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Proposed move to Alert Level 3: letter to the Minister

17 April 2020

We've again been listening to teachers and professional leaders and we know, as much as we all want to return to normality, there's concerns about how you can safely and practically move to Level 3. It is crucial the health and safety of teachers, their whānau and the children and young people they teach is top of mind. There are still some unknowns about how this will work in practice. Any plan for re-opening schools must acknowledge the expertise of leaders and teachers - they know their settings, community and learners better than anyone and need to be part of the decision-making.

We've written the below letter to Minister Hipkins, sharing the concerns the Council is hearing from the profession. 

17 April 2020

Tēnā koe e te Minita,

Ka nui rā āku mihi ki a koe, môu i kaha rawa te arataki i te haumaru mõ ngā tangata katoa.
Teachers and leaders have again risen to a challenge life has thrown their way, facing down
the daunting task of teaching and supporting learners and their whānau online with
resiliency and ingenuity. Parents across the country will be further realising just how
irreplaceable and crucial teachers are in their children’s lives.

When the call comes to move into Alert Level 3 some teachers and leaders will move into the
frontlines, returning to centres, schools and kura. This level of commitment by teachers to
learners, the profession and whānau is reflected in the Code of Professional Responsibility
and shows the dedication of the teaching profession to support Aotearoa during these
challenging times. However, Level 3 looks likely to be the most complex level to navigate for
teachers. They are reflecting normal feelings of uncertainty, which will be helped by taking
the below into consideration.

We agree now is the time to begin planning for what a move into Level 3 will look like for
centres, schools and kura, but there will be no one one-size-fits-all plan. Leaders in each
setting must have the autonomy to determine their own plan for when and how they will
safely re-open to children and teachers, taking into consideration the personal circumstances
of each. They are the experts in their communities and have the ability to construct a flexible,
creative and resilient approach to making Level 3 work for the good of their teachers,
learners and community. As always, they will continue to seek support as needed and work
together in their communities. We ask for a reiteration of a message you gave recently, that it
is unlikely all schools and centres will go back at the same time.

Leaders, with support of their staff, also need the authority and autonomy to agree to
children attending or not. This decision-making should not rest entirely with parents and
caregivers on a voluntary basis. We strongly suggest authority is given to principals and
centre leaders/owners to make decisions based on their resource planning, which will inform
how many children and families they can safely support and educate onsite and offsite.
Principals and centre leaders should be entrusted to work with their families, communities
and fellow schools and centres to ensure all needs are met, with consideration of parents
who are essential workers or are returning to work.

The Teaching Council requests to be included in conversations around planning for Level 3 to
ensure education outcomes are met alongside health and economic considerations.

Finally, we would like to acknowledge your leadership, Minister Hipkins, and that of your
government, and thank you for listening to all voices as you guide us through this
uncharted territory.

Nāku ā ngākau whakaiti nei,

Nicola Ngarewa,
Board Chair

Lesley Hoskin,
Chief Executive

Downloadable PDF version