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Compulsory attendance: Do I have to send my child to school?

Compulsory attendance at school was not even questioned for a long time. It was clear: children have to go to school. In the course of the global corona pandemic, however, a lot has happened here and that raises questions for parents. We talked to a school law attorney about it.

Back to compulsory attendance

In many federal states, students should return to face-to-face classes from February 22nd. But this worries many parents because they are afraid that their children could catch the coronavirus. Schoolchildren have a lot of contacts that for the most part cannot be understood at all. And an infection then affects not only the respective child but also the entire family structure.

Where is compulsory attendance at schools suspended?

Have suspended the compulsory attendance at school currently

  • Baden-Wuerttemberg
  • Bavaria
  • Berlin
  • Brandenburg
  • Hamburg (until the beginning of March only distance lessons)
  • Lower Saxony
  • Saarland
  • Saxony (from February 15th)
  • Saxony-Anhalt (from February 15th)

In these federal states can You will be giving your (primary) children back to school from February 22nd, you but you don't have to. If this seems more secure to you, you can teach your children to learn from a distance or encourage them to learn on their own until further notice.

For pupils from grade 4 onwards, distance lessons are primarily offered, so that the compulsory attendance is generally suspended here.

Where does the compulsory attendance apply in schools?

At least up to grade 3, students are required to be present in

  • Bremen
  • Hessen (alternating with distance learning)
  • North Rhine-Westphalia
  • Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (from February 24th to grade 6)
  • Rhineland-Palatinate
  • Schleswig-Holstein

For students from grade 4 onwards, distance lessons are primarily offered, so that the compulsory attendance is generally suspended here.

Thuringia is the only federal state that has not yet passed a resolution. All information is snapshots, of course there may be changes at short notice and adapted to current developments. Your school will provide you with more detailed information than we can.

Compulsory attendance: Do I have to send my child to school?

The short answer: yes! In fact, you cannot simply override the requirement to be present. This also applies in the times of the corona pandemic. In detail, of course, everything is a matter of discretion and it may be that in individual cases, if there are special circumstances, the obligation to be present for your offspring is suspended. However, this is a decision on a case-by-case basis that you should make in close consultation with the school and the doctors treating your children.

This is what the lawyer says about the mandatory presence

The Berlin lawyer and specialist lawyer for administrative law, Andreas Jakubietz, specializes in school law. He explains that "enforcing compulsory schooling is a great asset". That has to do with participation; this is also "a legal asset and that carries great weight". Even if you say that your children might be better off as teachers at home with you, there are many children across Germany for whom it is different.

These children depend on the school material not being taught by parents, but by teachers, so that they have a chance to get an education. This works best with the help of compulsory attendance, because this is where children can learn best and most sustainably.

Compulsory attendance at school during Corona?

On the one hand, there is the fundamental right to life and physical integrity, which many parents refer to when they decide not to send their children to school (anymore). The fear of infection is great. On the other hand, there is also the right to education. The lawyer Jakubietz explains that the two rights cannot actually be weighed against each other. That is exactly how we parents feel.

The specialist lawyer for administrative law explains that in practice the requirement to be present at school wins, as long as the state does not violate its protective obligations. The hygiene concepts that are implemented in schools are to be understood as such a measure. These concepts make it possible for the fundamental right to education and participation to be implemented.

Nobody is left out. On the basis of this, the compulsory attendance is given priority. Put simply: if your school has a hygiene concept, for example wearing masks is compulsory, if you keep your distance and if the classes are divided, then you have to send your children to school.

What if I don't let my child go to school?

If you decide not to send your children to school under any circumstances, even if the compulsory attendance applies again, then you face a fine. How high this turns out is very different in each individual case. If you have good reasons for keeping your children out of school, speak to them at school. Maybe solutions will emerge.

Does the compulsory presence apply for the whole of Germany?

Thanks to federalism, there are no nationwide uniform regulations as to whether or not there is compulsory attendance at schools. Every federal state proceeds differently in these times.

What does compulsory attendance at school mean?

The duty to be present. That doesn't sound particularly exciting at first, because yes, first of all your children just have to be present. But of course, cooperation and initiative are also expected in the further course. It is just as important that the children interact with one another. Immediate feedback from teachers is also important for understanding the subject matter, especially during primary school. This is not possible in this way in distance teaching.

My opinion

Do you give the child to school or better not? At least in the federal states in which the compulsory attendance is currently still suspended, this is a question that parents have to answer themselves individually. I understand both sides.

Of course, the children want to see their friends again, and if we're honest, maybe even the teachers. Because most of us parents are not made to teach our own children. We can teach them a lot, but that's certainly not always what is on the curriculum.

But I also find it just as understandable when parents want to continue to see their children in distance learning out of fear of infection and concern for their offspring or themselves. Especially when someone in the family has an increased risk of a severe course, one understandably wants to minimize contacts.


Image source: getty images / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Drazen Zigic

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