Re-opening of Level 3 schools next week a reckless decision

Secondary teachers are dismayed and angry at the Government’s announcement today that senior students in COVID-19 Alert Level 3 areas will return to the classroom from next Tuesday.

“We’re not sure who Minister Hipkins consulted before he made his announcement, but he certainly didn’t talk to PPTA. We have strongly supported public health advice, including mandatory vaccination for teachers, throughout this pandemic. However, we have not seen any public health advice that enables these actions announced today, says Melanie Webber, President of PPTA Te Wehengarua.

“It’s beyond belief that in the very week the case numbers in this pandemic in New Zealand have reached an all-time high and are expected to increase significantly, coupled with the fact that young people aged between 12 and 19 have the lowest vaccination rates, that the Government would open up secondary schools to hundreds of thousands of students.

“The Government seems to have gone from acting out of an abundance of caution to a reckless disregard for the consequences in the blink of an eyelid.

“This announcement has huge implications for teachers’ workload. Teachers will be required to teach both face to face and online and while they will try to do the very best they can, it will be impossible to deliver quality teaching when they’re flicking between channels trying to cater for everyone.

“Many teachers are also anxious about how they’re going to look after their own children. With strict limits on numbers at childcare services in Alert Level 3, many teachers may be forced to bring their own little kids to school with them. And we expect primary schools will have a lot more students from next week.

“The practicalities of re-opening schools safely, such as how you’re going to prevent thousands of young people mingling in and between classes, don’t seem to have been considered. Students and teachers can easily have up to 100 close contacts each day they’re in school.”

The announcement that external exams will go ahead is also of serious concern, says Melanie Webber.  “Our advice was for only NCEA Level 3 external exams to be run in areas currently under Level 3 lockdown in order to give those students in their final year of NCEA the opportunity to achieve the best grade and allow exams to run safely.  Level 1 and 2 NCEA students would receive an unexpected event grade instead of sitting external exams. This would have been the safer option and would have considerably reduced anxiety for many students. Indeed, with the increasing nervousness in Auckland around rising case numbers, the fact that students are being required to sit external exams will significantly add to their anxiety levels. But, again, the Government seems to have thrown all its COVID-19 caution to the wind.”

Last modified on Tuesday, 12 April 2022 11:39