COVID-19: Level 3 FAQ

The information below is accurate as of 22 October 2021. It will be revised as we are advised by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education on changes to Level 3 practice. Please check this site regularly.

From Tuesday 26th October students in years 11-13 will be able to attend school at Alert Level 3. 

  • Schools in Alert Level 3 will only be open for distance learning, and on-site supervision for year 7-10 children who need to attend because they don’t have appropriate care at home until 26 October.  
  • From 26 October schools in Alert Level 3 will also be open for onsite learning for year 11-13 students.  

You can be asked to attend on-site if required.

Safe Practice in level 3 with staff and seniors on-site

From 26 October bubbles of ten will no longer be required in schools including for those junior students already onsite.   

Instead, the following health practices must be followed: 

  • A one-metre distance should be kept from all others onsite (wherever practicable) inside and outside, particularly between staff, and a two-metre distance from people you don’t know.
  • As adult-to-adult transmission is the greatest risk staff should avoid gathering together inside.
  • Time outdoors for students and staff is to be maximised, including breaks, lunchtime, before and after school, weather allowing, and rooms will be aired during breaks.
  • Exercising and singing is to take place outdoors.
  • Groups meeting indoors, including assemblies or staff meetings, must be avoided.
  • Exams can go ahead but with maximum physical distancing within the space available and no less than 1.5 metres between desks.
  • Only essential visitors will be permitted on-site and all visitors onsite will need to wear a face-covering
  • Good hand hygiene and cough and sneeze etiquette is to continue
  • Classrooms must be well ventilated
  • The school should try to keep classroom temperatures between 18–20 degrees centigrade Below 18oC there is increased risk.
  • Where possible, students in years 11–13 should be separated from junior students on-site.
  • High touch surfaces must be cleaned and disinfected each day
  • QR code posters for the COVID app must be displayed
  • The school must have a contact tracing register in place for everyone coming onsite, including students and staff. This can be the attendance register, timetable and visitor register.
  • Minimise the amount of cross-group/class teaching.
  • Don’t use drinking fountains at Alert Level 3.

You can find more information about education at Level 3 

More extensive health and safety advice can be found at Guidance for schools in Alert Level 3 when bringing Year 11 to 13 students on-site.  This includes specific advice for music, PE and hospitality/food technology teachers.

Going into school

Things to keep in mind:

  • If it can be done from home, it should be done from home.
  • It is mandatory for face coverings to be worn by students who are aged 12 and over and all staff when indoors at Alert Level 3. Face coverings must also be worn on school transport by Years 9 to 13 students.   
  • You must provide your employer with evidence of a negative COVID test taken no more than 5 days prior to returning to school before they can allow you on-site.
  • Students are not required to be fully vaccinated or to provide a negative COVID test to attend the school.
  • You must be fully vaccinated or continue to provide evidence of weekly negative COVID tests after returning. 
  • You must be fully vaccinated by 1 January 2022, or you will no longer be allowed on site. To meet that deadline, you must have your first vaccination by 15 November. It is currently unclear what is expected if you have not had your first vaccination by that date. 
  • Safety is the underlying principle for all decisions.

If your question is not answered here or you are having difficulty, please contact your field officer.

Here is the advice the ministry has made available 

Does the Public Health Order override the Health and Safety Act? 

No. The employer must still take into consideration your personal circumstances and health and wellbeing and provide a safe working environment. This includes ensuring that your workload is manageable – for example, you should not be expected to provide dual online and face-to-face learning programmes.

Does the school have to open for all seniors on 26 October? 

No. The senior students can attend from that date, but the school must have sufficiently robust health and safety processes in place, including sufficient staff who are able to be on-site for safe supervision/teaching.  

The board remains responsible for health and safety in the school. 

Some schools have already notified their communities that they will not be starting seniors on that date in order to ensure they meet the priority of a safe environment and their obligations under the Public Health Orders.  

They may also make decisions about which students to have on-site to maximise safety for staff and students. E.g. only year 13, only those students who cannot continue to work online, only students at risk, only specific subject classes (e.g. only senior maths classes, only practical classes etc. 

