he pitopito kōrero

He Pitopito Kōrero
COVID-19 update – 22 February 2022

22 February 2022
he pitopito kōrero

He Pitopito Kōrero

COVID-19 update – 22 February 2022

Tēnā koutou me ngā mihi maioha ki a koutou ki ngā tōpito o te motu me ngā āhuatanga o te wā, warm greetings to you all around the country.

As you will be aware from yesterday’s announcement, this week Te Mahau offices will be receiving an initial supply of 200,000 rapid antigen tests (RATs) for distribution under the close contact exemption scheme. These numbers will be bolstered by a further 480,000 tests within a week.

Rapid antigen tests should only be used as a last resort where all teachers and staff are required to isolate and there isn’t a suitable person who can supervise children on site. There is risk involved in a close contact returning to work with children, so please carefully think through any use of rapid antigen tests for this purpose.

On another note, decisions to amend the use of the vaccination mandate for school sport and kapa haka have been made in principle. The detail of the advice is not yet finalised – it will be released as a special additional bulletin if necessary.

In today’s bulletin you’ll find details on how to access RATs should you need them, as well as a further update on contact tracing.

Ngā mihi maioha,

Rapid antigen tests: Accessing kits for schools and kura

We have been allocated an initial supply of 200,000 rapid antigen tests (RATs) to support the close contact exemption scheme. These RATs will be available through our Te Mahau offices. These numbers will be bolstered by a further 480,000 RATs within a week.

Rapid antigen tests should only be used as a last resort where all teachers and staff are required to isolate and there isn’t a suitable person who can supervise children on site.

There is risk involved in a close contact returning to work with children, so please carefully think through any use of rapid antigen tests for this purpose.

Who is eligible to use RATs under the close contact exemption scheme?

The close contact exemption scheme is accessible in instances there are insufficient staff available to come onsite to supervise the children of those who are unable to have them at home.

To access this scheme, the board needs to determine that the staff member is critical to maintaining safe supervision at school for those children who need to be on site and who is:

  • a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case
  • fully vaccinated
  • asymptomatic (has no symptoms).

The close contact exemption scheme does not apply to children or students.

Please note, under the close contact exemption scheme, eligible staff will only be allowed to go to and from work. They must otherwise stay in their place of self-isolation. 

Before accessing the close contact exemption scheme

It is important to note that RATs are not as accurate as the PCR tests New Zealand has relied on to date.

As such, you must first consider other suitable options before accessing the close contact exemption scheme and ensure a range of health measures (outlined below) are also in place.

Other options may include:

  • using relief teachers
  • using unregistered teachers who hold a Limited Authority to Teach (LAT)
  • non-teaching staff providing supervision for distance learning
  • rearranging classes or timetables.

We also encourage you to contact parents and caregivers to determine how many children must attend (no evidence required) and other care options that may be available to them – the scheme is not intended to enable the attendance of all children.

Health measures to support exempted close contacts

Eligible staff members on site will need to comply with the following health measures. They must:

  • wear a medical mask at all times (including wearing a medical mask before entry to the workplace and changing as needed during the day). Anyone working in the same defined space must also wear a medical mask (the normal mask requirements will apply to children and students)
  • comply with any infection prevention and control protocols at work 
  • travel solo or with a household member, to, from and around work or between jobs if possible. If public transport is required to go to work, the RAT test should be taken (and a negative result returned) before leaving home 
  • eat alone in a well-ventilated space, outdoors where possible 
  • use a dedicated bathroom (if this is not possible, no others should be present in the bathroom while the worker is using it) 
  • ensure that if symptoms develop at any stage they follow public advice for contacts.

Information for household contacts – Ministry of Health

How to register

To meet the health order requirements, schools and kura must register as a critical service.

Close contact exemption scheme and access to RATs – Te Mahau

  • You will need to sign in using RealMe.
  • When asked for your primary business activity, select ‘miscellaneous’ from the drop-down list.
  • Once registered, you will receive a confirmation email with more information.

How to get the testing kits

Once registered, please contact your local Te Mahau office or education advisor and we will confirm eligibility and arrange for you to access the required number of test kits. 

Te Mahau will monitor and re-order kits to ensure there are sufficient local supplies.

Additional ways staff can protect themselves

  • Get a COVID-19 booster shot.
  • Continue to mask, scan and pass wherever you go.
  • Maintain good hygiene and physical distancing.
  • Stay home if unwell.

Further information on rapid antigen tests

Updated information on contact tracing

Several key changes have been made to contact tracing processes in schools.

