Auckland and Waikato students in years 1 to 10 will return to face-to-face learning at schools and kura from 17 November while timelines will be eased for national curriculum and assessments for older students, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced today.
Masks must be worn by students year four and up.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced the government’s decision at today’s Covid-19 briefing.
Watch the media conference live here:
Hipkins said that it was important to return to some form of in-person school after three months of Level 3 or 4 lockdowns in Auckland, and before the Christmas break.
Students in Years 11 to 13 returned to school last month
“Lockdowns can be stressful for children and young people, so returning to some on-site learning will mean they can reconnect with their teacher and friends,” Hipkins said in a statement.
“Starting this month will provide certainty ahead of the Christmas break and before the new school year starts.”
Hipkins said schools that reopen will take appropriate precautions, following public health advice. Schools may not open full-time but alternate days or other measures of spacing out returning students, depending on what each school decides.
Children between ages 5 and 11 cannot yet be vaccinated, although that rollout is happening overseas.
“Measures to help minimise the risk of Covid-19 will include mask wearing from year 4 up in most cases, ventilating classrooms, limiting the number of students on site, and making sure groups of children distance from each other,” Hipkins said.
“Each school and kura will decide what works best for their learners and their community. That might be by alternating days or half weeks – through year levels, or through whānau groupings.
“Full-time learning will continue on-site for students whose parents have needed it, for example to go to work.
Other changes will address learning lost during lockdowns, Hipkins said, and helping teachers, kaiako, learners, whānau and communities regroup.
“Helping them begin a process of sustained recovery from nearly two years of Covid-19 disruption is a major priority for next year.
“To make this possible we’re giving schools, kura and early learning services more time to roll out the curriculum and assessment work programmes.”
Schools will reset timelines for The New Zealand Curriculum refresh, Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories, Te Takanga o Te Wā and the NCEA Change Programme.
More detail will be available on the Ministry of Education website.
“The curriculum and assessment changes are happening over several years, and we want our schools, kura and early learning services to be in the best possible position to successfully deliver them and get the best outcomes for learners and their whānau.”
Hipkins said that the risk of reopening schools is outweighed by the benefits of “kids re-engaging with their learning face-to-face in this context.”
“With really strong vaccination rates, the balance of risk has shifted,” Hipkins said
“As vaccinations rates increase, including the requirement for teachers to have at least one Covid-19 vaccination from Monday, the risk to children and students is lowered.”