In the week leading up to the reopening of Denmark’s schools a month ago, Dorte Lange spent a lot of time on Skype. The vice-president of the Danish Union of Teachers was responsible for detailed negotiations with the education minister, the health authorities and other teaching unions. The aim was to make sure that everyone was happy with the safety measures put in place to ensure an orderly return of younger pupils to classrooms on 15 April.
“As unions, we were taken so much into account and we were consulted so much that we felt quite safe about this,” Lange says. “We said to our members that we think that we can actually trust the authorities and that it will be OK to go back.”
The Danish transition from lockdown to a reopening of schools has become the go-to model for Boris Johnson’s government as it seeks to coax teachers and unions into going back to work from next month.
“Schools have started to return in Denmark and have not seen a negative impact as a result of that,” the secretary of state for education, Gavin Williamson, told unions last week. “This has reconfirmed this approach is the right approach.”
And, indeed, it has been – for Denmark. But does that mean it is necessarily the right one for Britain? Lange says: “The situation in society and with Covid-19 is totally different [in the two countries]. If you, in general, have the experience that you can trust the government and the authorities, then you are more likely to do so.”