Advice for schools/kura

Information for schools/kura about COVID-19 (novel coronavirus).

This section was updated on Friday 22 May at 5:40pm

Alert Level 2

Under Alert Level 2, it is safe for all schools to be open. Safe and sensible practices for hygiene and contact tracing will be the norm, and all students will be able to return, so long as they remain well.

Also at Alert Level 2:

  • Residential Specialist Schools and Day Specialist Schools including satellite units will be open for children to attend.
  • School hostels return to full occupation.
  • Ministry staff supplemented by resource teachers and school staff continue to support children with learning support needs by phone and Skype where their health status requires them to stay isolated.
  • School transport will resume.
  • The Food in Schools Programmes will be fully operational (extra health provisions will apply).
  • OSCAR programmes can open as can other before and after school programmes.
  • An increased number of school redevelopment and construction projects may be able to resume if the requirements of Alert Level 2 can be met.

See the Public Health statement for the Education Sector noting why it is safe for children and young people to return learning on-site.

Public Health Statement for the Education Sector

We have carefully looked at the evidence around COVID-19 and educational settings, and at the experience of other countries in responding to COVID-19 in these settings to inform the public health advice to the education sector in planning for a move to Level 2.

Our experience in New Zealand and overseas with COVID-19 over the last four months shows that it does not infect or affect children and teens in the same way it does adults.

So children and teens have low infection rates, they don't become that unwell if they do get infected, and they don't tend to pass the virus on to adults.

Quality education is a public health intervention in itself, so I am very aware of the benefits of children and young people attending school and early learning, and the need to support children and young people to do this as quickly as we can.
The two key public health principles that support our approach at Alert Level 2 are first to minimise the risk that someone gets infected in the first place, and second to ensure we can identify and contact anyone who has been in close contact with a person, if someone in a school or early learning centre is infected.
Any children, young people and staff should stay at home if they are sick, or should be sent home immediately if they show any symptoms.
Physical distancing is a good precaution to prevent the spread of disease. In an Alert level 2 school environment, this means children, young people, and staff maintaining a physical distance so that they are not breathing on or touching each other, coupled with good hygiene practices (coughing into your elbow, handwashing and drying) and regular cleaning of commonly touched surfaces.
There are situations where physical distancing is not possible, such as some sporting activities. In these situations extra emphasis on handwashing and drying (or cleansing with hand sanitiser) before and after activities and regular cleaning of equipment is recommended.
In an early learning environment, it is not really possible to have a physical distance between children and staffYoung children require a lot of physical support and it is not possible to explain or maintain a physical distance between young children given the age of the children and set up of centres.
This means good hygiene practices (coughing into your elbow, regular handwashing, and drying) are even more important.

Schools and early learning services will also maintain registers so that children, young people and staff can immediately be contacted by public health services if there is a probable or confirmed case.
And it is important that parents fully support this approach by doing their bit - keeping children home if they are unwell and seeking medical advice about whether a child may need to be tested; and ensuring great hygiene practices at all times.

Dr Caroline McElnay
Director, Public Health, Ministry of Health

Health and safety at alert level 2

The key principles for Alert Level 2 (external link)  are to:

  • reduce the risk of someone getting infected in the first place
  • ensure we can identify and contact anyone who becomes infected
  • understand that Level 2 is not business as usual.

Schools will continue to focus their practice on:

  • enabling good hygiene practices – regular washing and drying of hands and good cough and sneeze etiquette remain fundamental to preventing spread of illness such as colds, flu and COVID-19
  • ensuring people with COVID-19 symptoms or who are generally unwell, stay away
  • maintaining physical distancing where practicable - in schools at Alert Level 2 this means children, young people, and staff maintaining a physical distance so that they are not breathing on or touching each other (there is no minimum distance requirement for schools at Alert Level 2)
  • keeping track of people that enter their school. 

The Ministry of Education has developed guidance to support schools review their health and safety plan and incorporate the public health requirements for Alert Level 2.

Health and safety in schools at Alert Level 2 [DOCX, 84 KB].

Guidance for School Hostels

We have produced guidance for school hostels during Alert Level 2. School hostels must meet a number of public health requirements. These are set out in the guidance.

