Annual reporting and school audit
While many of you submitted your school’s annual financial statements to your auditors by 31 March 2020, others were not able to do so for a variety of reasons, including restricted access to your financial records during Alert Levels 3 and 4.
MoE understands some of you will therefore not be able to submit your school’s annual reports by 31 May and wants to assure you that you will not be penalised. Disclosures of breaches of deadlines in school financial statements and references to missed deadlines in the OAG’s annual reporting on the results of school audits, will clearly explain where breaches are a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
MoE school finance advisors are available to support you with any queries you have regarding annual reporting.
Publishing your annual report and audited accounts
Once the audit of your financial statements is complete, you must make your annual report, including the audited financial statements, available on your school’s website. If you do not have a website, MoE can host your annual report on its Education Counts website. You can send your request for MoE to host your annual report to email@example.com.
Before making your annual report available, you should first ensure that that it does not contain any information that may breach an individual’s privacy, such as the names of students. It should also be noted that while the Statement of Responsibility document should be signed by school’s principal and board chair, the documents you then publish online do not need to contain these signatures: a typed name for each signature is sufficient. If you are scanning the document for publication, then it is also fine to redact or cover up the signatures.
NZ COVID Tracer app posters
MoE has been working with the Ministry of Health (MoH) and MBIE to support the official contact tracing app, NZ COVID Tracer, so you don’t have to create your own codes through the manual registration process.
MoH will email all schools with your official MoH NZ COVID Tracing QR Code poster. It will be a link enabling you to download, print and display the poster at your entrances and around your buildings. You can print as many as you want. This email will come from firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those of you with more than one site linked to your New Zealand Business Number, after you receive your email from the Ministry of Health, please email email@example.com and they will generate more QR Code posters for your different sites.
If you have already been on the NZBN site to print your QR Code poster, please disregard the email, given you have already completed the task.
Linked below are posters you can display to your community and other visitors to get the official MoH NZ COVID Tracer app on their phones:
COVID 19 Contact tracing App A3 [PDF]
If you have any questions please email the Ministry of Health team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking after eachother and what boards might expect in the principal’s report about wellbeing during COVID-19
This is the second article in a series about what boards might expect their principal to report on during the COVID-19 pandemic. This week we are going to consider wellbeing.
Before we move onto reporting to the board, as we know, boards have a responsibility to their staff to be a good employer. We are charged with ensuring that our school is a safe physical and emotional environment for students.
In preparing to move our schools from COVID-19 Level 3 to Level 2, we need to acknowledge this will be a more significant and complicated transition than moving from Level 4 to Level 3. The wellbeing of our students, staff and wider school whānau will be of paramount importance to us and gives us an opportunity to lead by example.
The Secretary of Education has said “When the decision to move to Alert Level 2 is made, we appreciate that welcoming staff and students back, assuring them they are safe and checking on their wellbeing is the first and most important job you’ll do. The time it will take for children and some staff to reconnect and relax will be different for everyone. Wellbeing needs to be addressed before learning will happen.”
Things the board might like to consider:
- Your principal has borne the major burden of these unprecedented times
- Is your chair in regular contact with your principal – for some schools this is daily, for others weekly?
- Does your principal feel appreciated and supported?
- Without prying, is your chair assured that principal’s work/home balance is being maintained?
- What more can the board do to support the principal?
- Initiating a proactive staff contact programme
- This could be as simply as the “Are you OK?” contacts made recently by NZSTA advisers to board chairs
- Be aware that ‘OK’ for one person is different from what it is for another
- Ensure staff know that the board appreciates their efforts – show that appreciation in some way that it appropriate to your school
- Initiating a proactive community contact programme
- Welcome back students and their families
- Assure your families that the school will look after their children’s wellbeing
- Share with your community your key ‘return to school’ plan or similar and
- Keep your community informed about what your school is doing.
- Ensuring that everyone is aware of how and to whom they can express any concerns
- Remind everyone – staff and whānau of your school’s concern procedures.
What might the board want to monitor and receive assurance about in its principal’s reporting?
- Refer to our article “What boards might expect from their principals and reporting to the board during the COVID-19 pandemic” on our COVID-19 website advice page
- Remember business is not ‘as usual’ – experiences from the Canterbury earthquake and Australian bushfires tell us that plunging back into teaching and learning is not only impossible to achieve, it is also unwise. Give yourself, staff and students time to readjust
- Check that your school culture is holding strong. These are unsettling times – keep your values front of mind
- Expect to be advised of any trends that are ‘out of the ordinary’. For example bullying and irrational prejudice
- Students or families / whānau who have had the COVID-19 virus or are unwell
Remember to look after yourselves. Trustees are busy people with busy lives. We have all had extraordinary issues to deal with over the last few weeks. Governing a school is not your ‘fulltime’ role but it is a very important role that you have taken on. Be kind, support each other and know that NZSTA is here to help if you need us.
