Alert Level 2: Advice for parents and whānau with children with learning support needs

What does Alert Level 2 mean for children and young people with learning support needs?

Alert Level 2 is about getting back to normal, keeping safety in mind.

Under Alert Level 2, all early learning services, schools and kura are open for all year levels, including Residential Special Schools, Day Special Schools, satellite units and school-operated learning support units.

There may be a very small number of children or young people who have underlying medical conditions  that could place them at higher risk if they were to contract COVID-19. These students may need to continue to learn from home supported by their school team. Advice from the Ministry of Health is that parents should initially consult with their health teams and take their advice about school attendance. This is the time for the family, school and health team to work together to ensure the child’s healthcare plan has appropriate strategies and supports in place for school return.

Advice from the Ministry of Health is that PPE is not required in any educational facility.  Experience in New Zealand and overseas with COVID-19 over the last three months shows that it does not infect or affect children and teens in the same way it does adults. 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.

Students who are unwell or who have had recent contact with people who are unwell, should stay home. Normal hygiene practices are sufficient unless a child or young person develops symptoms or has been in contact with people who are unwell or who are being tested for COVID 19.

Information from the Ministry of Health on underlying medical conditions that may place people at higher-risk if they contract COVID-19 can be found on the Ministry of Health website:

People at higher risk – Ministry of Health (external link)

What about children who attend Day or Residential Special Schools?

All students can return to Day and Residential Special Schools except where a medical condition puts them at higher risk of illness and the risk cannot be managed. These students may need to continue to learn from home during Alert Level 2. Residential facilities and school hostels will resume as usual.

What about children attending Alternative Education or Activity Centres?

All students enrolled in Alternative Education, Activity Centres and Teen Parent Units are able to attend their place of learning during Alert Level 2. 

What about excluded students?

If a student was excluded from school just prior to or during the Alert Level 4 lockdown, the Ministry of Education Regional Office will make contact with parents to assist in finding a new school. Students remain on the excluding school’s roll until a new one is found.  That school remains responsible for their education until the student enrols in another school and should continue to provide distance learning until a new school is found.

How will students get to school?

School transport will resume as usual. All usual SESTA transport services are available, as required. Contact your transport service provider if you need help re-establishing transport assistance.

Travel can be arranged now for students returning to residential schools.

How will children be kept safe at their early learning service, school or kura?

Appropriate public health measures will be put in place to ensure early learning services, schools and kura are safe environments for students and staff.

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.

We know that this is challenging in early learning and schools so the emphasis is on good hygiene practices including keeping children home if they are sick, providing hand sanitiser, ensuring children and young people regularly wash and dry hands, cough and sneeze into their elbow, and try to avoid touching their face. Regular cleaning of high touch surfaces is also important.

Ideally, everyone should keep a distance of two metres from strangers but physical distancing isn’t required for people you know or in situations where contact tracing is in place.  This means there is no physical distance rule in early learning services and schools because they are managed environments, but collecting information for contact tracing remains very important.

Students who are unwell or who have had recent contact with people who are unwell, should stay home.  Similarly, staff who are unwell or who have had recent contact with people who are unwell, should stay home.

Further Public Health advice can be found at:

What is the Public Health advice about schools and early learning centres? (external link)

What about children and young people who need physical support and help with feeding and toileting. How will this be managed?

For children or young people who require close personal care, this will be provided as it usually would be. Normal hygiene practices and the use of any protective equipment that is usually used, such as aprons and gloves for nappy changes or feeding, will reduce the risk of any infection being passed between children and staff members.

What will it be like at school under Alert Level 2?

Schools will feel much the same as they did before we went into lockdown. Bubbles are not required under Alert Level 2 so there are no restrictions on groups of children and students mixing with others on site.  Staff members are able to move between more than one group or class.

A few staff members who have a health condition which could make them more vulnerable to COVID 19, may need to keep working at home.  It is possible that a child may have a different teacher, teacher aide or support worker if schools or centres need to rearrange staffing to manage this.

What supports will be available for children with learning support needs?

Ministry specialists, Resource Teachers, Outreach Teachers and other itinerant teachers will continue to be available to help. They can resume visiting schools and provide a range of strategies, advice and supports for individual or groups of students – including ways to adapt the curriculum, manage students’ anxiety, and support them to re-connect with peers and re-engage in learning.

Individual education and behaviour plans for those students who have them may need to be updated. Ministry specialists, RTLB, LSCs, SENCOs and special school staff can work with families and whānau and teachers to identify issues that could arise as students transition back to early learning or school, and update individual education and behaviour plans where needed. 

What about children who are anxious about returning to school?

Helping all students settle back into school as quickly as possible will be a priority for teachers. They will take time to re-establish relationship, routines and expectations and will make sure children are feeling comfortable.

Learning Support Coordinators, SENCOs or Special School staff members can help teachers plan for students to return successfully to school and assist if children are anxious about returning. They can also work with pastoral care and guidance teams to put wellbeing supports in place for individuals and groups of students

What if children need to learn from home?

If children and young people need to learn at home because they are in isolation or have a medical condition that prevents them from attending on site, teachers should continue to support parents and caregivers with tailored planning and support for these students.

It will be important for schools to talk with the parents or caregivers about:

  • how long the student might need to continue to learn from home,
  • whether the student and whānau have the support they need for effective ongoing distance learning
  • potential technology options to enable the student to participate in classes to support connection and engagement
  • whether it would be possible and beneficial for a teacher aide to work with a student in their home or remotely if necessary to support the student’s learning.

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