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Germany: Call to standardise hygiene guidelines in schools

Two education unions and a parents’ council in Germany have called for an improved standardised approach to the management of COVID-19. The call comes in response to extended hygiene guidelines issues by the country’s education ministers.

In Germany, the Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft (GEW) and the Verband Bildung und Erziehung (VBE), together with the Federal Parents' Council (Bundeselternrat/BER), have stressed the need for concrete hygiene standards to implement in education institutions.
 
In a joint statement on 4 September, the GEW, VBE, and BER were critical of the extended hygiene guidelines from the Conference of Ministers of Education (Kultusministerkonferenz/KMK). 
 
“The leeway that the [KMK] current concept leaves is not suitable for standardising the different approaches of the diverse German Länder (states),” according to the statement, which was signed by GEW President and Education International Executive Board member Marlis Tepe, VBE President Udo Beckmann, and BER President Stephan Wassmuth. 
 
The statement also said that the KMK guidelines contained nothing new over and above measures already implemented in the Länder. 
 
“We need specific standards that can be combined with the development of the [COVID-19] infection situation to form a step-by-step concept,” said the three organisations. “This is the only way to create transparency and establish acceptance.” 
 
In previous correspondence with the KMK President, Stefanie Hubig, the GEW, VBE, and BER proposed a standardisation of the measures. This correspondence was issued before the meeting of the heads of the Länder with the Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, during which Merkel called for such a standardisation. 
 
In this same letter to Hubig, the three organisations raised questions about the assessment of ventilation procedures, air filters, wearing masks, advanced training, and risk groups. The GEW, VBE, and BER want these questions to be answered consistently and according to scientific knowledge.
 
The organisations also highlighted that, on 2 September, the Ifo Institute – one of Germany's largest economic think-tanks analysing economic policy – published a survey showing that the German population would like more uniformity and comparability in the education system. They said this demonstrated a desire to proceed in a coordinated manner while confronting the COVID-19 crisis.