What boards might expect from their principals and reporting to the board during the COVID-19 pandemic
During these unusual times it is obvious that boards of trustees simply cannot expect business to be ‘as usual’. Good governance would require that boards and their principals set expectations that they can all agree on – some things to align to and aim for.
The starting point for this is to ask ourselves ‘what would realistic/reasonable minimum and maximum expectations be in this circumstance?’. The answer to this question will vary vastly from school to school and will probably change as time moves on.
At each meeting the board could reflect on what has happened since it last met:
- Did we get done what we aimed to do? E.g. did we manage to set up distance learning programmes for all of our students?
- Did what we expected to happen, happen?
The board might receive reports that inform it where the school is on the continuum from minimum to maximum expectations, bearing in mind that these expectations must be reasonable given that schools are delivering different programmes in different environments. For example, in the early stages of COVID-19, the response to the questions above might advise the board that students are receiving distance learning but that there are variations in its delivery – some are learning online, others are working with hardcopy material. There was an expectation that deliberate efforts were made to provide a programme of learning for all students and that, to a greater or lesser degree, that has been achieved.
The board may also want to be kept informed on specific subjects. For example, what is being done to support students with learning needs. Again, set minimum expectations that are clearly achievable for all and realistic maximum expectations that everyone can aim for. Reporting to the board should reflect progress on this continuum as time goes on.
It is reasonable for boards to expect that everyone is doing their very best in this situation. That is what you want to be assured of.
Go back to monitoring progress and achievement when the time is right for you, in your own school context. As we move into Level 1 you might like to consider requesting more detailed reporting on:
- Wellbeing – get your principal to report on their wellbeing too
- Community Engagement – what have we done so far? How did it go? What’s next?
- Te Tiriti o Waitangi – key partnerships, what does engagement look like for our school?
- Governance training and advice - we as a board are important too, what does NZSTA have available?
- Finance and Property – do we need to reconsider our insurances and/or financial plans?
NZSTA will provide updates on what the board might expect from its principal and reporting to the board as the COVID-19 situation develops.
In the meantime, there are a few modules on the NZSTA Knowledge Hub that might be of help at this time:
- Boards and electronic meetings
- Principal reporting
- Evaluating the principal’s report
- Trust and accountability – principal and board
- Governance and management
- Roles and responsibilities of boards and principals
New Public Health Response Order – accurate information
The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Alert level 2) Order 2020 [PDF] came into effect at 12.01am on 14 May. The purpose of the order is “to prevent, and limit the risk of, the outbreak, or spread of COVID-19 by putting in place obligations in relation to businesses and services, and gatherings”.
Schools and early learning services are excluded from the requirements of the Level 2 Order apart from having to have appropriate contact tracing, physical distancing (breathing space), and hygiene measures in place (see our health and safety guidance [MSWord] for details).
The Act that enables the order can be found here: http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2020/0012/latest/whole.html.
As has consistently been advised throughout the COVID response, if you are concerned someone is showing COVID-19 symptoms please send them home and encourage them to seek medical advice through their GP or Healthline. Please contact the Medical Officer of Health for support if there is someone at your school who is refusing to go home, when they are suspected of having a communicable disease such as COVID-19 (see 19 May Bulletin for further details).
Physical distancing on Ministry transport services
There are now no physical distancing requirements on Ministry-operated school transport services, including those services funded by the Ministry. This is because they are controlled environments where contact tracing can occur if required. This varies from some Council-operated school buses who are operating at reduced capacity and applying physical distancing.
In its 5 May Bulletin, Ministry said that seats in close proximity to the driver will be left empty on Ministry school transport services. This was requested by bus operators to assist drivers, particularly those at higher risk of COVID-19, to feel safer in their workplace. As bus operators prepared to return to service on 19 May, we asked them to use their discretion on keeping seats free around the driver, depending on their bus configuration. As such, the practice of keeping seats free around the driver varied between vehicles and regions.
Regardless of how close anyone is on the bus, the continuation of appropriate hygiene practices (hand sanitisers on every vehicle and cleaning of surfaces after every run) and contact tracing measures are paramount to ensure the safety of drivers and students. Please continue to maintain accurate bus lists for contact tracing should these be required.
COVID-19 Response (Further Management Measures) Legislation Act 2020
The COVID-19 Response (Further Management Measures) Legislation Bill 2020 received Royal Assent 15 May 2020 and is now an Act of Parliament.
The Act amends or modifies a number of other Acts, including the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1947 (LGOIMA) and the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987. The modification and exemption powers will be applied retrospectively from 21 March 2020.
