COVID-19: Advice

Staff and students should not attend school if they are unwell. If you have symptoms of cold or flu, you should stay home and take a RAT. If you return a negative test but still have symptoms, you should stay home until your symptoms are gone and you return a negative test.

If you are a household contact of a confirmed positive case, you must get a test. If you have no symptoms and you return a negative RAT result you may return to school. By getting a test you are helping to keep everyone safe.

Details on how schools can claim can be found on the Ministry website.

Sample planning documents for dealing with Covid has been provided by PPTA’s Secondary Principals’ Council. It can be found below and will be of most interest to principals, senior leaders, health and safety representatives, and branch chairs.

Vaccine information  

COVID-19 Self-isolation and managed isolation

COVID-19 vaccines | Unite against COVID-19 ( 

COVID-19 vaccination: Your questions answered | Unite against COVID-19 ( 

NZ Vaccine Facts | Unite against COVID-19 ( 

What you need to know about the Pfizer vaccine | Unite against COVID-19 (   

COVID-19 vaccine Q&A #1: How were the COVID-19 vaccines created safely and quickly? - YouTube 

Vaccine advice if you are pregnant or breastfeeding | Unite against COVID-19 ( 

Sarah's story: Deciding to get the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant - YouTube 

Vaccine advice if you have a health condition | Unite against COVID-19 ( 

Latta, Brewerton and Petousis-Harris answered questions in a Facebook live event. 

Bloomfield, Turner, Wiles and Prescott answered questions about the COVID-19 Vaccine. 

Forbes and Elder discuss some key concerns and hesitancies. 

Vax Facts with Māori Doctors: Jordan, Reid, McKree-Jansen, Brewerton (specialists in Māori health). 

A rangatahi panel with Dr Jason Tuhoe  kōrero about the vaccine. 

Straight Up with Dr. Lily Fraser – The Panel. 

University of Auckland vaccinologist Petousis-Harris looks at 10 vaccine myths circulating on social media. 

You can find accurate and reliable information about COVID-19 vaccines from trusted sources including:   

You can keep up to date with current information and frequently asked questions by following the above organisations’ social media channels, or speaking with your health provider.    

Payments when you have COVID-related absences

  • If the school closes you move to online learning delivery and are paid as normal.
  • If you have some symptoms of COVID and are required to isolate on medical advice while waiting for test results, this should be leave with pay as this is directed leave.
  • If you have been in contact with a suspected case and are required to isolate on medical advice while waiting for test results this should be leave with pay as this is directed leave.
  • If it is confirmed that you have COVID you cannot return to school for the isolation period. This is treated as paid, disregarded sick leave under STCA 6.2.7 (a) (iii) and the ASTCA 5.1.6 (a) (iii).
  • If you are caring for a person who has COVID you are a close contact and will be required on medical advice to isolate even though you may not currently be sick. This should be leave with pay as this is directed leave.
  • If you are looking after someone who is medically vulnerable and has been required to isolate on medical advice but is not sick then lave for sickness in the home applies on production of a medical certificate. This is a charge to your sick leave, if you are running out of sick leave your field officer can assist with applying for anticipated sick leave.
  • If you are looking after someone who is not sick and who has not been required to isolate on medical advice then you will need to ask your employer for discretionary leave, which might be granted, either as paid or unpaid leave but they do not need to grant it.
  • If you elect to stay away from work but you do not have medical advice to support this and have not been directed to do so then you can seek paid or unpaid discretionary leave from the employer but they do not have to grant it.
  • Day relievers must be paid for COVID-related absences on days when you have been scheduled for relief work. This should be disregarded sick leave. Further advice on COVID-related payments for day relievers will be available shortly.

If you are not either sick or caring for a sick dependent but you are on COVID-related paid leave then the employer can ask you to undertake appropriate work from home. If you are on leave and are either sick or caring for a sick dependent you cannot be directed to undertake work while at home/in isolation.

Contact your PPTA Field Officer if you have issues with leave, or payment for leave, related to COVID-19. 

