He Pitopito Kōrero
COVID-19 update – 1 February 2022
He Pitopito Kōrero
COVID-19 update – 1 February 2022
Tēnā koutou katoa me ngā mihi i runga i ngā tūāhuatanga o te wā, kua hipa te tau, greetings to you all as we start a new school year.
I’d like to acknowledge the planning that has been done to get ready for your start to the year – thank you for your continued responsiveness and dedication to your mahi.
A number of principals and peak body representatives have been interviewed on media in the last couple of days, which has revealed calm, pragmatic leadership.
Past experience tells us that there will continue to be interest in how schools are responding to ever-changing circumstances. Because you and your board will need to make decisions that make sense in your particular circumstances and communities, we have included a business continuity planning tool in today’s bulletin that you may wish to use or check your current plan against.
We have also included some important clarifications on exemptions for masks – please find details below.
A number of you have reported that there can be a disparity between information on websites and what we share in these bulletins. Please be aware it can take a day or two to have websites updated, so in the first instance we will share the most up-to-date information here.
In our bulletin on Thursday, we’ll have information on attendance codes and different leave arrangements available to teachers.
Guidance for pandemic readiness
Business continuity planning
It is highly likely that you will experience staff shortages as a result of Omicron. You need to have a business continuity plan (BCP) so that you can manage, even with reduced staffing, to deliver your most critical functions.
We have developed guidance including a number of scenarios to test your planning in light of the Omicron variant. The guidance also summarises the different tools and resources available to support your planning including:
Even with careful planning and with every health mitigation in place, you may experience staff shortages that require you to change your normal operations.
If you do not have sufficient staff on site to meet minimum health and safety requirements, you will need to close on site and move to learning from home for a period of time. This would include:
- qualified first-aid staff
- sufficient staff to respond to an emergency
- sufficient cleaning to meet minimum health and safety and COVID-19 requirements
- sufficient staff to safely supervise all the children/students attending on site.
Decisions will need to be made locally by boards and principals pertinent to the particular circumstances – the important thing will be to give your communities as much information as soon as possible about those decisions.
Staffing guidance for in-person teaching and learning
As noted in our bulletin on 23 January, schools and kura will remain open under all traffic light settings. At the very least you will need to have a plan to supervise the children who have to be at school. This is particularly important for children who are vulnerable.
Once Omicron is in the community, schools and kura could experience staffing challenges. Each school will need to plan ahead to identify solutions to keep your school/kura safely open for onsite teaching and learning as far as possible. In some cases, this will mean that at least some children will need to be learning from home – information about distance learning arrangements follows.
We strongly encourage you to work as a full leadership team, including principals and boards, to prepare for how your school or kura will respond in the event of disrupted staffing availability.
As a reminder, in the current Red setting, relievers who are suitably vaccinated can work across more than one school but must adhere to all public health rules, including wearing face masks.
We have produced a staffing options document and supplementary template to help schools and kura consider a range of staffing options that can help you to remain open.
Te Mahau staff are here to support you to put in place strategies that work for your particular school or kura. In the first instance, please work with your local Te Mahau contact if you have questions about this guidance or if you need support with planning or addressing staff shortages.
You could also talk to colleagues in other schools to share strategies that have worked for them.
Please also contact the Teacher Supply Team in national office email@example.com if you have further questions.
Planning for students with additional needs
Children and young people with additional needs will likely be more impacted by any changes to staff that may occur due to shortages.
During your planning phase, consider the following:
- make sure several adults are familiar with support routines for children who have teacher aide support. This will be particularly important for children with significant health needs
- proactively discuss with whānau how to manage if a teacher or teacher aide with a particular specialist skill (for example, NZSL) is unable to work
- gather resources that will help children to understand why their routine is different or different people are supporting them
- learning support remains available. Please reach out to your local learning support specialists and resource teachers if you need support to plan for students with additional learning needs.