When the school does open only the staff and students who must be onsite should be onsite. 

Where can I find a COVID testing station near me?

You can find testing stations through this link: 

Community Testing Centres | Unite against COVID-19

Do I have to go into school to supervise/teach?

You should make your best effort to go into school if called upon, but definitely do not go in if it is not safe for you to do so. You do not have to be at school if any of the following apply to you:

  • You have not had a negative COVID test in the 5 days prior to going into school. You are sick or under directed isolation.
  • You are in an at-risk category as specified in the government's guidance.
  • Your bubble includes a member in an at-risk category.
  • You are unable to find childcare for your own dependent children.
  • You have not been provided with an updated health and safety plan for work at level 3 or have not been advised by your school health and safety representative or PPTA branch chairperson that an appropriate plan is in place with any necessary revisions since the previous Level 3.

Where do I get evidence of my vaccination/test status?

You will be sent evidence of your COVID test status after the test is assessed.

You can view your COVID-19 vaccination records online via My Covid Record. For your school a screen shot from this can be evidence of vaccination. In November, you will be able to download vaccination certificates and see your COVID-19 test results.

My Covid Record | Ministry of Health NZ

You can request a letter of confirmation of vaccination status online through this website:

COVID-19: Requesting proof of vaccination | Ministry of Health NZ

I don't fall into the COVID-19 at-risk category but going into school will affect my wellbeing in other ways – for example, I am experiencing high anxiety around going to school. Is leave without pay my only option?

Leave without pay is not your only option. You should discuss your individual circumstances with your school, as they may have enough staff to supervise students and therefore be happy for you to continue working from home. If you need help having this conversation with your school, please contact your field officer.

What if I have children under 14 at home? Am I required to go in and supervise? 

You should not be asked to go in if are unable to find school or childcare for dependent children. 

If you or your children fall into the vulnerable category, then you cannot be asked to come into school. For others with children, the ideal scenario is that you won't be asked to come into school and can therefore teach from home. Principals will understand that those with children are in a trickier situation and will take this into account. It may be that you can continue to teach online, from home, senior students who are supervised on-site by another teacher. 

If your school does need you on-site you may be able to send any school-age children of yours to school. 

If you feel like your school management is making an unreasonable request of you to come into school, please contact your local field officer for help. 

What if someone in my bubble is vulnerable to COVID-19? Am I required to go in?

Not if you have a medical certificate. Most people who were vulnerable earlier in the pandemic will be COVID-vaccinated at this stage. 

Do I need to provide a medical certificate to prove I am vulnerable (or that someone in my bubble is)?

Most people who were vulnerable earlier in the pandemic will be COVID-vaccinated at this stage. Your employer can ask for a medical certificate to confirm that you cannot be on-site.

Do I have to go into school if I am unvaccinated?

From the 26th you will be expected to be on-site unless:

  • You have a medical exemption or have not had a negative COVID test in the previous five days. Your employer could ask for evidence that you have a medical exemption from being tested.  
  • You are sick or under directed isolation.
  • You are in an at-risk category as specified in the government's guidance
  • Your bubble includes a member in an at-risk category
  • You are unable to find school or childcare for dependent children
  • You have not been provided with a health and safety plan for work at Level 3 or have not been advised by your school health and safety representative or PPTA branch chairperson that an appropriate plan is in place with any necessary revisions since the previous Level 3

You should not attend if you have medical evidence of being at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and are not yet fully vaccinated.

If you cannot work on-site because you are higher risk and are not yet fully vaccinated, the school may ask you for appropriate evidence to support this - e.g., a medical certificate. If they ask you for this in the first three days of a request for you to return, then the school must pay the cost.

Do I have to go into school if I am vaccinated? 

If you are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, you are already likely to be fully vaccinated. 

If you are fully vaccinated but still considered by your GP or specialist to be at higher risk, you may be asked for appropriate medical evidence to support this and should talk to the principal about whether the school can accommodate higher levels of protection around you onsite or if you should remain at home. Your field officer can provide support with this. 

You cannot go into school until you have evidence of a negative COVID test within the previous five days. 

Do I have to tell the school if I am vaccinated?