- Section 5’s definition of “entity” in the Act does not include school boards
- Schedule 15 (Part 4, cl14 & 15) adds a new section 2A to the LGOIMA - a temporary addition to the definition of “publicly notified” which will be repealed on 1 November 2020
So, while section 2A affects the public notification requirements for local government meetings in s46(1)-(6) the requirements for notification of school boards of trustee meetings in s46(7) are not affected:
Nothing in subsections (1) to (6) applies to a Board of Trustees constituted under Part 9 of the Education Act 1989; but every such Board shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that parents (within the meaning of that Part) of students enrolled at schools that the Board administers can readily find out, within a reasonable time before those meetings, where and when meetings of the Board are to be held.
Therefore, NZSTA advice to boards around public notification of board meetings is unchanged.
This new Part makes changes to parental leave in order to allow workers entitled to parental leave to temporarily return to work to assist in the response to COVID-19 without being disadvantaged by losing entitlements to leave and payments. For further information please contact the NZSTA Employment Advisory Centre 0800 782 435 (option 2).
- No changes to Education Act or Education (School Trustee Elections) regulations so, our advice to boards around public notification requirements relating to selections and by- elections is unchanged.
Message from Secretary for Education
19 May 2020
Early this week, and again today I have been alerted to social media content that is wrong and unnecessarily upsetting parents and whānau. The gist of the misinformation is that the law passed on 13 May gives powers to Police and others to uplift children from school if they appear unwell and forcibly test for COVID-19, and administer medication including flu vaccinations.
As you already know, neither Police, Oranga Tamariki nor anyone else have been given any such powers. If a child is unwell at your school or kura, you contact their parents or caregivers in the usual way to collect them. If you have concerned parents or whānau, I know you’ll reassure them that there is no change to school practice.
The first item in today’s Bulletin is correct information about the new Health Response Order that you may want to use if this scaremongering is affecting your community.
School requirements at Alert Level 2
Can parents and caregivers come onsite at Level 2?
Yes, however physical distancing of two metres is recommended for parents and caregivers from people they don’t know (to align with public health measures outside the school grounds). Parents and caregivers who come onsite need to be noted in the visitor register.
You will need to record their name and their time in and out of the school, including any classrooms they entered. A reminder that you will already have contact information for parents and caregivers, so you don’t need to collect those particular details each time they come onsite.
Can staff work across different sites and for different employers at Alert Level 2?
Staff can work in different schools on the same day or week, and for other employers. Everyone will need to ensure they are recorded as being onsite (through the timetable and / or visitor register), and are following appropriate hygiene / other health and safety measures required by that school.
Can students from other schools and external providers come onsite at Level 2?
Yes, students from other schools and external providers will be able to go onsite (i.e. technology centres, teaching specialist subjects, and coaching teams). Everyone will need to ensure they are recorded as being onsite (through the timetable and/or visitor register) and following appropriate hygiene and other health and safety measures required by that school. Any shared equipment will need to be regularly cleaned.
Are we able to have more than 100 students in our Modern Learning Environment?
Yes you are. Workplaces, educational facilities, and public and school transport are not considered mass gatherings. This means there are no restrictions on numbers of people indoors or outside at schools and early learning services, other than what other public health or health and safety measures require. View our health and safety guidance at Alert Level 2 here. The exception is where people from outside the school may be attending eg for a school production or school ball. In these examples, and if a school is hiring out its hall or allowing community groups to use its facilities, the rules for gatherings will apply.
Do I have to include parents who are doing drop offs and pick-ups in our visitor register?
Yes you do if they come on to school grounds. Depending on the age or needs of children and young people, some parents and caregivers will need to come on-site for drop offs and pick-ups. They will need to be captured in your visitor register but you won’t need to ask for email addresses, phone numbers etc, as you should already have that information on file. You may wish to use a separate system for capturing visitors that are only there for drop offs and pick-ups (a pre-printed list which people can tick as they come into the grounds or school building for example), or consider asking those parents and caregivers to use a particular gate or entrance point to manage this more easily.
Do we have to stop the general public from using our playgrounds?
No, public and school playgrounds will be open at Alert Level 2. You are not expected to regularly clean playgrounds. The greater level of freedom at Level 2 means that handwashing is even more important, including after playtimes.
Treatment of variation claims of school construction projects
The response to COVID-19 will result in variation claims to construction contracts for Ministry and school/board-led construction projects. A variation claim is an alteration to the contract terms of a project often due to a requested change in the scope of works or to contractors incurring unforeseen additional costs to complete the project.
We will be providing Project Managers, with school/board-led projects, guidance on the treatment of variations that is fair and consistent across all construction contracts and suppliers. If you are approached by contractors about contract variations, please refer them to the Project Manager for your project.
Holding board meetings at COVID-19 Level 2
At Alert Level 2, school board meetings fit under the ‘public meetings’ category of ‘gatherings outside the home’ rather than being considered part of school operations.
As public meetings they are subject to the requirements to:
- Have no more than 10 people
- Not be longer than two hours
- Keep high hygiene standards
- Record attendees to ensure contact tracing can be conducted if necessary.