Reminder: Planning for teaching and learning
A reminder for you to reassess your pandemic readiness for teaching and learning as Term 1 begins and as the year progresses.
We encourage you to work with your regional Te Mahau office to explore all options to keep face-to-face teaching and learning going through 2022.
However, it’s possible that you may have some or all students unable to learn onsite and you should consider distance learning. To help you assess your readiness, you can find a self-assessment tool that you can use with your teams on our Learning from Home website.
Support is available now and we will be releasing more throughout Term 1.
What’s available now?
- Online teaching and learning resources for teachers, parents and students (this includes materials you can print and use in hard copy),
- Internet connections across the country to households in need (until 30 June). Contact us to discuss this at EDA@education.govt.nz.
- Regionally allocated PLD to support digital teaching and learning – more information below.
- Throughout Term 1, we will begin to roll out ‘spotlights’ – resources sharing some examples of innovative and excellent teaching and learning approaches to distance learning.
- Special guidance for remote schools and kura who may not be able to easily access printed materials for distance learning.
- Other supports for your immuno-compromised learners or learners who are likely to remain learning from home for an extended period of time in 2022.
- We also recognise providing distance learning is likely to carry some costs and that the level of preparedness for this is likely to vary. We are looking at other options for how we can support you with resources to help with this.
Where do I start?
In such a changeable teaching and learning environment, we’d like to understand if your school or kura needs support both (a) to remain open for face-to-face teaching and learning and (b) in the event you are required to do distance learning.
If you answered ‘no’ to any of the questions in the list above, you may need to update your plans or let your regional office know what support you need.
Update: Managing cases of COVID-19 in schools
The toolkit for managing COVID-19 cases at schools and kura has been updated to reflect the following changes which took effect 21 January:
- the casual plus contact category has been removed and
- close contacts are required to self-isolate for 10 days.
We are currently working with the Ministry of Health to identify what changes need to be made to the toolkit in preparation for Phases 2 and 3 of the Omicron COVID-19 response.
Further information: Masks
Update on mask exemptions
Where parents have concerns about mask wearing, they should be encouraged to discuss this in the first instance with their school.
You may like to consider identifying certain staff who are responsible for managing questions around face coverings in your school. This could help ensure that conversations are had appropriately by staff who are across the complexities of the issue and have the school’s authority to make decisions and assist with consistency.
Where someone meets the criteria for exemption, it is important that they are supported.
It’s not always obvious why someone can’t wear a mask. For example, they may be victims of crime or experience mental health conditions. If not dealt with in a sensitive and respectful manner questioning someone’s eligibility for a mask exemption could unintentionally victimise people further.
While a small number of national organisations have previously administered exemption cards developed by the Ministry of Health, this will not be necessary. The Disabled Persons Assembly NZ (DPA), Deaf Aotearoa, and Blind Citizens NZ encourage parents, as we do, to discuss their circumstances with you or their teacher in the first instance.
For those who have an exemption card, it is their choice whether they wear it publicly or not. No one should be required to wear an exemption card if they have one.
We are continuing to work with the Ministry of Health to identify possible improvements to the mask exemption process.
You will know that there are many layers of protection in schools, including people who are unwell staying away, increasing rates of vaccination across the population including mandated vaccinations for staff and volunteers, good ventilation, other students and staff wearing masks, good cough and sneeze etiquette and more.
A reminder that the Unite Against COVID-19 website has several resources to support mask use:
Mask use when playing sport or recreational activities
You are not required to wear a mask when you are playing sport or engaging in recreational activities outdoors.
For more information, see Sport NZ’s FAQs.
The requirements for masks depend on the traffic light setting:
- at Red, masks are mandatory in retail settings and public facilities, but not swimming pools. Face coverings are recommended whenever you leave the house, including before and after playing sport or engaging in a recreational activity
- at Orange, face coverings are mandatory in retail settings and public facilities, but not swimming pools. Face coverings are encouraged at all other locations
- at Green, masks are encouraged whenever you are indoors.
