The Canarian Government has decided to open all schools on the Canaries for the new academic year which begins next week. At a meeting yesterday, government spokesman Julio Pérez said “classes can begin safely, as the necessary measures have been adopted.”  

The ruling applies to all islands, including Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and EL Hierro, which currently have the highest rates of infection in the Canaries. This is despite the Canarian Education Councillor Manuela Armas claiming until Wednesday that it was “likely” that the term would begin with online schooling only on these three islands.

PCR tests will be carried out on teachers and children in schools in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Arrecife, Lanzarote – the current hotspots on the Canaries – with the aim of locating any asymptomatic cases which will then be isolated.  

Although the term begins on the 15th in the Canaries, Lanzarote schools will return on Wednesday 16th September because the 15th is an island holiday for the feast day of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores.

Armas said “the role that face-to-face education plays in childhood and adolescence is irreplaceable, and the most effective method of teaching. After six months, it’s now necessary for children to be back in contact with their teachers, who can then assess the possible educational deficiencies caused by the lockdown, and support them in the learning process.”

Several measures have been adopted by schools to reduce the risks of infection. They include “bubble groups” for primary school children; hand-washing, distancing and mask -wearing protocols and the appointment of a “Covid- responsible” staff member who will co-ordinate responses with health services.

All over Europe, the question of whether to send children back to school has caused huge controversy. On one hand are teaching unions who demand guarantees for the safety of teaching staff and parents who are deeply concerned about their children being infected and possibly transmitting the virus to vulnerable family members at home. On the other hand, are parents who desperately want their children’s’ education to recommence, and those who have found months of unpaid childcare difficult or incompatible with work.

As elsewhere, the Canarian decision is likely to be fiercely criticised by some and warmly welcomed by others. Time will tell whether it was the right one.