This means that some boards (with ten or fewer members) will be able to meet in person under Alert level 2. Boards that have more than 10 members, for example boards of some state integrated schools, will need to keep up their use of technology to hold meetings.
Boards should be aware that public excluded business (PEB, or ‘in-committee’ business) aside, meetings held remotely are still open to the public. Members of the public should still be able to observe the open parts of the meeting – by electronic means if necessary.
The COVID-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Legislation Act has amended the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act for the period of the COVID-19 pandemic.
LGOIMA S47A (1) (a) – if reasonably practicable boards should enable access to an open meeting by broadcasting it live via audio or visual means.
LGOIMA S47A (b) – boards should:
(i) Make an audio or video recording of the open meeting available on its internet site (after the meeting – as soon as practicable) and/or
(ii) Make a written summary of the business of the open meeting available on its internet site (after the meeting – as soon as practicable)
It can be assumed that a written summary would contain more detail than the minutes of the meeting e.g. it would allow the public to ‘observe’ any discussion and deliberation of the board prior to making a decision.
LGOIMA S51AA (1) – meeting minutes may be made available, free of charge, on the board’s internet site (instead of at the school office) and, if asked, the board must post them to the requester.
Please note that boards are required to comply with S47A (a) and (b) but S51AA (1) says that meeting minutes “may” be made available, not “should”. Boards of schools which do not have an internet site, should contact their local MoE Education Adviser for support.
Advice on how to hold electronic meetings and livestream board meetings is available on our website.
Secretary for Education new powers
The Secretary for Education has been given new powers, in response to COVID-19, to issue binding directions to all education providers, including all schools, early learning services, and tertiary institutions, whether public, private or integrated.
The proposed new powers are contained in the COVID-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Legislation Bill, part of which amends the Education Act 1989 to give the Secretary these powers. More information on the Bill can be found here.
These powers include the ability to direct providers to open or close, vary their hours and how they operate, and how they are controlled or managed. The powers include the ability to direct education providers to provide education in specified ways, such as through distance or online learning.
The decision to give these powers to the Secretary for Education was taken after very careful consideration. It is being done to ensure a unified and coordinated educational response to the COVID-19 outbreak and to enable the Government and the Ministry to act quickly in the best interests of educators, parents and whānau when required.
Schools, kura, early learning services, kohanga, and tertiary institutions have been doing great work on behalf of their learners in response to COVID-19. These powers will only be used when absolutely necessary for the purpose of avoiding, remedying or mitigating the actual or potential effects of the outbreak, and to facilitate co-ordinated processes and planning in response to the outbreak.
Device returns before Gypsy Day relocations
Gypsy Day for our dairy farming community proceeds on 31 May/1 June, resulting in family relocations and some changes in student enrolments across the country. This will have implications for Ministry supplied devices that have been assigned to students. The management of that device is with the school that students are enrolled with at the time they received it. You will need to remind students to return their device to the school before moving, and to discuss device access with their new enrolling school.
Unfortunately the Ministry of Education will not be able to provide free internet connectivity at the student’s new address after their move, as the cut-off for internet access requests is 31 May to qualify for the wholesale subsidy that telecommunications companies have provided. If the address of the new property is already known to the new enrolling school, the new school can place a request for connectivity now in Salesforce for the student and MoE may be able to include it in time.
Webinars for wellbeing
Over 900 teachers and others joined a webinar 15 May to hear Professor Stuart McNaughton and his panel talk about diverse perspectives of hauora and wellbeing. If you missed it, you can watch the webinar here over the next few days, and it will be published to MOE's Vimeo page for future reference.
Board community communications during COVID-19 and beyond
As we travel through uncharted waters, it is important that school boards keep in close contact with their communities. Now, more than ever, our role is one of leadership. Ideally boards will set out a plan for communications - what you want to say and when. Here are some tips that we hope will be of help.
Who do we want to communicate with?
Now is a good time for the board to reflect on who your school community is and their needs for now and the future. Is it simply the parents, staff and students? Or is it a wider range of stakeholders and interested parties?
You may need to consider if you should tailor your communications to different groups within your community?
When do we want to communicate?
The timing of board communications is critical to the impact they will have. Frequency needs to be adequate but not overwhelming or so often that the community stops paying attention.
Joint board and principal communications could be considered to keep down the number of messages and to reinforce that the school is united in its efforts to deal with exceptional circumstances.
There may be times when additional, ad hoc messages need to be given, for example, as and when New Zealand moves through the various levels of COVID-19 or something else of significance to the school happens.
How can we communicate?
Email may be an obvious solution. It might also be a useful exercise in identifying where school data bases could be updated.
Many schools already use their school website as their main means of communication. For those schools which do not have their own internet site, Ministry of Education hosts a site that you may be able to use, the same one on which you would publish your annual report.