Those in a coaching role are encouraged to wear a mask, particularly if you are indoors.
CO2 monitor dispatch
We have begun distributing CO2 monitors to all state and state-integrated schools as part of a classroom ventilation assessment toolkit. This will help schools assess ventilation in classrooms and other spaces.
Thanks to the many schools that have already confirmed their details – if you haven’t already, please confirm your details and we will let you know once yours has been dispatched.
We are continuing to update our guidance on ventilation, so please stay up to date. If you have any concerns about ventilation, please contact your property advisor as soon as possible rather than waiting to receive your CO2 monitor.
Applications for home education
Since September there has been a significant increase in enquiries from parents about home education.
Information about home education and the application process is on our website for parents and whānau.
Here are some key messages about home education you can use if parents and whānau inquire.
- Home education is not a short-term solution. To home educate well, parents need to thoroughly research and plan their approach.
- If parents are concerned about their children attending school during the pandemic, they should first talk with their children’s teachers and principal about alternative learning options that the school may be able to support.
- Parents must apply for an exemption to home educate their children and they must demonstrate in their application that they can teach their children as regularly and as well as in a registered school.
- Applications are reviewed and assessed by our Ministry regional staff and exemptions are approved/declined at the regional level.
- We are currently assessing a large number of home education applications and decisions are taking longer than usual – on average more than six weeks. While families wait for their application to be assessed, legally all children aged over six years must be enrolled at and attending school (children can enrol at age five and then they must attend).
Regionally allocated professional learning and development in Red
Schools and kura can submit proposals for professional learning and development (PLD) support for up to 25 PLD hours if you need support with distance teaching and teaching under the ‘Red’ setting.
See information on how to apply for this is on the PLD website:
This PLD support must be for an immediate need to work towards delivering teaching and learning and/or contingency planning, must be delivered virtually by the PLD facilitator, and must be used within the next three months.
Existing PLD hours can also be repurposed to get support from your current PLD facilitator with transitioning to teaching under the ‘Red’ setting. These hours would be subtracted from the overall allocation total.
This support is available ahead of the Term 1 application round, which closes for applications on Friday 18 February at 5pm.
Find 2022 application round closing dates on the PLD website.
PLD delivery in Red
We have published guidance on the PLD website regarding PLD delivery in Red.
Under ‘Red’, the framework states there should be “no non-essential visitors onsite” at schools and kura. It is up to the school or kura and supplier to determine whether delivery is essential and requires an in-person visit to the school site.
If service delivery can continue virtually, the supplier may not be considered an essential visitor. If both the school and supplier deem face-to-face delivery essential, and all parties are comfortable and compliant with the public health measures required, then the delivery can take place onsite.
Postponements are a final resort, as virtual delivery is still encouraged if in-person delivery is not possible.
A cautious approach should be taken with in-person delivery under ‘Red’ due to the highly transmittable nature of the Omicron variant. Virtual delivery should be the primary approach for delivery in areas/towns/regions with lower vaccination rates or active COVID-19 cases/clusters.
All parties involved must be comfortable with the delivery taking place in-person. If one or more parties are not comfortable, this decision must be respected, and all parties should work together to find the best alternative to ensure the delivery can continue. This is likely virtual delivery via a video conferencing platform.
For delivery under ‘Orange’, PLD delivery can take place in-person onsite with the public health measures in place.
These public health measures, which apply at all levels of the framework, include the vaccination requirements for the education sector, mask use, physical distancing, good hygiene practices, contact tracing measures, and travel requirements. These measures must be always followed.
PLD facilitators must comply with the vaccination requirements for the education sector and be vaccinated for COVID-19 from 1 January 2022 to deliver PLD in-person on a school site.
We will provide guidance around service delivery at ‘Green’ later in 2022 once the government announces that moving to ‘Green’ is a possibility.
Please contact PLD.Enquiries@education.govt.nz if you have questions or need support with your PLD allocation.