  • There is no longer a two-hour limit in situations where a positive case has been wearing a mask. Where the positive case has been wearing a mask, close contacts will only be identified where there may have been direct contact with respiratory secretions (for example, kissing, spitting, hongi, sharing cigarettes or vapes, singing, shouting, coughing, sneezing, contact sports or physical play in close proximity).
    • If you have identified staff or students as close contacts since Friday 18 February based on the mask being worn for longer than two hours you can now reclassify these as casual contacts unless direct contact with respiratory secretions has occurred. This change should reduce the number of close contacts in Years 4 and above in particular.
    • Compliance with mask use is key to this change in categorisation, and regular mask breaks outside for students (and teachers) are still important.
  • Those who have not yet received a result from their day five test can return to their school on day 11 if they are showing no symptoms. 
    • ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​A reminder that close contact and positive cases are no longer formally receiving ‘release’ notifications when the self-isolation period has ended. The Ministry of Health has reminded testing stations that anyone identified as a close contact is still required to get tested, regardless of whether they are symptomatic.
    • Please note that if a student or staff member has been identified as a household close contact of a case, they must receive their negative day eight test prior to return to school.
  • Schools no longer need to upload close contacts to the Contact Tracing Upload Tool (CTUT). You will need to retain a record of who is a close contact. You will also need to notify your regional COVID-19 contact to advise them of cases in your school.

All these changes also apply to school hostels.

​​​​​​​Regional contacts for schools and early learning services – Te Mahau

Schools connected to a confirmed case – Te Mahau

Attendance codes during the Omicron outbreak

A number of you have asked for guidance on how to code absences in instances where a student is absent is due to parental concerns that attendance at school might expose them to greater risk of contracting COVID-19.

  • Absences due to parental concerns that attendance at school is unsafe because of the risk of contracting COVID-19 should generally be considered unjustified and coded as ‘E’ (the student is absent and the reason is explained but considered unjustified).
  • There will be some cases where a parent is keeping their child at home because they or another household member is at higher risk. In these cases schools should work with those parents and caregivers to support the child’s learning and code the student as ‘F’ (‘learning from home’).
  • If a student is engaged in distance learning because they are undertaking mandatory self-isolation or the school site is closed, we recommended schools use code ‘F’.
  • In the event a student’s absence is unexplained or they are unwell, principals can continue to use their own professional judgment in using codes ‘J’ (‘justified’ absence – the reason is within the school policy), ‘M’, ‘T’ or ‘E’.

Supporting attendance on site

Where students are being kept at home because of parental anxieties, schools should work with those parents and caregivers to understand their reasons for keeping their children away from school and support their return to school.

Under this approach, it can be better reflected that attendance has clear benefits for learning and wellbeing, that the benefits outweigh the risks, and that the mitigations in place at school (for example, masks, vaccination, ventilation requirements) make school a safer place than many other environments.

Insurance cover for digital devices

We have arranged coverage for school-owned digital devices that have been provided to students for remote learning during the Red setting for all of New Zealand announced in January.

There are four key areas of cover, which are outlined below.

1. Devices covered by our Risk Management Scheme

Under our risk management scheme (RMS), excess for handheld devices is $100 per claim.

Risk management scheme: Contents and liability insurance – Ministry of Education

The RMS will treat the Red setting announced in January COVID-19 as a single event versus one claim per device. As such, damage, loss or theft of devices incurred by a school in the scheme during the event (for example, the non-return or damage to electronic devices sent home) will be treated as a single claim with a single excess for that school.

  • Excess for handheld devices is $100 per claim (and one claim may cover multiple devices).
  • RMS insurance premium costs of this scheme are deducted directly from each school’s operational grant at a cost of $10.50 per student per annum. This is deducted in four amounts from each operational grant payment and already covers handheld devices.
  • Schools placing a claim can work directly with our RMS Loss Adjustor (McLarens) to help manage the process. As repairs or replacement of devices will be needed during COVID-19, claims can be submitted as required and the excess will only be applied once.
  • The RMS COVID-19 Red event status will end when we return to Orange setting (that is, is declared either nationally or for the region the school is in). After this, claims will revert to normal practice and each claim for a handheld device will incur the $100 excess.

2. Devices covered by a school’s own insurance arrangement

We’re not clear how each school’s private insurers will be treating electronic devices being sent home during the Red setting, although we understand the main commercial provider used by schools is not treating the Red setting any differently to normal circumstances.

We encourage you to clarify cover of your devices under COVID-19. If you are unsure, we recommend you contact your insurer directly to understand what cover you have and the risk to your school.

The following questions may be useful:

  • Are devices covered for at home use?
  • Is the Red setting announced in January 2022 being treated as a single event with a single excess covering multiple devices?
  • Is the excess the same for theft/loss/damage/unexplained disappearance/non-return/different device types (laptop vs Chromebook vs iPad/tablet)/individual devices, or can they be combined into one claim with one excess?
  • Is there a limit on the contents sum insured?