Social media is an option but be mindful of commentary that could impact your messaging. Remember that communication is a two-way street and provide the community with a way to give you feedback or ask questions, for example, by providing a portal on your website or a board-dedicated email address. Remember too that rules around governance still apply, so only those board members delegated to speak on behalf of the board may do so.
If there is something that you want to consult your community about, consider establishing a delegated board committee to lead this project. Make use of community members as committee members.
How ever you are going to communicate – let the community know so that they know what to look out for.
Key points about getting your message across:
- Keep the tone open and honest, reassuring and confident
- You know your community and your current relationships better than anyone. Keep the language and tone of your communications consistent with the way you have always communicated
- Remember to govern, not manage allow and support your principal to advise operational information such as staggered hours, extra cleaning etc.
Things the board might want to communicate with its community about
As mentioned earlier, in times of uncertainty it is even more important that school boards keep in close contact with their communities. Our communication should be an open, honest, reassuring.
Thank your community for its support and on-going efforts during this time. Acknowledge examples of co-operation and ‘stepping up’ such as parents taking on the role of teacher at home. Anticipate and create ongoing good will and collaboration.
Include expressions of gratitude to your principal and the wider school team. Acknowledge the board’s responsibilities and accountabilities. Give assurance that board continues to monitor progress towards strategic and annual goals.
Outline what has been achieved so far this year and what might need to be reprioritised as the year progresses. Advise any limitations that board has had to put in place during COVID-19. These could include, for example:
- Limitations to parent activity on school site e.g. drop off/pick up
- Playgrounds closed both during and outside of school hours
- No/Confirmation of before/after school care
- No/Confirmation of Breakfast Club.
Remind your community of its rights to access open board meetings and their minutes and how this can be done. Remember, boards can lead by example by continuing to hold meetings by electronic means. Remember to celebrate the small and big wins you experience.
Has the board’s role changed because of the COVID-19 crisis?
No, the board’s role is still governing the school. The principal still has responsibility for operational matters. The only thing that may change for some schools is that the Secretary for Education now has temporary emergency powers including the power to:
- Direct a school to open or close, or vary their hours
- Direct how they operate, and how they are controlled or managed
- Direct education providers to provide education in specified ways, such as through distance or online learning.
This is being done to ensure a unified and coordinated educational response to the COVID-19 outbreak and to enable the Government and the Ministry to act quickly in the best interests of educators, parents and whānau when required.
These powers will only be used when absolutely necessary in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Helping students while they're learning at home
Home Learning | Papa Kāinga TV has been extended until 10 June, with the option of a further extension until the end of term 2. Details of the upcoming week’s lessons will be published on the Learning From Home website – this will enable teachers in particular to incorporate lessons on Home Learning | Papa Kāinga TV into their teaching programmes.
Home Learning TV I Papa Kāinga TV is available online as well as on TV – it can be live streamed through the TVNZ OnDemand website, and lessons are available OnDemand shortly after their original broadcast.
Other useful home learning links:
By-elections during COVID-19
Some boards and Returning Officers are grappling with the election process during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sometimes there is a practical ‘e-work around’ that still keeps within the RO Handbook and the election regulations (pp 37-41 ROH). We have added some suggestions below.
At time of writing, there is still no alternate process advised by MOE.
- When a casual vacancy occurs boards need to adhere to the time line for filling the vacancy, as detailed in S105 of the Education Act 1989 – this may necessitate holding a by-election
- When a commissioner is revoked, schools will need to elect a board of trustees
- Some boards are right in the middle of an election/by-election process right now.
The election process is required to run to its 37-day process timeline, as detailed in the Returning Officers’ Handbook 2019-2022
The school trustee election process remains a postal process. As witnessed during the 2019 triennial trustee elections, we know that some Returning Officers will experience delays in the electorate receiving and returning nomination and voting papers. Here are the key steps in the process and what it looks like under Alert Level 3:
- Appointment of returning officer: the board does this at its meeting or by electronic resolution.
- Preparing the roll:
- Access parent and staff data off site, or (if RO is not a staff member) receive data electronically from an authorised staff member
- Roll and availability for inspection: reg 6(3) requires the roll to be “open for inspection” at the school at any reasonable time during the election process (reg 6(3), refer RO Handbook, pp 8 & 38):
- Access to a sharepoint or other link that is password protected or available for a limited time
- A zoom meeting: The RO could show the person the roll during the meeting for them to inspect. Note: Solutions that involve posting an open link to the roll on the school website, emailing the roll to the requester or via some other e-means that would let the requester to make a copy would risk a privacy breach.
- Calling for and accepting nominations:
- Prepare nomination forms and election notices for local newspaper and parents / staff off site, via computer and photocopier / printer offsite where possible.