PPTA encourages members to get vaccinated, but you cannot be required to get vaccinated. 

The school can ask you whether or not you have been vaccinated, at the moment you do not have to disclose your status. If you do not, they must assume that you are unvaccinated and treat you as if you are unvaccinated. It seems likely that they will soon be able to request information on your vaccination status from the Ministry of Health.

Information about your vaccine status cannot be shared by your principal without your consent. 

You cannot go in unless you have had a negative COVID test within the last five days. You must continue to provide evidence of weekly negative tests to be on-site if you are not fully vaccinated. 

What if I have a reaction to the vaccination and can’t go on-site the next day?

Some people get flu-like symptoms after the vaccine. If you cannot go onto the site the next day because of such a reaction to the vaccine, then it should not be a charge against your sick leave. You should be provided with discretionary paid leave.

Employers were advised of this by the MoE in May 2021.

Is any of this different if I am a Learning Support Coordinator/ITM/RTLB/day reliever?

No, except that you will not be able to work across different schools at Alert Level 3.

I have been tested for COVID-19 and have to self-isolate until the results are in. Can I claim disregarded sick leave even if the test is negative?

No. There are three situations you might isolate in.

1) If you are generally unwell, have been advised to get a COVID-19 test, and are awaiting results, your absence should be recorded as sick leave.

2) If you have been advised to get a COVID-19 and are awaiting results but are well (i.e. not sick / not symptomatic), you should work from home. If working from home or alternative duties cannot be provided, your absence should be recorded as discretionary paid leave.

3) If you are not sick but are required to self-isolate under the direction of a medical practitioner (i.e. as a 'close contact') you should work from home. If working from home or alternative duties cannot be provided, your absence should be recorded as discretionary paid leave.

Disregarded sick leave will only be approved where an individual has taken sick leave due to a COVID-19 diagnosis.

Are assemblies/staff meetings/gatherings allowed?

There should not be any face-to-face meetings. If there are to be staff meetings they should be by Zoom or a similar distance option. Alternatively, they might be held outdoors with at least 1m distance between staff members.

Unnecessary groupings should be avoided – e.g. form meetings, whanau meetings, prizegivings, and performances etc. Vertical group whanau meetings must be avoided to prevent mixing senior and junior students.

Events should not go ahead.

Do I have to teach online and do face-to-face supervision or teaching at the same time?

You should not be expected to teach students face-to-face and teach online at the same time. This is prior practice and increases stress and workload for staff.

Your contact hours should stay within the requirements of your collective agreement.

If you have classes that are split between students onsite and students at home you are advised to teach them all as an online class.

Where students attend NCEA exams, they will receive the better of their exam grade or their Unexpected Event Grade.

Do I still get non-contact time?

Yes. 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.

Can I cross-level zones to go to school? 

Generally, no. 

You cannot legally cross from a level 2 zone to a level 3 zone or vice-versa without an essential worker exemption. Schools are not currently approved services for exemption (with the exception of those employed in school hostels).  

If you are in a level 3 zone you should not go to a school in a level 2 zone unless you have an official authority to do so. 

If you work in a level 3 zone but live in a level 2 zone you should work from home or be on paid leave unless you have an official authority to do so. 

Your principal can apply for an exemption for you, if it is urgent and if there isno one else (who wouldn’t need to cross an Alert Level boundary) who can attend the event or perform the activity instead of you. 

MoH advice is that exemptions will rarely be granted. If one is: 

  • You will need permission to travel documentation (the Business Travel Document, work order or employer letter). 
  • You will be required to have evidence of a test taken within the seven days before crossing the boundary. 
  • Police compliance checking will involve spot checking and turning people around who do not have evidence of a test. 

If you believe you need to travel across n an Alert Level boundary for work or business reasons, go to the MBIE website to check if you need to apply for a travel exemption. 

Anyone travelling across an Alert Level boundary is strongly encouraged to get vaccinated before travelling across the boundary. 

Working from home

Can I claim additional expenses incurred if I have to continue 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 should seek agreement with the school on the matter of ongoing costs. 

Last modified on Friday, 22 October 2021 12:12