3. Securing additional cover to make a claim

Approach your insurance provider in the first instance to receive the cover you have paid for.

  • Claim back the excess by contacting McLarens and provide evidence of the claim and the excess charged.
  • Claim back a loss not covered by your policy by contacting McLarens and provide evidence of the loss and your insurer’s advice of non-coverage.
  • The first $100 of excess for the COVID-19 event will apply as it does for schools in the RMS but all further excesses or losses will be covered.

Make a claim – Ministry of Education

4. Transferring your cover to our RMS

Following a conversation with your insurer, you may decide to transfer your cover to our RMS.

To discuss the complete insurance package offered and any additional cover, your school can call 0800 293 031 (select option 2).

If, after considering the differences between providers you decide to switch to the RMS, please complete the application form and email RMS.mailbox@education.govt.nz.

How to join the RMS – Ministry of Education

This form has a date from which the cover will start. Please coordinate with your current provider so that the date you leave their scheme and join the RMS is the same.

Learning from shared experiences during the pandemic

You’ll know the immense impact COVID-19 has had on the education sector – but also that there have been many excellent examples of highly responsive and innovative practice.

There are numerous stories and experiences worth capturing, not only as an account of what has happened, but also for reflection and continuous improvement within the sector.

Given this opportunity, we have asked Steve Lindsey, previously principal of Papamoa College, and Erika Ross, previously a Director of Education and school principal herself, to speak with leaders and other influencers to capture and share these stories through several communication channels.

Steve and Erika are mindful of how busy everyone is and will gather these stories in ways that fit in with leaders and influencers. This mahi will start very shortly and we’ll provide updates on this as we go.

Extension to COVID-19 hardship assistance for whānau

The Government has extended the increased income limits for hardship assistance until Thursday 30 June.

This means more casual or part-time workers, or people who aren’t already getting financial support, will continue to be eligible for help with their immediate or emergency costs. This is especially important for those who need direct help as part of the COVID-19 welfare response.

People new to MSD can check these links to see the new income limits:

Special needs grant – Work and Income

Recoverable assistance payment – Work and Income

Advance payment of benefit – Work and Income

They should then use the 'check what you might get' guide.

Check what you might get guide – MSD

They’ll be asked some easy questions about their costs, then MSD will let them know about any Work and Income payments they may be able to get.

Alternatively, if they’d like to talk with MSD, they can call:

  • 0800 559 009 for working age
  • 0800 552 002 for over-65s
  • 0800 88 99 00 for students

Interpreters are available.

Please note, income limits for emergency housing special needs grants, transition-to-work grants and the course participation allowance aren’t changing.

New rules for schools supplying their own drinking water

Last year, Taumata Arowai took over from the Ministry of Health as the water services regulator. Its goal is to lift the standard of drinking water across Aotearoa so that everyone has access to safe drinking water every day, including schools.

If your school has a registered drinking water supply, you have some new responsibilities under the Water Services Act 2021.

Supplier responsibilities – Taumata Arowai

Water Services Act 2021 – NZ Legislation

You must notify Taumata Arowai if you have a problem with your drinking water. Additionally, every school that has its own drinking water supply must take immediate action to protect the health of anyone using the water if you think it may be unsafe.

Incident notifications – Taumata Arowai

Taumata Arowai is working with the Ministry of Education to plan for how schools will meet new responsibilities.

Have your say on proposed documents to shape new drinking water regulations

Taumata Arowai is seeking feedback on new drinking water standards, quality assurance rules and acceptable solutions which will apply to schools who supply their own drinking water.

Consultation: Solution for spring and bore drinking water supplies – Taumata Arowai

You can have your say on their website or email us with your submission here: three.waters@education.govt.nz.


Reminder: Legislative requirements for managing school finances

It’s good practice to regularly check that your school has complied with its legislative requirements.

If you have any questions regarding any of these legislative requirements, please contact your school finance advisor.

Contact details for managing school finances – Ministry of Education

Restrictions on borrowing

The amount that you can borrow is restricted by legislation. Your annual debt repayments (principal and interest) must not exceed 10% of your operational funding in any calendar year.

A borrowing threshold calculator is available on our website. This can be used to help you to check your current position, or to assess if a new borrowing arrangement will cause a breach to the borrowing threshold.

Borrowing threshold calculator – Ministry of Education

If you want to exceed the 10% repayment threshold, your board must first obtain approval from the Minister of Education and the Minister of Finance. To do so, the board should send a written application to school.finances@education.govt.nz.

We will assess the application to ensure the borrowing will not put you at financial risk, consult with the Treasury and, if appropriate, submit an application to the Ministers for their consideration.

Further information on the application process can be found in section 2.10.2 of the Financial Information for Schools Handbook.