Reasonable expectations – some examples of good practice

This section has been updated to include a reference to hybrid learning approaches.

The earlier advice in this section was provided with online learning in lockdown in mind. At Red Level 3 this advice will still apply, but in response to the more disrupted teaching and learning environment some teachers have moved towards a hybrid approach and some are being encouraged to by their schools. 

Providing distance learning online

All schools have been asked to be ready to support students who are learning from home, particularly during the Red setting. Some teachers may be required to isolate and work from home. Remember that you are not expected to be an expert at distance teaching. Use the skills that you already possess.

You may need to adjust your teaching depending on the ratio of students in class versus learning from home. If most of the learners are face to face, you can use your school’s digital platforms to add activities for those who are learning from home. Click here for ideas about hybrid teaching and learning.

If a large proportion of your learners are at home, switching to teaching that is mainly online may be the most straightforward option.
Your contact hours should stay within the requirements of your collective agreement. 

All collective agreement provisions and entitlements under industrial legislation still apply. This might look different from how it usually does, but if you feel you are not getting your entitlements, contact your field officer. 

Reasonable expectations – some examples of good practice 

As the needs of every school community are different it’s important that there are a range of ways to support teachers and learners when teaching and learning remotely. Here are some examples of practice that could work for you too: 

The use of Relief Teachers: 

-Teachers provide the content and Relief teacher leads a portion of the online lessons each week / day 

- Relief teacher is employed full time to a class to lighten workload in both content creation and delivery. 

- Relief teachers employed to run and mark assessments or assignments.   

Length of ‘class’ 

  • 30 minute question and answer sessions 
  • 15 minute check in sessions every other day 

Planning and Teaching 

  • Co -teaching in departments 
  • Planning in a team shared content 
  • Merge online ‘classes’ to avoid replication of content and work 
  • Focus on the core learnings, strengthen the basics.  

Time management 

  • Having clear times when teachers are available 
  • Adjusting the ‘timetable’ so teachers and students are not ‘online’ 5 hrs a day. 

Communicating with your students 

Set clear expectations of how and when you will be available to communicate with students. 


  • As much as possible, stick to the means of communication that you usually use, e.g. school email or Google Classroom. 
  • We strongly advise against giving out your personal cell phone number or using social media platforms that are not set up by your school. 


Make sure to have clear boundaries set around the amount of time you are interacting with your students. When you are available will vary depending on your personal circumstances, but some possible options include: 

  • Having "timetabled hours" for each class 
  • Trying to be available to answer your students questions anytime during normal school hours 
  • Telling your students to expect an answer within 24 hours 

Maintaining teacher presence when distance teaching 

If you have been predominantly a face-to-face teacher you will be used to connecting with students regularly in a multitude of ways: be that in the classroom - direct dialogue or eye contact or even just by physically being near them as they work.  

Just as with face-to-face teaching and learning, students learning remotely also like to know that you are there (even if they are not directly engaged with you). They also appreciate responses to their queries in a timely manner.  Some ways you could be present are: 

  • share a fun fact, motivating meme, subject-related puzzle or saying/proverb/whakatauki  
  • check-in with a short pre-recorded audio or video (maybe at the start of each week) just about how things are for you, keep it positive and not too detailed or personal 
  • share tips for staying well/organised – link them to your subject perhaps  

With all of these suggestions, don’t put pressure on yourself to do everything at once – you could try one new thing a week and use it across a number of classes as you get used to it. You might repeat those that seem to work for you as often as makes sense (there are no rules for this!). 

When work comes in sometimes a simple response might be all that is required with an indication of when you can get back to them. 

Types of lessons 

When planning your lessons where possible set tasks that can be completed to varying degrees of success with more complex and additional tasks for the most able pupils. Or set more open-ended, independent work, but structure and guidance will still be needed. Tasks that require little or no access to technology are preferable in order to cater for everyone. 

Feedback: Keeping the learning conversation going 

You probably already have a range of things you consider when giving feedback to your students on their work.  Supporting them to continue with what they are doing well and giving them some advice on what they could do next are key. 

