School principals concerned over partial re-opening

Concerns have been expressed by principals and teachers over the partial reopening plans for schools under Alert Level 3. It will be tricky trying to deal with possibly fluctuating numbers of pupils at school but also keeping work going for all the kids learning from home.

But Covid-19 lockdowns have disrupted many people in many occupations, making work harder for a lot of us. And making education harder. It’s a given that this year’s education will be tricky for everyone.

Under Level 3, which we may be dropping to next Thursday (a decision will be made on Monday), schools will be opening for children of essential workers and optionally other children to enable parents to go back to work, up until year 10 (the old Form 4).  This allows for care of children up to age 14, who can’t legally be left at home alone.

RNZ – Principals concerned over level 3 reopening: ‘It’s going to be a shambles’

Principals are warning the government’s plans for partially reopening schools at alert level 3 will be a shambles.

Things are a bit of a shambles now.

They warn that teachers will struggle to teach classes in-person and online, social distancing will be nearly impossible to maintain, and parents will send children to school simply because they are sick of having them at home.

Otorohanga College principal Traci Liddall said she could see potential problems with the government’s plans.

“It’s going to be a shambles. Who is allowed to come back? What is the purpose of them coming back? Are they just coming back because parents are sick of them? Are they coming back because they are the children of essential workers?” she said.

“I can’t see it running very smoothly at all.”

The president of the Principals Federation, Perry Rush, said principals needed a lot more detail about how partial reopening would work.

He said there would be challenges with maintaining social distancing at schools.

“That is always a really difficult challenge in any school and it will largely be impossible,” he said.

The president of the Auckland Secondary Principals Association, Richard Dykes, said teachers would not be able to provide an in-class lesson for students who were present in person and a remote lesson for those studying from home.

“If students do turn up, they’re going to be working online, maybe with some teacher oversight, but certainly it won’t be face-to-face teaching as we know it,” he said.

Dykes said he expected most students would stay home.

RNZ: Covid-19 level 3 school rules ‘most irresponsible’ – Auckland Grammar headmaster

An Auckland headmaster says the government’s decision to partially reopen schools is totally irresponsible and teachers are being asked to babysit, not educate.

… teachers and students will still have to keep their social distance. Auckland Grammar Headmaster Tim O’Connor said he had no idea how it would all work.

“It is, from my mindset, one of the most irresponsible decisions for New Zealand education in my time as headmaster of the school.”

Perhaps schools have a responsibility to help out how they can in a time of unprecedented disruption to out society.

O’Connor said that if it’s safe to partially reopen a school under alert level 3, the government should be targeting the students who are most in need in the secondary sector – the Year 12 and 13 students who are sitting NCEA, Cambridge, or International Baccalaureate.

Older students will be best able to mamange their own learning from home.

“The government’s not making a decision about education, it’s making a decision about how to provide child care for reopening the country.

Like everything else education has been massively disrupted by Covid-19.  Principals can’t expect a plan could have been made to carry on with education as usual this term.

It can’t be anything like back to normal. I don’t think teachers will be expected to provide full curriculum learning for all students at school and home. The aim is a partial resumption of studies and allow for a partial resumption of work for some parents. So that’ means a form of babysitting.

Learning from home and transitioning back to school will be a big challenge for schools, but they should be seeing what they can do as best they can in the circumstances.

However it is tricky for teachers concerned about catching the virus, some will not want to go back to schooling pupils in person, and that’s understandable. Resuming classes at school should be optional for them too.

Government late addressing teacher shortages

The Government is suddenly trying to address severe teacher shortages.

NZ Herald:  Overseas teacher recruitment drive doubles

The Government has more than doubled its target for recruiting overseas teachers to fill a shortfall of 850 teachers next year.

Only three weeks after the Ministry of Education announced a target of recruiting 400 overseas teachers by the start of next year, Education Minister Chris Hipkins has raised the target for 2019 to 900.

He has allocated an extra $10.5 million, on top of $29.5m earmarked last December, for a package of measures including:

• More overseas relocation grants of up to $5000 for immigrants and $7000 for returning Kiwis, plus $3000 to cover the school’s recruitment costs.

A new grant to encourage schools to employ newly graduated NZ teachers. At present only 80 per cent of new graduates get teaching jobs despite the teacher shortage.

• Expanding the current short-term policy of free refresher courses for teachers returning to teach after an absence so it can also be used by overseas teachers to meet certification requirements with the Teaching Council. Teachers required to repeat or re-sit aspects of the programme will also have their fees waived.

• Changes to the criteria to enable more schools to appoint unregistered teachers as teachers with “limited authority to teach” in a specified subject or area.

• Additional funding for agencies to process more overseas teacher applications.

Hipkins said new analysis by the Ministry of Education showed that 650 extra primary teachers and 200 extra secondary teachers would be needed in 2019 to meet a rising level of demand, driven mainly by a forecast growth in the number of students in schools.

NZ Herald: Schools doubt new goal of recruiting 900 overseas teachers

Schools say a new package to recruit more teachers is too late for the next school year and won’t be able to attract the target of 900 overseas teachers.

Ministry of Education deputy secretary Ellen MacGregor-Reid said the new grants “will be targeted where there are shortages of teachers in some subjects and locations”.

However Auckland Secondary School Principals Association chairman Richard Dykes said eligibility criteria for the new grant would not be available until November, which would be too late to have much impact on recruitment for the new school year.

“It’s great to see the Government doing something, but it’s really frustrating that it’s taken until this late in the year to do it, because the impact is going to be very limited,” he said.

“It would have been extremely useful in July when I was busy trying to get skilled teachers to come into Auckland.

“To say I’m not going to find out about this until November is just not good enough, for goodness sake! It’s too late.”

It does seem ridiculously late in the year to try and get more teachers from overseas.

Chris Hipkins on Q+A last night: