COVID-19: Latest news and updates 


Last updated: Thursday 4 June at 9.00am

Here's the latest news and updates from NZSTA. We're still available for you to contact us directly with your queries. 

We are at Alert Level 2

New Zealand moved to Alert Level 2 at 11:59pm on Wednesday 13 May.

On Monday 18 May, all schools, early learning services, and tertiary institutions reopened onsite under Alert Level 2.  

Increase in number of people at gatherings

Amendments to the Government Order allowing gatherings to increase from 10 people to 100 people were published last week and took effect from midday Friday 29 May 2020COVID-19 Public Health Response (Alert Level 2) Amendment Order 2020

The amendments include some additional changes for Alert Level 2; one of which is that you no longer have to collect the residential address of visitors in your contact tracing register. Please continue to follow the rules for gatherings if you have people who aren’t staff or students coming on-site for school activities, such as cultural events and sports matches.

Please also be aware of your responsibilities if you hire out your facilities, which includes following the rules for gatherings, as outlined in the legislation.

Further information on the changes is available here.

Changes to limits on gatherings

From 12 noon Friday 29 May, the mass gathering rules changed to allow up to 100 people in a gathering. 

For the most part these rules do not apply to day to day activities within a school. However, there are some situations where it does apply to the number of external visitors on site at any one time. This would for example allow 100 parents and caregivers to attend a student performance, up to 100 visitors to watch a game of school sport on your grounds, or allow you to hire out your facilities as long as no more than 100 people attend, not including staff and students.

You must continue to maintain hygiene standards and meet existing record-keeping requirements for contact tracing.

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 planning.reporting@education.govt.nz.

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 poster@tracing.min.health.nz.

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 app@tracing.min.health.nz 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]

COVID 19 Contact tracing App A4 [PDF]

If you have any questions please email the Ministry of Health team at tracingapp-feedback@health.govt.nz

The board’s role in student attendance and engagement

The COVID-19 outbreak has thrown a spotlight on issues that might previously have received less attention, including that of enrolled students not attending school. In this article, we consider how school boards can play their part in a holistic approach to strengthen student engagement.

Why, apart from our legal obligations under the Education Act, should non-attendance be of such concern to school boards?

Students need to be present and engaged at school in order to learn.

What are the most common causes of non-attendance?

The answer to this is vast and varied. Each board of trustees will notice that some causes listed here are of significant relevance to their school while others are not. Other boards will be able to identify causes that are not listed at all, the important thing is to recognise and take action to mitigate any barriers that prevent students fully engaging in school life.

  • Transience
  • Victimisation – bullying or racism
  • Needed to help at home
  • At work
  • Avoidance - finding schoolwork difficult but not comfortable to ask for help
  • Unable to envisage the value of education
  • Pure truancy – something better to do
  • Sense of belonging – feeling that their needs as students are not being met

How can the board help?

Sometimes it is hard for us to restrict ourselves to the realms of governance and not stray into pastoral care or student management. Nonetheless, the board has a critical role in setting goals, expectations and the culture of the school. As trustees we can:

  • Ask for data on the underlying reasons for non-attendance – we can only address the problem once we have identified it
  • Survey students and their families around how welcome, safe and supported they feel at school*
  • Seek input from the school’s wider community as appropriate – this could be local hapū, iwi, church
  • Ask for data on the impact of non-attendance on student progress and achievement – ensuring that data are anonymised. This would form part of the board’s reporting to its community on the overall progress of the school
  • Set strategic goals and expectations
  • Ask details of strategies and programmes being deployed – this might include details of how the school uses attendance services
  • Monitor the effect of these strategies and programmes and how effective they are
  • Use your students as Subject Matter Experts – this is about them, they are the experts

 Other considerations:

  • Is your board truly representative of the make up of your community – do you hear the perspective of all groups in your school whānau?
  • Build on new communication channels forged during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Keep the door open – ensure that parents know it is safe to share their concerns with the school
  • Is your school database accurate – do you have current contact details for all families? If not, how does the school contact parents if students are absent from school without explanation?
  • Keep informed - reverse your ‘line of sight’ – from the classroom up to the board table

Useful resources: 

Community engagement

This is the third article in a series about what boards might expect and do during the COVID-19 pandemic. This week we are going to consider the board’s role in community engagement 

COVID-19 has presented us with an opportunity to further strengthen our relationship with the families and whānau who make up our school community. Never before have we asked parents and caregivers to work so closely with us to ensure that there is as little as possible disruption to their children’s education. Let’s put that new-found engagement to good use at governance level too.

As we all know, the school board is made up of trustees who are at the board table to bring the perspective of the particular group which either elected or appointed them. We have the mandate to act and decide on behalf of those who put that trust in us.