- ROs will post out nomination forms according to the election timeline
- If a vote is required, ROs will post out voting papers together with candidate statements according to the election timeline
- Scrutineers: a zoom meeting while the votes are counted
- ROs should be vigilant and if the RO becomes aware that nomination forms or voting papers are not coming back as expected they would be safe to assume that (as happened in 2019):
- The electorate has not received the forms/papers in a timely manner – due to postal delays
- The electorate has received the forms/papers but there are delays in getting them back via post to the RO by the required deadline
- In this event, the RO should:
- Act sooner rather than later – e.g. don’t leave it to the day that nominations close to take action if no nominations have been received
- Liaise with the board chair/commissioner
- RO/chair/commissioner should contact their local MoE Education Adviser and request an extension to their election timeline
- Historically, MoE have responded by granting an exemption and authorising a revised timeline. Usually, this has meant that MoE have advised the RO of a new Election Date.
Staff elections – where ROs would usually put nomination forms/voting papers into staff pigeon holes in the staffroom:
- ROs will have the option to conduct the staff representative election in the same way as they would a parent representative election i.e. by using postal services rather than staff pigeon holes in the staffroom.
Notices will still need to be placed in local newspaper circulating in the area of the school. RO will need to provide a return address for nomination forms/voting papers – typically this is the school or the school’s post box as long as social distancing requirements can be observed. Options might be:
- RO’s own mail box/home address
- A locked/secured box at school that RO can clear frequently
ROs may wish to wear gloves/mask when handling or opening envelopes/forms/voting papers. If anything above is beyond the current ability of the RO, they should liaise with their board chair/commissioner and contact their local MoE Education Advisers to seek exemption/authorisation to take alternate action.
NZSTA cannot provide either exemption or authorisation of non-adherence to the legislated timeline – only MoE can do that.
Holding meetings and passing resolutions remotely
The COVID-19 lockdown has certainly taught us a few things and, perhaps, hastened some of the things that we would have got around to in the future but hadn’t quite expected to have to tackle just now. For our teaching staff the most significant ‘leap into a brave new world’ was the change to teaching remotely. For trustees, it was holding our meetings remotely.
We have had the ability to hold our meetings remotely for quite some time but being forced to do so caught some of us on the hop. The NZSTA governance advisers were able to assist and we quickly put up a module on the NZSTA Knowledge Hub which gave you some suggestions for e-meeting platforms and etiquette.
Here are some key points to remember about the meeting:
- A school board of trustees must hold a meeting within three calendar months of its previous meeting
- A board meeting may held by electronic means as long as all of the trustees who want to participate have access to the technology needed to participate
- A quorum is still needed before the board can conduct any business:
- A quorum is more than half of all trustees currently holding office – it doesn’t matter which trustees but must be more than half of them
- The quorum of members must be able to communicate with each other simultaneously throughout the meeting
- Just because it is meeting electronically does not mean that the board doesn’t hold a full meeting with all the usual agenda items:
- The principal’s report should include everything it always has: student achievement, property, stand-downs, incidents of physical restraint, staffing
- A finance report should be presented to the board
- Committees report as usual
- Any issues specific to your particular school that need to be discussed should be on the agenda
- All meeting papers must be distributed at least 48 hours before the meeting, as usual
- Decisions should still be made by vote
- Motions will still require a proposer and (unless proposed by the chair) a seconder
- In discussion and deliberation the chair will ensure that all trustees’ views are heard
- A majority vote is still required to carry a motion and in the case of a tied vote, the chair still has a casting vote
- Any trustee with a conflict of interest must declare and be excluded from the electronic meeting while the board discusses, deliberates and votes on the matter
- The board should be aware that, public excluded business (PEB, or “in-committee” business) aside, remotely held meetings are still open to the public. This means:
- That members of the public should still be able to observe the open parts of the meeting – by electronic means if necessary*
- If the board needs to cancel a meeting it should make all reasonable efforts to advise its community of the cancellation in advance. It would also need to advise the time, date, location (all be it via electronic means) of the next/rescheduled meeting.
Suspension meetings can be held remotely, the same as any other board meeting. So, most of what is written above applies to suspension meetings. The exceptions are that suspension meetings are PEB and should be held “in committee” and that suspension processes run to a legislated timeline.
- The board must ensure that the student and their family/support people can attend the first part of the meeting electronically – being able to hear and speak simultaneously, the same as the board members
- Everyone must have received the paperwork, including the principal’s report and the suspension letter at least 48 hours prior to the suspension meeting
- The 7 school/10 calendar day timeline still applies to the board having to make a decision within a specified period.
*The COVID-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Legislation Act amended the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act for the period of the COVID-19 pandemic. Extra measures were put in place around the public attending open board meetings.
Can a student be enrolled at one school and attend another?
Response in conjunction with Office of Secretary of education
Here are some questions and answers that you might find helpful when considering if a student can be enrolled at one school and attend another during the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to maintain household bubbles:
- Can children of school staff physically attend the school at which their parent works, even if they are not enrolled at that school?
