COVID-19 Level 2 FAQ
Working from home
Can I claim additional expenses incurred while working from home during the COVID lockdown period?
Actual and reasonable expenses in undertaking your role should be given appropriate and fair consideration for reimbursement by your school, under STCA 7.8.1:
7.8 Consumables for Teachers’ Use
7.8.1 Items such as felt tip pens, rulers, biros, work plan books and other similar consumable materials for use by teachers in teaching the curriculum are to be supplied by the employer.
The ASTCA is silent on this matter, but custom and practice is to look at the STCA for guidance when that has a relevant provision not contained in the ASTCA.
Your school may have a reimbursement policy under which you can make a claim. However, if an employee incurs a cost on their employer's behalf it is good employment practice for the employer to reimburse or compensate them. Schools are to act as Good Employers, under the Collective Agreements and State Sector Act.
To support your claim under 7.8.1 we advise that you provide clear and specific information regarding the increased costs associated with working from home. For example, this may require you to obtain an internet usage printout from your provider which details the sites visited showing usage was associated with work based activities. This will help avoid questions around usage by other household members contributing to the higher costs.
It would be helpful, although not required, to include any email conversations had with the school where you alerted them to the likelihood of increased costs.
While these additional expenses arose from unprecedented times, from now, our usual advice of reaching agreement in advance of incurring and seeking reimbursement for any costs, where practicable, will be the best course. Therefore, any staff who are exempt from returning to work on site and are working from home, under Alert Level 2, should seek agreement with the school on the matter of ongoing costs.
NCEA and online workload
The government has announced that the well-being of students is a priority, and has made the following changes to assessment:
- To delay external NCEA examinations and New Zealand Scholarship examinations so they start on 16 November instead of 6 November, allowing another week for teaching, learning and internal assessment in Term Four
- To extend the submission date for subjects which require students to submit a portfolio, such as Design and Visual Communication, from 28 October to 12 November 2020, giving students more time to prepare
- To waive the requirement for NZQA verification of Level 1 and 2 Visual Arts portfolios, meaning students will have more time to complete their portfolios and teachers will have more time for marking.
In addition, NZQA is consulting with Universities New Zealand on whether there should be changes to the requirements for University Entrance this year, in light of COVID-19’s impact.
Will NZQA provide leeway around dates for practical and performance-based NCEA standards? What about other internally-assessed NCEA portfolio-based subjects such as languages (including te reo Māori) and technology NCEA standards?
NZQA is developing contingency plans for this year’s NCEA assessment, with criteria relating to when and how they will be implemented. It is reconsidering timelines for portfolio based subjects. This should provide students with more time to submit work.
How can we support students to catch up and complete work?
When students return the first priority will be re-establishing relationships and routines and, from there, building on learning. It is not realistic to attempt to 'catch-up' on all learning that might have occurred had the country not gone into lockdown.
Most courses will need to reduce the number of standards they offer overall, and review the standards they intend to cover during the remainder of the year.
NZQA has provided an assessment matrix guide (www.nzqa.govt.nz) for all of the internal and external assessments which might be useful. The guide suggests the kinds of support students will need to complete various pieces of work.
How can I manage my own workload whilst supporting students to catch up?
Use your professional judgement about how to work with students who have not completed work. If this is the majority of students, you may need to cover the work again. If you do cover the work again, you may need to leave out another standard.
Your decision may consider:
- the number of students affected
- the importance of the topic
- its relationship to future topics
- number of credits it is worth
- whether it leads to an assessment activity
How do I manage my workload when I have students learning online and students in the classroom?
We expect the majority of students to return. Some options for those who have students remaining at home:
- Treat students who are not onsite as you would any student who is on a prolonged absence and let them know the work that is being covered in class
- Continue teaching online with all students working on their devices until everyone returns
- Employ relievers to work with students learning from home
Going to school
What are my entitlements to sick leave during level 2?
A table with sick leave entitlements that covers those with COVID-19 or another illness, those with dependents who are ill, and those in at-risk categories can be found here.
What should I do if I am in a high risk category?
