COVID-19: School plan changes for level 2

Under alert level 3, schools prepared a COVID-19 response plan that set out how to operate safely, as outlined in the Ministry of Education guidelines.

The plan will need to be revisited before schools enter level 2. Again, this process will be a collaboration between the principal, senior leaders and relevant staff representatives such as branch chairs and health and safety reps, and should be provided to all staff.  

The safety and wellbeing of students, staff and their households, continues to be a priority for employers and staff to manage under the Health and Safety Act 2015 during Alert Level 2 and the overriding principles for Alert Level 2 provided by the Ministry of Education based on health guidelines are:

  • to minimise the risk that someone gets infected in the first place
  • to ensure we can identify and contact anyone who has been in close contact with a person, if someone in a school is infected
  • understand that Level 2 is not business as usual

The following document is a resource to assist with the revision of a plan or as a check list for one if your school has already revised their planning.


1. What are the risks arising from the shift from level 3 to level 2? How will the school manage these risks?

Before revising this part of the plan, check the latest government guidelines (

The significant changes for schools under level 2 are:

a)     Changes to physical distancing requirements

Moving to Level 2 means that many staff and students will return to school sites, and “bubbles” are no longer required.

There is no specific distance required for physical distancing in schools under level 2, although students and staff should maintain sufficient distance that they are not breathing on or touching each other.

For adults, it is recommended that where practicable you continue to keep a metre distance between you. For teachers in higher risk categories who return to school a greater physical distancing may be part of their agreed personal return to site plan.

You should identify:

  • which places and activities are likely to be crowded at school, for example, how to manage classes of more than 30 students in small classrooms, and how the school will manage canteen/tuck shop queues and bus queues.  
  • how to manage assemblies. These are allowed to go ahead under level 2, but will planning so they can be safely managed to ensure that students and staff are maintaining appropriate distance.

b)     Sports, cultural, arts and social events

These are allowed to resume under level 2, but must be managed within the guidelines.

Schools should identify:

  • how sports and practical PE will resume safely, particularly how to  keep equipment clean, and how to track who is on site for coaching and managing teams.
  • which music, cultural or drama productions and school functions may go ahead. Audiences of school students and staff are allowed, but if they involve other members of the public attending then the rules about mass gatherings apply.

c)     EOTC and school trips

These are allowed to go ahead but will need careful planning. Along with your usual risk management schools will need to consider specific risk assessment of responding to a potential COVID-19 illness occurring on the trip.

d)     Managing the return of at risk staff and students

Employees must stay at home if they are sick with COVID-19, are unwell generally, or are caring for a dependant who is sick with COVID-19.

Staff and students who are at higher risk of COVID-19 are now able to return to school, but they will need additional support and preparation to be able to do so safely. Where there are genuine limitations to returning at work, employees may require flexible working arrangements to accommodate those limitations.

Schools should identify:

  • Which staff and students fall into this category, and what their specific risk factors are
  • What measures can be taken to eliminate or mitigate these risks. This may include provision of PPE, increased physical distancing, altered timetables to avoid busy arrival and departure times, or continuing to access teaching and learning from home, and/or rotating days both on-site and working from home.

e)     Increased hygiene and cleaning demand

In essence the requirements here have not changed, but the amount of cleaning required will be much greater.

Schools should identify:

  • How equipment and devices will be cleaned after use, how often, how and by whom classrooms will be cleaned, what cleaning materials will be needed and who will be in charge of monitoring and restocking supplies.

f)       Visitor and attendance tracking

Again these will be the same measures as under level 3, but schools should check to make sure that their systems are still appropriate given the much greater number of students and visitors schools may have under level 2.


2. Communication will be crucial.

How will your school ensure that staff know how to keep themselves and students safe from exposure to COVID-19? How will your school communicate the steps being taken to keep everyone safe?                                                                                                            


Staff and students need access to the right information about keeping themselves well during the pandemic. Don’t assume they will just know how to do this. Make sure they have and know where to get correct, official information.

Schools could:

  • inform staff and students about new procedures and practices before they return to school
  • communicate what the routine for workplace surface cleaning will be, and how this will be incorporated into the school day
  • provide information sheets and display posters
  • discuss physical distancing and hygiene prior to staff arriving on site, and then in staff or department meetings regularly
  • review WorkSafe and Ministry of Health guidance regularly and update internal advice as needed


3. How will your school gather information on the health and wellbeing of staff and students to ensure that they are safe and well to return to school?


It’s vital that staff and students who are unwell or suffering symptoms consistent with COVID-19 don’t come to school until they have either recovered or have been tested and cleared from having COVID-19.

Schools must do a simple daily health screening check of all staff and students on their arrival at school, such as asking if they have any of the recognised symptoms. Decide how this will be done and who is responsible for it.


  • discussing the procedures with staff in advance to get agreement about how you will approach this
  • how you can best encourage staff to stay home if they’re unwell
  • how you’ll follow-up to ensure staff only return if they have recovered or they have been tested and cleared of COVID-19
  • what emotional and psychological support and monitoring is available at the school for students and staff
  • engaging an employee assistance programme if you do not already have one operating
  • identifying and using personal or association support networks regularly


4. How will your school manage an exposure or suspected exposure to COVID-19?


Despite all your best efforts, it’s possible a staff member or student may start to show symptoms consistent with COVID-19 while at school.

Schools must:

  • be able to get immediate advice by contacting Healthline on 0800 358 5453
  • decide in advance who will make the call to Healthline, how you can be sure it’s been done, and who’ll be responsible for implementing the advice
  • contact the student’s primary caregiver or staff member’s next of kin immediately on an up to date number
  • implement clean down procedures in a timely way
  • identify who at the school and on school transport has been in close proximity to that person – this will help with contact tracing.
  • isolate the student or staff member
  • be able to notify staff and parents at short notice of closure for at least 72 hours if a case is confirmed
  • have plans for resuming distance learning if the school is closed for a longer period

When isolating unwell students or staff, think about:

  • where you can isolate them that’s safe and comfortable while you arrange for them to get home
  • how you can support them to get appropriate medical advice, including whether they should be tested for COVID-19
  • how you’ll maintain contact with them, confirm whether they’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19, and how you’ll know when they’re well

Minimising contact between people and providing good information about contacts may lessen the risk to your school community.

Links to more information:

COVID-19: face mask and hygiene advice (

Contact tracing for COVID-19 (

COVID-19: Personal protective equipment for workers (


5. How will your school evaluate whether work processes or risk controls are effective?


To make sure schools can learn and adapt quickly, school leadership, branch chairs, and health and safety reps should pro-actively engage with staff to find out what’s working, what’s not, and how things could be improved.

Ask the students whether they feel safe, how the schools’ practices are working and what they think could make things better.

Schools will already have effective incident reporting approaches that can be adapted to assessing how well their COVID-19 plans are operating.


Last modified on Wednesday, 13 May 2020 11:37