Minister of Education on schools reopening after lockdown

Minister of Education Chris Hipkins talking on Q+A this morning. He said some schools may be able to re-open for some students on 29 April (the Wednesday after Anzac Day), depending on whether the Level 4 lockdown is relaxed or not, but some student working from home is likely for some time.

While Level 3 rules are to be clarified next week Hipkins hinted “When the country moved to alert Level 3, only children of essential workers were able to attend school.”

“Don’t assume when we move from 4 to 3, whenever that may be, that everything will go back at once.”

Alert Level 4 is clear: “educational facilities closed”

Alert Level 3 is vague: “affected educational facilities closed”

The Prime Minister last Thursday (9 April): “We need to give similar more detailed guidance on what life at Level 3 looks like, and we will do that next week.”

School reopening decisions will be made based on public health advice. Children of essential workers may be allowed back to school before others, and some schools are likely to open before others.

Some teachers are older or have health conditions so not all staff may be available as soon as schools get the go-ahead to re-open.

What will schools be like when they restart? The are likely to be quite different. No assemblies and contact limited as much as possible. Social distancing is a particular challenge with young children.

Some children may go back to school part time and do some work from home.

1 News:  Schools given potential return date for students, should Level 4 lockdown be lifted after 28 days

Some students could start returning to school for face-to-face lessons on Wednesday April 29, should the Level 4 lockdown be lifted after four weeks.

However, Education Minister Chris Hipkins told TVNZ1’s Q+A with Jack Tame that parents should be prepared for a “significant amount of young people” to be kept at home for longer, even after the lockdown ends.

If New Zealand comes out of lockdown on the scheduled date of April 22, some schools have been told they could open for learning a week later – the Wednesday after Anzac weekend.

“I do want to keep expectations quite reasonable here. When we move from Level 4 to Level 3 it doesn’t mean everything goes back to normal, even if we have schools and early learning centres open they won’t necessarily be fully open or open for everybody.”

“There’s still a lot of work going on to make sure we’ve got the public health risk of schools and early childhood services fully understood.”

“We do need a bit of time for teachers to come back into their classrooms. It may be in the first instances they may be able to go back into their classrooms and deliver remote learning from that school environment where the broadband connection is better and they have more access to resources.”

Mr Hipkins said there may be changes at schools such as some would not be able to have assemblies “for a while”, students would be asked to limit contact as much as possible and some students may continue learning from home.

He said the workforces that created “the most anxiety when we think about reopening” were those with a high percentage in the ‘at risk’ Covid-19 demographic, including bus drivers, and relief teachers.

Last week, Mr Hipkins presented to the Covid-19 select committee, warning parents to prepare for a variety of different scenarios and for potentially keeping children at home for longer than the end of the lockdown.

“It would be wrong to assume all schools and early learning services would simply reopen as we move out of Level 4 lockdown. That’s not going to happen frankly.

“I’m not saying they won’t reopen at all, but simply saying they’ll all be open from day one isn’t a realistic option.”

When the country moved to alert Level 3, only children of essential workers were able to attend school.

So it looks like it will take a while for most kids to get back to school, even if reduction of Covid restrictions go well,

Note that last line: “When the country moved to alert Level 3, only children of essential workers were able to attend school”.

So we still have to wait and see what the Level 3 rules will be on schools (business and everything else) but Hipkins has given us a big hint.

And then “on the 20th of April, two days before the lockdown is due to finish, Cabinet will make a decision on our next steps” – that is, whether we will drop to level 3 or not. It seems very unlikely we will drop straight to level 2.


Leave a comment


  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  12th April 2020

    The UK experience was that of the 20% of children of essential workers expected to attend school only 2% actually did. The fear factor hit hard.

    • That’s possibly because many essential workers are health workers and realised the dangers of better than most of putting their kids at risk.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  12th April 2020

        Yes. And other rather well-paid govt employees no doubt who could easily arrange alternatives or were working from home anyway.

      • Duker

         /  12th April 2020

        maybe they should tell those UK health workers that UK data on 9000 deaths show that 92% are over 60 yrs old. The risk to school age school age children who dont have health conditions must be minute
        Its better to keep those 60+ in quarantine than keep school kids at home

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  12th April 2020

          But the fear is mostly of children spreading it to adults.

    • David

       /  12th April 2020

      Logically you would exclude essential workers kids from schools given their parents are the ones most likely exposed to the virus, makes it safer for the families of other kids.
      Not fair but logical.

      • Duker

         /  12th April 2020

        I read somewhere that the front line hospital staff are given option of city hotel room ( plenty of vacancies) so they dont have to go back to family

  2. Gezza

     /  12th April 2020

    It’s not a good look when the Minister of Education says:

    ..parents should be prepared for a “significant amount of young people” to be kept at home for longer, even after the lockdown ends

    instead of, more correctly, “a significant number of young people”….

    Mind you, he IS working for a PM of maybe about the same age who went all the way thru the NZ education system & gained a Communications degree – and, when she speaks, apparently can’t differentiate between d’s & t’s, and thinks something is sumpthink, anything is anythink, & nothing is nuthink.

    Where did it all go wrong, people? Was it primary school, when the Education gurus suddenly decided schools should no longer correct early primers’ spelling? That it was more impordint for them to lern how to express themselves? And that correcting spelling could come layda?

    • Corky

       /  12th April 2020

      You seem to have a good ear for the spoken word. Have you worked with the deaf?

      Re – school restart. Apparently assemblies will not happen. Sports activities. Group activities, may be curtailed. Under those conditions I would prefer children be kept at home.
      School would become an onerous activity without play and group activities.

      • Gezza

         /  12th April 2020

        “You seem to have a good ear for the spoken word.”

        Thank you. Yes, I have. So much so that I even seem to pick up accents by osmosis, without meaning to. Put me in amongst a bunch of poms, yanks or Maoris in a social setting & the next thing you know I’m sounding like one of them! I guess some individuals might think I was taking the Mickey, but I’m not. It just happens unconsciously.

        “Have you worked with the deaf?”

        Only on this blog these days.

        I worked for several years – as did other colleagues – with a young lady who was deaf tho. Her mother was determined that she should not learn sign language but should learn instead to function in the hearing world by having speech therapy & learning to lip read. In some ways she was impressive in her ability to do this, but it did also lead to misunderstandings & she took offence easily.

      • Gezza

         /  12th April 2020

        I agree with that opinion article. Melissa Stokes, 1News @ 6 anchor on the weekends positively shrieks the news ! I can’t bear more than a few minutes of her over-excited girly squawk talk.

  1. Minister of Education on schools reopening after lockdown — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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