‘Learning lessons’ from Danish schools

Gavin Williamson - Education Secretary

By Tom O’Leary

This week the British government Education Secretary held up Denmark as the model the UK would follow in re-opening schools.  This is to copy Denmark (if that is what is actually planned) rather than learn from it.

Norway and Denmark have very similar population levels (5.4 million and 5.8million respectively).  They experienced their first cases of Covid-19 at approximately the same time and followed a broadly similar trajectory in terms of the spread of the virus.  

In European terms they are among the better performing countries, with deaths per million of 44.2 per million for Norway and 91.2million for Denmark, compared to Germany 93.5, or now Italy 514.5 and the UK 495.1.However, on April 15 Denmark decided to begin re-opening the schools, having been one of the first to close them on March 12.

Since that time the spread of the virus has been more pronounced in Denmark than Norway.

Cumulative cases for Norway and Denmark

The FT chart above shows Norway and Denmark had comparable trajectories and almost exactly the same total number of cases at April 15, just under 6,700 cases.  Since that time, Norwegian cases have risen to 8,142 and Danish cases have risen to 10,675. 

Following the return to school in Denmark about 1 month ago cases have risen by just under 60% while Norwegian cases have risen by 21%.  Danish cases have risen almost 3 times in proportion. Of course, other factors may be at work.  But the timing and correlation are striking.

Gavin Williamson says that the government is following the Danish approach in re-opening the schools.  Re-opening schools now would be the wrong lesson to draw. 

The above article was initially published by Socialist Economic Bulletin.