Specific Guidance for school hostels at Alert Level 2 [DOCX, 118 KB]

Schools linked to a confirmed or probable case

If you have a probable case or confirmed case of COVID-19 in your school, cases will be notified to you by the Medical Officer of Health or your local public health authority. Support will be provided to assist you to communicate to your parent community and staff. Close contacts will need to self-isolate and your school will be required to close for at least 72 hours.

More information is available here: Schools connected to a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 [DOCX, 805 KB]

Detailed guidance at Alert Level 2

For more detailed guidance and information for schools at Alert Level 2 see:

Specific public health measures for schools can be found here. [DOCX, 32 KB]

Alert Level 2 FAQs Schools and Early Learning Centres

Read the School Bulletin – 21 May 2020 (external link)  for information about:

  • New Public Health Response Order – accurate information
  • Non-teaching staff collective agreements
  • June Roll Return for Years 9 and above only
  • School Donations Scheme and information for proprietors
  • Switching from daily to weekly attendance reporting
  • NZ COVID Tracer App
  • Things to consider when choosing a contact tracing app
  • ClassroomNZ2020 online courses
  • Home Learning | Papa Kāinga TV resources for teachers
  • Supporting learning through Alert Level 2 and beyond. 

Read previous versions of the Ministry Bulletin for School Leaders | He Pitopito Kōrero (external link)

Changes to NCEA

Changes to NCEA for 2020 are to help ensure that all students have a fair opportunity to achieve NCEA as a result of COVID-19.

The changes, effective immediately, are to:

  • delay external NCEA examinations and New Zealand Scholarship examinations so they start on 16 November instead of 6 November, allowing another week for teaching, learning and internal assessment in Term Four,
  • extend the submission date for subjects which require students to submit a portfolio, such as Design and Visual Communication, from 28 October to 12 November 2020, giving students more time to prepare, and
  • waive the requirement for NZQA verification of Level 1 and 2 Visual Arts portfolios, meaning students will have more time to complete their portfolios and teachers will have more time for marking.

The Ministry of Education and NZQA will also work with the NCEA Professional Advisory Group to consider how to address equity issues arising from the disruption. NZQA is consulting with Universities New Zealand on whether there should be changes to the requirements for University Entrance this year, in light of COVID-19.

Ministry school transport services under alert level 2

Unlike public spaces, our school buses, like school classrooms, are controlled environments. Ministry of Health guidelines make it clear that in some environments like school classrooms or early learning Centres it’s not always practical to have physical distance restrictions in place, so observing all the necessary hygiene requirements is the key priority.

Schools also know which of their students are in the classroom and travelling on the school bus, so contact tracing can take place if required.

We are satisfied that by prioritising and maintaining good hygiene practices in line with Ministry of Health advice and making sure that every bus is cleaned in accordance with Ministry of Transport guidelines, with all touch points cleaned after each journey (twice daily), our school transport services will be managed safely.

We cannot predict how many students will be accessing school bus transport from Monday when schools welcome them back. We understand some families may be anxious about their children using school transport for the first time in a while and may prefer to make other arrangements, and we respect that choice.

In the meantime, we will be working with our school transport services to make sure the necessary hygiene requirements are being met. Just as schools will be provided with hand sanitiser for the classroom, hand sanitisers will also be available on every vehicle for the students to use when getting on and off.

Schools will continue to make sure they are observing all the necessary hygiene requirements once students arrive onsite and have plenty of information for young people and parents around good health and hygiene.

Special school transport assistance

SESTA (special school transport assistance) services will run to normal timetables. Transport operators will liaise with families about their transport needs.

Driver safety

Drivers’ employers will be taking extra measures to make them feel safe in their workplace, such as leaving seats in close proximity to the driver free. Physical distancing isn’t practicable on school buses, however, it’s a controlled environment where contact tracing can take place if required.

Support for distance learning

Until or around 29 April, all schools will be physically closed. Distance learning will continue beyond 29 April for all learners except for those who need to attend school.

Schools will only be open under Alert Level 3 for learners up to Year 10. All learners who can stay at home during Alert Level 3 should continue to do so.”

Distance learning will continue beyond April 29 for all learners except for those who need to attend school. Schools will only be open under Alert Level 3 for learners up to Year 10. All learners who can stay at home during Alert Level 3 should continue to do so.