Hattie and Timperley sum it by saying that the purpose of feedback is to “reduce the gap between where the student is and where he or she is meant to be”.  Some useful questions to ask/answer by the teacher and/or student are: 

  • Where am I going? (What are the goals?) 
  • How am I going? (What progress is being made toward the goal?), and 
  • Where to next? (What activities need to be undertaken to make better progress?) 

You might find it helpful to talk to your students about these three questions in relation to their learning. Perhaps provide them in a format that can be printed off so they can help provide a focus for the learning at all times. 

Teacher safety 

Make sure you are aware of your school’s online policies. If you disagree with any of them then by all means try and get them changed, but do not disregard them. 

Do not communicate with students using your personal email or personal social media account. 

Video conferences 

Live streaming poses risks to the teacher (and the lesson) and these must be weighed up before proceeding. One downside of live streaming is that it relies on students being available when you are. 

Going live has the potential for unforeseen circumstances to arise - from connectivity issues to someone in your household walking in on the lesson. 

There are also more sinister risks such as lessons being recorded, edited and shared. 

PPTA advice is to use school online platforms only, not personal ones. 

If live-streaming is part of this then it should be covered by your school's policies. If live-streaming (or video conferencing) is not specifically addressed in your school's policies then we advise against this form of online teaching. 

Here is advice that some of our members have shared: 

  • When engaging in video chat it is important that the purpose is clear. 
  • Some say limit video conferencing to a small group (6 or fewer), others stress live streaming should not be done with a student on their own. 
  • Make sure that only items that you would like to appear are visible when screen sharing. 
  • Shut down any group chat in which an unknown person joins, or if any form of cyber safety breach occurs. 
  • Email and confirm that students are ready for a group chat before inviting them. 
  • Make sure that you are in a neutral space when video conferencing. 
  • Be aware that students can record your screen without your knowledge. This should be covered in school policies/ student agreements. It is safest to assume that anything you do could end up in the public domain. 
  • Be the last person to leave a group chat/video, as it will continue without you when you leave. 

Finally, if you have any concerns about live steaming do not use it. There are other ways (such as emails) to facilitate student learning during the lockdown. 

What about Hybrid Learning? 

The expectations of both PPTA and the Minister are that we need to be realistic in dealing with the current situation. You cannot be full time in the classroom AND supporting students at home. However, some teachers and schools are adopting hybrid methods to deal with disruptive absences of staff and students and for those members, the following advice pulls together ideas from the experiences of hybrid learning to date.

Most teachers who move into hybrid learning would normally do so over a period of time and as part of a professional growth process with PLD and support.

If there is to be a systematic move by a school to hybrid learning strategies as a tactic for dealing with current disruptions, then these should be openly discussed and agreed on by staff and support and professional development should be provided to ensure that it is consistent and manageable for kaiako/teachers.

Members who are developing hybrid approaches can click here for ideas and advice about hybrid teaching and learning.

Where can teachers go for assistance? 

Ministry-facilitated PLD has been refocused on helping teachers to adapt to online teaching. If a school has a current PLD allocation, it can repurpose the existing hours to focus on support for distance learning. Schools can also request new PLD to support distance learning. To register interest, schools can email 

It is also worth checking out: 

Health and Safety Reps 

Workplaces are required to have Health and Safety Reps who are legally entitled to paid training and paid time for these roles. Health and Safety Reps represent school workers on health and safety matters, including COVID-related issues and work to ensure that schools are safe workplaces. If your school does not currently have a Health and Safety Rep, you can share any concerns with your branch chair. 
Learn more about Health and Safety Reps at Health and Safety | PPTA 

Emergency Payments for Day Relief Teachers

The Ministry of Education has ended the emergency payment scheme for day relief teachers who have been prevented from earning because of COVID-19.


Sample Planning Documents

The sample planning documents below were provided as examples by PPTA’s Secondary Principals’ Council. They start with a general emergency response plan and become increasingly more specific to COVID at Red level. These will be of most interest to principals, senior leaders, health and safety representatives, and branch chairs.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 17 May 2023 09:08