Financial Information for Schools Handbook [PDF, 2 MB]

Acquisition of securities (investments)

Section 154 of the Education and Training Act 2020, allows boards to acquire only:

  • NZ dollar denominated debt securities issued by a registered bank or any other entity that satisfies a credit rating test, or
  • public securities.

Boards are not permitted to acquire other types of securities without the approval of the Minister of Education and the Minister of Finance. Boards seeking approval for the acquisition of a security should send a written application to school.finances@education.govt.nz.

If you wish to acquire equity securities (shares), you must show that the business reasons reflect the strategic direction and objectives set out in your charter. Ministers are unlikely to approve applications from boards wanting to invest in equity securities for financial return rather than for a business reason. This is because of the higher level of risk generally associated with those investments.

Further information on the application process can be found in section 2.9.1 of the Financial Information for Schools Handbook.

Financial Information for Schools Handbook [PDF, 2 MB]

Conflicts of interest

A conflict of interest arises where a board member has an interest or duty that conflicts (or might conflict or might be a perceived conflict) with the interests or duties of the board itself.

The interest or duty may be regarded as an influence on the member. The influence may affect their ability to make unbiased decisions and carry out their duties as a board member.

To help manage conflicts of interest, boards should:

  • have a policy of disclosing interests at the start of each meeting (and annually for ongoing issues). When disclosing, it is best to err on the side of openness
  • record any conflicts in a conflict register
  • where a conflict does exist, ensure that the board member removes themselves from any discussions or decision making by the board relating to that matter
  • seek approval from the Secretary for Education prior to entering into any contract with a board member, or a company owned or controlled by the board member, where the amount of all payments during the financial year will exceed $25,000.

Examples of potential conflicts of interest, further guidance on how to identify and manage conflicts of interest and how to apply for prior approval is included in section 2.6 of the Financial Information for Schools Handbook.

Financial Information for Schools Handbook [PDF, 2 MB]

Invitation for student voice: Wellbeing measures

We are seeking to continue the engagement of ākonga and students across Years 7 to 13+ to co-design and inform the development of a set of student wellbeing measures.

We’re aware that there is considerable pressures on schools at this time in managing the impacts of COVID-19 within your settings. However, managing the consequences of COVID-19 has itself highlighted the need to progress the development with students of a reliable set of measures of their wellbeing.

We are grateful for the positive engagement and feedback we have received to date around this important mahi from schools, whānau and community groups.

If you have students in Years 7 to 13, you will receive information inviting your students to participate in this kaupapa beginning in Week 4 of Term 1 (this began this week Monday 20 February).

The project team has worked hard to re-position our approach to ensure we can maintain our commitment to an authentic engagement with students and whānau, while at the same time reducing the burden on schools, teachers and regions.

Engagement options are flexible and include an in-class teacher-facilitated session, an online teacher-facilitated session and individual student learning module. Animated resources and class kit are available.

The student engagement period is open until Wednesday 30 June. 

For further information about the Student Wellbeing Measures Project or student engagement opportunities, please contact edkstudent.measures@education.govt.nz.

University of Otago PLD workshops

University of Otago Education Support Services is delivering a series of face-to-face and online professional learning and development workshops/hui.

The hui are Ministry-funded and will be held throughout NZ for provisionally certificated teachers, overseas-trained teachers and their mentors teaching in English-medium schools and Māori-medium kura.

Support for mentors and pia and pou tautoko – University of Otago College of Education

There are no enrolment costs for PLD.

Free Microsoft digital fluency training

Training for kaiako and teachers

Microsoft are offering free PLD and training sessions which focus on their core education products (OneNote, Teams, Forms and Minecraft Education Edition).

These Term 1 sessions are a great opportunity for kaiako and teachers new to Microsoft or those wanting a refresher on the fundamentals.

Information and registrations – Microsoft PLD

All sessions will run from 4-5pm and will be hosted on Microsoft Teams.

Thurs 24 February

Get started with Microsoft Teams for Education

Thurs 3 March

Microsoft Teams Meetings for Educators

Thurs 10 March

Microsoft Teams Breakout Rooms for Education

Thurs 17 March

Inclusive Classrooms with Microsoft Learning Tools

Thurs 24 March

Teaching with Minecraft Education

Thurs 31 March

Microsoft OneNote Class Notebook

Thurs 7 April

Safety & Security: Features for Students and Teachers

Training for whānau and parents

Microsoft are also running two free training sessions for whānau and parents who want extra tips on online safety and how they can support their children moving to hybrid learning.

Information and registrations – Microsoft PLD

These sessions are scheduled in the evenings from 7.30-8.30pm and will be hosted on Microsoft Teams.

Weds 23 February

Introduction to Microsoft Family Safety

Weds 2 March

Back to School for the Remote Classroom: Teams for Families