Global key identifiers for successful return to school

The Garden Classroom at St Mathias School in Stoke Newington, London by Tom Oldham

The following frameworks have been cited as key identifiers for success in a report published in late 2020 by: UNICEF, United Nations, The World Bank, The World Food Programme and UNHR. 

1. MULTIPLE MEASURES – Including: improving indoor ventilation, moving classes, building additional classrooms, staggering start/end times, alternating shifts/days, hiring additional teachers to reduce class size, blending distance and in-person learning, and isolating class groupings from one another. 


  • Additional teaching staff to support smaller class sizes 
  • Staggered start/end times and breaks
  • Outdoor teaching which allow for additional indoor ventilated teaching space.

2. SIMPLIFYING THE CURRICULUM – and adapting the academic calendar may help deal with continued uncertainty and enable learning recovery.


  • Assist in condensing or revisiting parts of the curriculum in order to help learners catch up. This method has been adopted successfully in Liberia, Philippines & Vietnam.

3. PRIORITISING EARLY YEARS – (and exam-preparatory classes) can help mitigate impacts on student educational trajectories and support physical distancing. Denmark, Sierra Leone, Singapore and Tunisia have all prioritised the reintroduction of 1-11yrs first.

4. PSYCHOSOCIAL SUPPORT – Supporting teachers, headteachers, and school staff to implement remediation and manage student’ new psychosocial needs. Turkey, Guyana and Nicaragua have all provided focused initiatives providing recreational kits and psychological support by phone.

Tel:(+44)7887-982798 Email:


  • Urban Forest School programmes aim to develop the physical, social, cognitive, linguistic, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of the learner 
  • Opportunities are designed to build on an individual’s innate motivation, positive attitudes and/or interests
  • Provides a stimulus for all learning preferences and dispositions.


BOTH DENMARK and CHINA have generated successful outcomes across the key identifiers in terms of reopening schools. Denmark in particular has been highly innovative in the use of outdoor learning.

Children are being sent outside as much as possible, with children being asked to play in subgroups to avoid the virus spreading as much as possible. They have also utilised other innovative spaces for learning such as museums and sports halls to ensure safe distancing beyond physical school spaces. Community parks are reserved for school children between 8am-3.30pm.


5. COMMUNICATION & OUTREACH – Early and regular communication and support to teachers, parents, and students can help address concerns, create solutions, and ensure a safe, widely accepted reopening

Critical communications and outreach can be diversified by making them available in relevant languages and accessible formats.

6. FOOD & VACCINES – Establishing regular and safe delivery of services such as vaccines and school feeding can help bring children back to school and limit secondary impacts of pandemic.

7. SUPPORTING VULNERABLE GROUPS – Specific measures can help to support girls’ and other vulnerable groups’ return to school

8. CANCELLATION OF EXAMS – some examinations are being cancelled, and other examinations at critical decision points are being modified to reflect school closure periods and to reduce physical contact.

9. PROACTIVE PLANNING – Proactive planning and clear protocols for re-closings coupled with flexibility in local decision- making can help limitoutbreaks as well as disruptions to teaching-learning processes.

10. CONTEXT APPROPRIATE HEALTH & HYGIENE – With sufficient capacity and resources, schools can successfully implement context- appropriate health and hygiene protocols. These include symptom screening, handwashing, use of protective equipment, and cleaning procedures for facilities.