister Li Andersson (Left).

Speaking on Yle’s Ykkösaamu discussion programme on Saturday, Andersson said that every year there are about 4,000 students who rack up recurring long-term school absences.

"Coronavirus and spring’s long period of distance learning has probably affected this group worst and unfortunately it has also made it larger. I am very worried about school dropouts," she added.

Andersson said that the setbacks that occurred this year cannot be corrected in just one school year. She added that government has set aside eight million euros to bankroll a nationwide investment in schools' student care work.

Minimum staffing levels for counsellors, psychologists

The money will be used to ensure that schools can hire more non-teaching staff such as social workers and other support professionals.

"They could work flexibly in schools to provide individual support for students who need it. These professionals could maintain contact with dropouts, strengthen cooperation between schools and families and find the time and resources to deal with even the most difficult situations," the minister explained.

The aim is also to solidify this staffing requirement by baking it into legislation. She said that the government wants a binding minimum staffing level for counsellors and psychologists for primary and secondary and vocational schools.

"As a central measure to prevent disorder and to prevent bullying we are creating a binding staffing requirement for counsellors and psychologists in primary and secondary schools," Andersson said.

The minister also referred to recent reports of violence at schools in places like Vantaa, Sipoo and Joensuu.

She said that incidents of bullying and violence at schools are always an indication that society has failed to safeguard children’s rights.

The minister said that in January government will announce a raft of additional anti-bullying measures to be implemented during its term in office. She noted that the 15-million-euro programme will begin from early years education and will aim to strengthen children’s emotional intelligence and interaction skills.

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