Online resources

To support distance learning, we are enhancing the resources available in two relatively new online spaces: Learning from home (external link)  and Ki te Ao Mārama (external link) .

They include a range of resources for parents and whānau, teachers and leaders, for early learning through to senior secondary. We will continue to work with you to develop and add to these resources over the coming weeks. 
Ki te Ao Mārama has been developed to support those students learning te reo Māori and for those in kōhanga reo, kura and Māori medium settings. 

You can use both online spaces to point students to activities that you think would help them learn at home. We are also adding planning tools to support you in your future planning for distance learning online.
If you have any suggestions that would help others or requests for specific types of resources for the website please contact

For ideas and feedback that would support learning te reo Māori at home and for those learning in te reo Māori, please contact

Access to devices and the internet

Reimbursement for schools’ device purchases

The Ministry will reimburse schools who, between Monday 9 March and Monday 8 April (inclusive), proactively purchased or ordered laptops, Chromebooks or iPads to support distance learning. Reimbursement applies only to laptops, iPads and Chromebooks purchased for students to support distance learning

For more information on eligibility criteria and on seeking reimbursement, see COVID-19 update (external link)  (5 May 2020).

We have worked with principals to identify students who are likely to need additional resources, devices, internet connectivity or hard copy learning materials, to continue their learning from home.

We won’t be able to meet everyone’s needs all at once but we will continue to work with schools to provide as much as we can, as it is available. We are targeting the greatest need first.

We will focus on connecting students in senior secondary school working towards NCEA – to minimise disruption for those working towards a qualification – and on those with greatest need due to disadvantage. We will then move down the year levels from years 10 to 1.

Update on hard copy learning packs

Working closely with schools, the Ministry has delivered 152,000 hard packs of learning materials to Years 1-10 students’ homes (as at 5 May). Whatever decision is taken on 11 May, suitable distance learning support will be there for students needing it and we will provide more information about this shortly. Home Learning TV remains available to support learners at home.

Orders are closed for Ki te Ao Mārama hard learning packs. Distributors are fulfilling all existing orders as quickly as possible. We will update the sector with further information about hard learning packs when tranche 2 is confirmed. Online teaching and learning resources on Ki te Ao Mārama (external link) and educational programming on Māori Television, Mauri Reo Mauri Ora (external link) , are still available to support ākonga to learn from home.

Television channels

Two television channels are broadcasting education-related content until 10 June – one for English medium and one for Māori medium, including content targeted for Pacific and other communities.

The broadcasts run over six and a half hours during the day, and include specialised content for a broad curriculum that includes movement, music, physical education, wellbeing, numeracy, literacy and science through an integrated approach to curriculum.

Details of the upcoming week’s lessons for the English channel can be found on the Learning From Home website, enabling teachers in particular, to incorporate the TV lessons into their teaching programmes.

Helpdesk for distance learning

We have set up a Connected Learning Advisory helpdesk to assist leaders, teachers, kaiako and whānau to make full use of the online environments and resources, as they provide for a continuity of learning for their students and tamariki. CORE Education, which runs the helpdesk, will provide this and other online support from 8 am to 5 pm on business days.

To contact the Helpdesk, call 0800 700 401. To speak with the Helpdesk in te reo Māori, call 0508 294 462.

The Helpdesk numbers are available on Learning from Home (external link)  and Ki te Ao Mārama (external link) .

PLD Supports

If you have a current PLD allocation, you can repurpose your existing hours, with your facilitators, so that they can support you to prepare for distance learning.

You can also request new PLD to support with distance learning. To date, this has been through emailing the mailbox to register your interest. However, we are working with the Regional Office teams to gather further information on which schools and kura might need PLD support, and they may be in contact with you in the coming days.

The Term 1 PLD round has been put on hold until further notice. All proposals that have been submitted will remain in the system – we will update you at a later date to inform you of the process that will be followed.


NZQA and the Ministry of Education will help schools develop effective plans for NCEA assessment and qualifications for students affected by COVID-19, including supporting remote learning. Work is also underway to make sure that all qualifications, awards and pathways (including University Entrance and Vocational Pathways) will remain available.  
For students taking part in Trades Academies and Gateway Programmes, further information can be found at Youth Guarantee website (external link) .