- Can siblings who are enrolled at different schools physically attend the same school?
- If a school has very low numbers of students physically attending, can it send its students to a neighbouring school?
The short answer is yes, if both schools’ boards of trustees agree, students enrolled at one school can physically attend another. Section 158 of the Education Act 1989 applies. This isn’t a new thing for COVID- 19. Schools have always had the ability to arrange for tuition to be provided at other schools. For example:
- To share technology education across clusters
- To provide learning in a subject that is not included in the curriculum of the school at which the student is enrolled, for example:
- One secondary school might offer Spanish while its neighbour doesn’t
Do the usual rules around school rolls and funding apply?
The usual standards for roll returns apply – students get counted where they are enrolled and aren’t double-funded.
Section 158 allows a board to pay another board that is providing tuition for its students. A notice would be issued setting out the payment provisions and Boards might like to seek assistance from MoE in setting up these conditions. Boards need to be clear what, if any, additional costs would be incurred by the hosting school.
Who is responsible for the students’ safety and wellbeing?
Technically speaking this would be a 'multiple Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking' (PCBU) situation.
- Boards and principals would need communicate and work together to make sure students’ safety and wellbeing are being taken care of
- Boards would need to use their own judgement regarding the level of detail and planning they require. This would probably fit within their usual Health and Safety planning and arrangements. For example during COVID-19:
- Staying in a bubble of no more than 10
- Maintaining physical distancing
- Encouraging great hygiene practices
- One final point, board may wish to check their individual situation with their insurance broker
Employment and staffing
- Boards should continue to pay all staff the same number of hours as they would if the school was operating as usual. This applies to all staff, including non-teaching staff with variable hours, and day relievers who you use.
- Sick and domestic leave should be provided where a staff member or their dependant/s get sick.
- Staff who have the care of dependant/s should be provided with discretionary paid leave.
- Each staff member’s requirements will be different and your principal should discuss with each person how much they are able to work and how much leave they require.
- Staffing provisions and travel (MOE, 17 March 2020)
- Employees concerned about exposure and spread of COVID-19 – Employment New Zealand
- COVID-19 workplace response - Employment New Zealand
Many of you will have international students who are in Homestay or Hostel accommodation. Please continue to house and support those students.
Internet and devices for students
To meet remaining requirements the Ministry intends to ship a device directly to a student’s lockdown address, on a school by school basis as stock becomes available. As shipping and courier services are under additional pressures, it may not be possible to arrange for the device and internet to arrive at the same time, however they will endeavour to co-ordinate this as much as possible.
Internet data caps
Spark, Vodafone, Vocus/Slingshot, 2Degrees and Trustpower have advised they have removed their data caps and the possibility of any extra charges based on usage.
Does an online meeting work differently from face-to-face?
Yes and no. The basics of a good meeting remain the same whether you are online or in the same room. But it’s easier to ignore the flaws when you are in the same room. Good meeting ‘netiquette’ is essential to effective online meetings.
Here are two good practical guides to online meeting netiquette. They each take a slightly different approach, so it’s worth reading them both.
- The 7 Rules of Virtual Meeting Etiquette Every Professional Should Know
- Improve Your Online Meeting Etiquette
Does an online meeting still have to be open to the public?
Yes, the public still have the right to attend and observe board meetings. To do this electronically you will need to either livestream the meeting or provide anyone who wants to observe with the information they need to join the meeting. Anyone signing in to observe the meeting should mute their microphone. The rules about speaking rights remain unchanged.
You can find reviews of a range of livestream platforms below:
- Live Streaming Platform and Pricing Comparison: What You Need to Know [2019 Update]
- Top 10 Best Live Streaming Platforms for Businesses [2020 Update]
- 6 Best Free Tools to Live Stream Your Event Online
- 10 best live streaming platforms you should know
Boards ensuring digital safety for themselves and their schools
Network for Learning (N4L) has developed a safety filter to make the internet safer for all students learning from home that parents can set up on their children’s learning device to block the worst of the web. Parents can apply to their child’s device at no cost, to keep them safer online at home by following the basic online instructions.
Launched in time for schools resuming online classes in Term 2 as students gradually return from lockdown, the N4L safety filter is part of a new initiative to provide safer connectivity for learning while students are away from school called “Switch on Safety.”
Boards reflecting on whether or not they should review their 2020 budget
MoE encourages schools to plan ahead for potential changes to their usual operating costs. MoE acknowledges that some school expenses may increase as the result of distance learning, it also expects that some other expenses may decrease. Boards may wish to seek information around this in their Principal’s regular financial reporting. Budgets may need to be adjusted during their mid-year financial review.
Reimbursement for schools’ device purchases
The Ministry will reimburse schools who, between Monday 9 March and Monday 8 April (inclusive), proactively purchased or ordered laptops, Chromebooks or iPads to support distance learning.