People at higher-risk of severe illness from COVID-19 (eg those with underlying medical conditions, especially if not well-controlled) are encouraged to take additional precautions when leaving home.
They may work onsite, if they agree with their employer that they can do so safely.
PPTA advises you to let your principal know if you are in the high risk category and have a conversation with them about any steps that may need to be taken so that you can work safely onsite.
Please do not hesitate to get in touch with your field officer if you would like support to do this.
Do I need to attend school on Thursday 14 and Friday 15 May?
Yes, if your principal requests that you do.
If you cannot find appropriate childcare, talk to your usual early learning centre or school about whether they can accommodate your children for those two days. If they can’t, your principal may agree to you working from home those two days.
The school must operate staff meetings under the appropriate level 2 health requirements. Staff should be at least 1m apart, and appropriate disinfection and tracking practices need to be carried out.
Your school’s level 2 plan should include how to hold staff meetings safely.
This may include:
- a combination of in-person and video conference for all meetings of staff, especially at larger schools
- staff attending video conference meetings from their offices or classrooms
- in-person, for smaller department meetings
Your branch chair and/or health and safety representative can talk to school leadership teams about how these are to be managed.
Should face-to-face meetings with staff be limited to 10 people?
No, schools are operating under a high level of traceability and stringent hygiene requirements.
Schools will be seeking to limit face-to-face meetings to those which are necessary and cannot be reasonably done by video conference or similar distance technology. Where face-to-face meetings are held, teachers should maintain a one metre distance from one another.
I am a day reliever. Will I continue to get the emergency payment in level 2 if I can’t get work at school?
No, the final emergency payment for day relievers will be made on May 20, 2020. During Level 2 you must find relief work in order to receive payment.
I don’t feel safe going back to school but my principal says I must go back. What are my rights?
There is an expectation that most teachers will return to onsite work during Level 2. You should raise any concerns with your principal and ask that they are addressed in the school’s level 2 planning.
Your principal may agree that you can continue to work from home. If not, they may agree that you can take unpaid leave (or you could apply for special paid leave at your employers discretion).
You can also talk to your GP about how you are feeling, and if appropriate, sick leave (with a medical certificate) may be an option.
Talk with your PPTA field officer if you are in this situation. "Refusal to follow a reasonable instruction" could have major employment consequences.
Student and teacher wellbeing
Would a phased or staggered return to school give students time to readjust, ease them back into a routine, and better manage physical distancing?
A phased return of students is permitted but not required. You can raise this with your principal and health and safety representative as part of the school’s level 2 planning if you think it would be beneficial in your school’s context.
How much cleaning can we be expected to do?
You can reasonably be expected to keep your own desk and work areas clean and sanitised. Any office that you use is also your responsibility.
Your school should arrange extra cleaning staff for the cleaning of communal areas, door handles, light switches, and so forth, so that that duty does not fall on the teachers.
I am a sports/drama/dance teacher. Should I be allowing my students to have contact with one another?
Contact sport and close contact activities can resume if you are able to contact trace who is onsite during school hours and during practice and competitions. Avoid contact where possible, minimise contact where it is unavoidable, and give extra emphasis to handwashing and drying (or using hand sanitiser) before and after activities. Regular cleaning of equipment is very important. Any inter-school events that recommence will need to have a contact tracing register in place to record those playing in both teams.
Ministry of Education guidance on singing and wind instruments is to allow a minimum of 1m distancing between students.
I am an ITM/RTLB/reliever/ACT/etc. Can I work across different sites and for different employers at Alert Level 2?
At each site you will need to ensure that you are recorded as being onsite (through the timetable and/or visitor register), and you must follow the appropriate hygiene and health and safety measures required by each school.
For ITMs, the Ministry of Education guidance on singing and wind instruments is to allow a minimum of 1m distancing between students. Regular cleaning of instruments is very important.
Why isn’t PPE being supplied?
The Ministry of Health guidelines state it is not necessary. If you are at higher risk, you may choose to wear your own PPE.
Can I wear a mask if I provide it myself?
Yes, but ensure that you are aware of the appropriate use and handling of masks.