COVID-19: Advice for boards


Last updated: 12:15pm Tuesday 31 March

“Schools, ECEs, and tertiary providers have been incredible in their response to COVID-19. I’d like to thank them all for all the work they have been doing.”
– Hon Chris Hipkins, 25 March 2020

Alert Level 4: Likely that the disease is not contained

New Zealand is currently at Alert Level 4.       

More information on our alert level

• Act like you have COVID-19. Every move you make could be a risk to someone else.      

• Be calm, be kind, stay at home

  • Everyone must now stay home, except those providing essential services.
  • Only make physical contact with those that you live with.
  • Don’t worry, during this time, you will be able to access all the essentials you need, including medicine, food and other home supplies.
  • Children CAN travel between the homes of separated parents so as long as they live in the same town/city.
  • Feel free to drop off groceries to others e.g. a grandma, but keep a 2 metre distance for her safety.
  • You can go for a walk, run, or bike ride. Exercise is good for people’s mental health. If you do, it must be solitary, or with those you live with. Keep a 2 metre distance.
  • However, if you are unwell, do NOT go outside.

Key points for boards of trustees

  • Your principal has received detailed instructions from the Ministry of Education about the steps necessary to close your school campus and staff are preparing to provide distance learning for students.
  • All schools are now closed. No one is to go on site to schools until the restrictions are lifted. If there is an emergency Police and/or Fire services will respond.This includes school playgrounds.
  • Term 1 ends Friday 27th March.
  • Term 2 begins Wednesday 15th April.
  • Take things one day at a time. Dealing with today’s issues effectively puts you in a good position to deal with tomorrow’s issues tomorrow.
  • Your principal is in charge of all operational decisions about how to manage the risks associated with COVID-19 in your school.
  • Your principal is also the key point of contact (the “face and voice of the school”) for anything relating to COVID-19 in your school.
  • The school’s pandemic plan is included in supporting documentation for Policy D6 Health and safety in the NZSTA Governance Framework 

Please note: The Secretary for Education now has temporary powers to direct schools to open and close, direct how they operate, are controlled, and managed, and direct them to provide education in specified ways, for example through distance or online learning.

School term dates

26 March            Alert Level 4 commenced

28 March            School holidays begin

10 – 14 April      Easter including the Tuesday after Easter

15 April               Term 2 begins (through distance learning)

22 April               Current date for ending of lockdown period

27 April               ANZAC Day observed

The board’s key responsibilities

The board’s key responsibilities in this situation are to

  • Continue to deal with the business of governing your school. Some aspects of your school’s response to the current pandemic will be determined by the government through the Ministry of Education but the overall responsibility for governing your school remains with the board of trustees. You will find advice about online board meetings on our FAQ’s page.
  • Complete your financial statements as soon as possible. The Secretary has announced that schools will not be penalised if they are unable to submit their annual financial statements, or complete their audits on time however you should continue to progress this work as quickly as you can.
  • work closely with your principal to ensure that your students and staff have what they need to continue teaching and learning during the lockdown.
  • keep yourselves fully informed about current developments so you are ready and able to act promptly and effectively when required.
  • respond promptly to any requests or recommendations from your principal or from Ministry officials.
  • ensure that you are familiar with your school’s policies and processes and that they remain up-to-date and fit for purpose, and are well understood by your school community.
  • Confirm that the necessary written delegations are in place and documented in your board minutes. (See the school delegations list template on Part A: Annually updated of the governance framework 2018).

What the board can do

  • Continue to provide support (moral and practical) for your principal.
  • Work with your principal to ensure your school community continues to receive useful and relevant information about COVID-19 and the steps your school is taking to minimise the risk of it spreading.
  • Work with your principal to ensure your pandemic plan is updated as often as necessary to keep it relevant and fit for purpose.
  • Monitor the Ministry of Education website regularly for updates
  • Know the signs & symptoms of COVID-19. Check this useful infographic by Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris for a quick summary.
  • Know and understand your school’s pandemic plan and any related board policies. Download the Ministry of Education’s Pandemic Planning Guide (full guide) for more information.
  • Continue to hold board meetings as usual, online. You can find more information about how to do this on our FAQs page.
  • Confirm with your principal that arrangements have been put in place
    • for students with pre-existing medical conditions
    • for ORS students or others with specific learning needs

Key lockdown messages from the Prime Minister (Select Committee Media Briefing 25 March)

  • If the virus is left unchecked it will have an unacceptable toll on New Zealanders
  • Staying at home will break the chain and save lives
  • Breaking the rules could risk someone close to you
  • if the rules are not complied with, this could risk the lock down period being extended or could risk the virus being spread to thousands
  • Success will not be instant. The benefit of actions taken today will not be felt for many days to come. People need to expect the numbers to continue rising, because they will. Modelling indicates that New Zealand could have several thousand cases before today’s measures have an impact. However, if everyone sticks to the rules there will be change over time
  • Act like you have COVID-19. Every move you make could be a risk to someone else. That is how New Zealanders must collectively think now
  • All New Zealanders are urged to be calm, be kind, stay at home
  • if people have no explanation of why they are outside the Police will remind them of their obligations and can take enforcement actions if they feel it is necessary
  • New Zealanders will want to do the right thing. The Government is being as clear as they can on the guidance and Police will be working with people to help them understand

Access to school sites

Given the seriousness of the state of emergency, a very tight central command centre has been set up. It is managed by John Ombler, All of Government Controller, and includes the Commissioner of Police, Director-General of Health, Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management, the General Manager Science at Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment and reports directly to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. The decision not to allow access to school sites was made by this group as part of a range of decisions affecting all citizens.  They are doing so based on considerable information about the nature of COVID-19 and its progress in New Zealand and they are making decisions under pressure of time.  The decision to prevent access to school sites is one they have made.

Since the blanket lockdown of access to schools the centre has agreed that the Secretary for Education can have discretion under the following circumstances:

a. securing the site

b. Access to IT servers

c. Essential Contractors in the event of damage at a school

d. Removing fire hazards

e. use of schools site for health purposes relating to COVID-19

If an occasion comes up when you think you need to do this, please contact your local Director and they will get back to you.

In these cases only one person can go onto the site. They must stick to the rules around physical distancing (i.e; 2m from anybody) and good hygiene and they must do so only when absolutely necessary.

Animal welfare

Those of you with animals on your school’s site that were not able to be relocated – of course animal welfare is important and they must be fed and watered.

NZSTA is still open for business

NZSTA staff are now working from home and are still available to provide NZSTA’s regular support and advice services, except for on-site visits. Please contact us by phone on 0800 782 435 or by email.

We will continue to update this page as further information becomes available.




Noho ora mai


Lorraine Kerr MNZM       Elise Adams

President                           CEO




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