This period covers the two weeks before the move to Alert Level 3 and the days leading up to the Government’s announcement of its distance learning package.
To seek reimbursement, please email the following to your Education Manager:
- A copy of the supplier invoice.
- An invoice to the Ministry seeking reimbursement.
- A list of students who received a device and their addresses
Reimbursement applies only to laptops, iPads and Chromebooks purchased for students to support distance learning.
Property - school construction projects
In the first instance, your school's MoE Property Advisor is available to support you.
Residential special schools
Please continue to house and support those students who are not able to safely return home.
School jurisdiction during COVID-19 distance learning
NZSTA has received several enquiries around schools’ jurisdiction during COVID-19 distance learning. As boards of trustees will know our usual ‘rule of thumb’ is that school’s (the principal’s) jurisdiction extends to ‘on school site, during school hours’ and we often add the notion of 30 minutes before and 15 minutes after school hours. NZSTA’s governance support resource Before and after school – who is responsible gives some useful information.
Most of the questions raised have been “what ifs” along the lines of:
- Under Level 3, it is suggested that schools stagger their physical opening hours – so how does ‘during school hours’ work?
- What about students who are still using distance learning but come onto school site and cause distraction?
- What to do if a student damages a school provided device at home?
Acknowledging that these questions are operational and do not fall within the realms of governance, we felt it might be helpful to address them to some extent from a board’s perspective.
When considering whether or not the school has jurisdiction over a student’s behaviour whilst not on-site at school, things to consider are:
- How does this behaviour relate to their role as a student?
- Parents always have jurisdiction over their children
- “During school hours” means during whatever hours the school is open for instruction – including staggered hours
- the school has jurisdiction over its property, and particularly if there is potential for health and safety concerns
- If a student damages school property – the school should follow usual policy and procedures as with any property that is issued to their students.
Regarding stand-downs and suspensions:
- Schools are still providing students with access to pastoral care, including guidance and counselling
- Before standing down or suspending a student, a principal must be satisfied that, if the incident was gross misconduct or continual disobedience, it also set a harmful or dangerous example to other students at the school
Most importantly, boards need to fully understand the implications of their governance policies around health and safety, and pastoral care and how these apply during this challenging and exceptional time when we should also be extending goodwill to our school community.
For students who are not able to go home please make arrangements for them to be cared for in the hostel. Host families may be required for international students.
You will need to consider available staff, and others you may be able to call on to cover supervision and other essential services. If you have staff who are included in the vulnerable category and therefore are struggling to maintain adequate staffing levels, the Ministry is able to provide funding to support additional relief staffing to help keep your hostel open. Please contact the Resourcing Contact Centre at email@example.com about how to apply.
Ministry bus services will run to normal time tables. School buses are a controlled environment where immediate contact tracing can take place if required, therefore it is not possible to source buses and drivers to maintain distancing on school buses.
SESTA (special school transport assistance) services will run to normal time tables. Transport operators will liaise with families about their transport needs.
Services can only operate where there are drivers, many of whom are in the high risk category for COVID-19. Their employers will be taking extra measures to make them feel safe in their workplace, such as leaving seats in close proximity to the driver free. Physical distancing isn’t practicable on school buses, however, it’s a controlled environment where contact tracing can take place if required.
The Ministry is supplying hand sanitiser for students and drivers to use on every journey, and increased cleaning and sanitisation practices will be made after each trip. If a student appears sick, the transport company will contact the school bus controller immediately.
It’s the school’s responsibility to maintain up to date passenger lists and provide it to their transport provider. The Ministry of Health will contact the school if there are any cases requiring contact tracing. Where a bus services more than one school, the ‘head school’ will hold the master list.
We’ve got our board meeting next week. What should we do?
Your board is legally required to hold a meeting within three calendar months of its previous meeting. The best thing you can do is carry on your board business as close to normally as possible. In the first instance, this might mean:
- If your school already uses online meeting software check with your principal about giving trustees access to it for board meetings.
- If you cannot use existing school software, check out other options for videoconferencing. There are a number of free options as well as the commercial ones. You can find reviews in a number of places including
- Work out how you will handle processes such as circulating board papers, receiving and circulating reports, and minuting the meeting.
- Send out instructions for how to set it up and sign in
- Advise your school community of the change (e.g. on the school website or social media feed)
- Hold a test-run a few days before the meeting date where everyone signs in, to make sure it works.
- Schedule your board meeting online, and do your best.
- Agree on a process for Public Excluded Business (sometimes known as “in -committee”).
Key points for board of trustees
- Your principal continues to receive advice from the Ministry of Education about operating the school.
- 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.
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.
Key responsibilities of the board
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.
- 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.
- 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).
Key things 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. Download the Ministry of Education’s Pandemic Planning Guide (full guide) for more information.
- Monitor the Ministry of Education website regularly for updates
- 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.
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.