Microsoft & Google technology support sessions for schools establishing distance learning

To assist schools who have any technology support questions (where you can ask anything) Microsoft & Google are holding online meetings to support schools establishing or offering distance learning for their students.
Alternatively schools can get assistance from their IT Service Provider.

Some useful Microsoft links are: Microsoft Remote-Learning (external link)  and (external link) .
Schools can participate in Google Hangouts meeting drop in sessions at This location (external link) . Other useful Google links are: Teach from Home (external link)  and the Learning Hub (external link) .

Here is some information and things to consider when choosing a video conferencing tool to support your work:

Video conferencing options

Attendance codes

Please continue to record attendance in your SMS for ALL your students:

  • For students attending on-site, use your usual attendance codes to record their attendance (or absence)
  • For students who are undertaking school-led learning from home, such as those required to self-isolate, or who are choosing to remain learning at home because they are at-risk of serious illness from COVID-19, it is recommended you use attendance code F. Code F is ‘student attending an off-site course/class (the student is not in class but is on a legitimate off-site school-based course)’.
  • In the event a student’s absence is unexplained or they are unwell, principals can continue to use their own professional judgement in using codes ‘J’, ‘M’, ‘T’ or ‘E’.
  • For students undertaking mandatory self-isolation, they should be engaging in school-led distance learning, so the Ministry recommends using the code F. If they are sick they should be marked as M. 

Mandatory self-isolation – Ministry of Health (external link)

If your school has been, or will in the future, be closed for instruction (both on-site and learning from home) for a short period while the health authorities trace and contact anyone who might have been affected, or where all staff and students have been asked to undertake self-isolation, attendance should not be marked. Instead the school should be recorded as closed for instruction in your Student Management System calendar.

If you continue to support distance learning through this period of closure, you school is considered to be open for instruction and you will need to record attendance in your SMS for all students.

For schools closed for in-person classes for a further period of up to 14 days by health authorities, wherever possible you should implement your distance learning programme during this period. The SMS calendar should show the school as open for instruction and attendance should be marked for all students. Students engaging in school-led distance learning should be marked F.

Please contact your regional Ministry office if you have any questions or concerns about attendance, including supporting distance learning following a request to close the school by Health authorities.


Extension of contingent workforce emergency payment support during Level 3

During the Alert Level 4 lockdown, the Government established an emergency payment scheme for school and kura employees and kaimahi paid using time-sheets and hired on an ‘as needed’ basis, such as day relief teachers and kairīwhi, and a range of non-teaching staff.
At Alert Level 3, there are still many staff whose employment continues to be uncertain for a number of reasons. To support this part-time workforce during these times, the Government has extended the emergency payment scheme during Alert Level 3.

Visit our website for more information including eligibility criteria

School employees will continue to be paid with no change to the regularity of payments every fortnight. We are working through the detail at the moment.
For payroll related queries please contact

A special School Bulletin was issued on 31 March updating schools on a number of payroll matters:

Ministry Bulletin for School Leaders | He Pitopito Kōrero
(external link)

Staffing provisions

We have further updated our information online for all staffing provisions here: Staffing provisions (external link) .

Annual Reporting and School Audit Process

We understand that the health, safety and wellbeing of staff and students is the priority for schools at present. This means that annual reporting obligations are unlikely to be an area of focus for schools while managing their response to COVID-19.

While many schools did manage to submit their annual financial statements to their auditors by 31 March 2020, others were not able to do so. Many schools have also found it difficult to participate in the audit process as their normally would, with access to records restricted during alert levels 3 and 4.

We understand that this means some schools will not be able to submit their annual reports to the Ministry by 31 May. Schools will not be penalised if they are unable to do so.

The Ministry’s School Finance Advisors are available to support schools with any queries they may have regarding annual reporting. Their contact details are available on our website here (external link) .

Supporting the wellbeing of students

A number of your community may be feeling worried about COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). 

Here is some advice about how you can support the wellbeing of your students and their families:

COVID-19 and wellbeing

More health advice is available on the Ministry of Health website:

COVID-19 health advice for the public – Ministry of Health (external link)

International students – critical incidents, homestay issues and supporting mental wellbeing

Guidance on responding to pastoral care issues for that may arise for international students during lockdown:

Critical incidents, homestay issues and supporting mental wellbeing


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