However, it would be wise for us not to ‘go it alone’ but to seek guidance from those people. Now, more than ever, as parents place the safety and wellbeing of their children back into our hands, the concepts of inclusivity and transparency seem all the more important. We need to let our communities know what we are doing and – remembering that engagement is a two-way street - give them a chance to comment on and help mold our thinking and actions.

What have we done so far?

In a previous article NZSTA made some suggestions around board communications to the school’s community. We suggested that your board might like to:

  • Thank your community for its support and on-going efforts during this difficult time
  • Anticipate and create ongoing good will and collaboration
  • Include an expression of gratitude and support to principal, leadership teams, teaching staff, cleaning staff etc
  • 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, for example limitations to parent activity on school site e.g. drop off/pick up
  • Remind your community of its rights to access open board meetings and their minutes and how this can be done
  • Celebrate successes.

If you haven’t already sent a communication from the board, do. It’s never too late.

What’s next?

Now that we have started the conversation, let’s keep it going. Consider:

  • What feedback did the board receive to that initial communication?
  • What have we done as a result?
    • Is there any ‘follow up’ that needs to be added to the agenda of the next board meeting (certainly it should feature as board correspondence)?
  • How do we let the community know what we have done?

We might also like to take this opportunity, while we have our community’s attention (and we certainly have that at the moment) to kick-start some housekeeping projects that would benefit from (or even require) community input. How about:

  • A review of our Health and Safety policy
  • A review of our (or even the writing of a new) Pandemic Response policy and planning
  • Seeking opinion on the school’s commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi
  • A review of our statement of delivery of health curriculum.

This might be an ideal time to establish some delegated board committees which could comprise some members of the school community to form a ‘steering group’.

Remember, these are nervous times. People like to feel that they are empowered – help them to help you guide the school.

The most important thing to remember is that communication with the board must be easy. This might be via:

  • A generic board email address such as bot@wevegotthis.school.nz
  • A portal on the school website
  • A suggestions drop box in the school office – although you might like to wait until COVID-19 is sorted before you put that in place

For professional development around community engagement

As NZSTA is currently unable to deliver face to face workshops, for more information please go to the NZSTA Knowledge Hub where you will find both a video and the workshop resource for Community Engagement, concerns and complaints. Following this video, you will be able to attend a Zoom meeting where you can engage in discussion about the activities provided during the video and learn alongside others, with the assistance of your facilitator. You can register your attendance at these Zoom meetings which will be advertised on the NZSTA Knowledge Hub and Eventbrite, just like our regular workshops.

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.

What to do if students appear to have symptoms of COVID-19 at school

You do not have a right to take student temperatures as a matter of course which may result in preventing their attendance at school. Taking temperatures is not part of the public health requirements for COVID-19. Someone who has a fever looks unwell. You don’t have to take their temperature to suspect they have a fever.

As noted in the health and safety guidance school staff are to observe students on arrival into the classroom checking for symptoms and ask those presenting as unwell to go home (or arrange for parents and caregivers to come and pick up).

Symptoms to monitor for are any respiratory symptoms such as a cold, a head cold, blocked ears, cough, sneezing, chills and a fever. Anyone with those symptoms should be isolated and contact Healthline for advice, which may include getting tested for COVID-19. A principal can ask a student to not attend school if they believe on reasonable grounds they may have a communicable disease, which includes COVID-19.

What do I do if someone is sick but won’t go home?

If you are the principal of a state school, you can preclude a student who you believe on reasonable grounds may have a communicable disease (Section 19 Education Act). The student has to stay away for the infectious period of the specific disease.

Only medical experts have the ability to determine if the signs of illness presented in staff and students is influenza, early stages of measles, the COVID-19 or some other illness which has similar symptoms. However, presenting symptoms along with any relevant information such as close contact with someone diagnosed with illness or recently travelling in a region known to carry risk of infection, should inform your decision about the application of Section 19. You must inform the Medical Officer of Health, the student’s parents and your school Board of Trustees if you take action under Section 19. View the MOE guide for more information.

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

Take a look at the Wellbeing@School and the Child Matters New Zealand websites if you are not already familiar with them. 

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.

Can we transition students back to school over two or three days from Monday 18 May?

We understand that for large schools, having a large number of students return on the first day may not be the best way to ensure good systems are in place and operating to ensure public health requirements are met. Schools have advised that this would help transition staff back on site after a long period away. We recognise that some of you would like to transition students back in a managed way over two days. First and foremost it is important that all children can come to school, however, if you work with your parent community to work out a way to transition returning students, then you may do that. Schools can start a transition period from Thursday 14 May.

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. 

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 Levels 2 and 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:

For further advice and support during the COVID-19 lockdown get in touch

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.

 

 

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