Advice for schools/kura

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

Alert Level 1

Health and safety at Alert Level 1

The Ministry of Education has developed guidance to support schools review their health and safety plan for Alert Level 1.

Managing health and safety in schools at Alert Level 1 [DOCX, 69 KB]

Guidance for School Hostels

We have produced guidance for school hostels during Alert Level 1.

Guidance for school hostels at Alert Level 1 [DOCX, 71 KB]

COVID-19 Alert Levels 1 - 4

New Zealand’s 4-level Alert System(external link) specifies measures to be taken against COVID-19 at each level.

Please note the measures may be updated on the basis of:

  • new scientific knowledge about COVID-19, and
  • information about the effectiveness of intervention measures in New Zealand and elsewhere.

It is therefore possible that the information in this document might need to change. If this occurs, we will quickly advise you of this and update the content and disseminate.

The Alert Levels may be applied at a town, city, territorial local authority, regional or national level.

Specific public health measures may be agreed for schools and early learning services which can differ from the measures applied to other organisations, businesses and individuals. These measures will reflect the context of a school or early learning service environment, including the lower levels of risk for children and young people and the controlled nature of the environment.

Further information on the alert system can be found on the Unite against COVID-19(external link) website.

Health and safety guidance for schools - Alert Levels 1 - 4

For ease of access, we have collated health and safety information on all Alert Levels into one guidance document:

Health and Safety in schools for COVID-19 – Guidance for Alert Levels 1 – 4 [DOCX, 470 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.

The overriding principles for all alert levels are:

  • People who are ill should stay away.
  • People who have flu-like or COVID-like symptoms should seek medical advice and get tested for COVID-19 if advised to do so.
  • Hand hygiene, cough/sneeze etiquette and regular cleaning, particularly of high-touch surfaces, continue to help prevent spread of illness including COVID-19.
  • Your local health authority will contact you if there is a confirmed/probable case linked to the school/early learning service (if you hear of a possible case prior to them contacting you, contact either your local health board or regional Ministry of Education office for support).
  • Local health authorities through the Medical Officer of Health will make the decision whether a school or service needs to close for a period of time, and will determine who is required to undertake self-isolation.
  • Any change in COVID Alert Level will also need to be adhered to.
  • Your Ministry of Education regional office is available to provide support if you have any questions or concerns.

Schools connected to a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 [DOCX, 810 KB]

Previous information and guidance:

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

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 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.
  • If your school is closed but providing distance learning, use code F for students who are learning from home. If they are sick they should be marked as M.
  • 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’.

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 and you are not providing distance learning, 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.

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 were not able to submit their annual reports to the Ministry by 31 May. Schools will not be penalised if they were unable to do so.

The Ministry’s School Finance Advisors are available to support schools with any queries they may have regarding annual reporting.

School Finance Advisors contact details

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)

New education funding to address wellbeing needs as a result of COVID-19

The Government has announced a $66 million package in new funding to support the immediate wellbeing of our learners and educators as a result of COVID-19.

The package includes a $50 million Urgent Response Fund. This will provide immediate support to centre-based early learning services, schools and kura to improve attendance, and to help manage any learning, social, emotional, mental, or other child and youth wellbeing needs directly related to COVID-19. Another $16 million is to support educator wellbeing for the employees of publicly funded early learning services, kōhanga reo, school and kura and their familiesFor more information, go to the news story: $66 million for learner and educator wellbeing.

Offering Education and NCEA Offshore

Proposed amendments to the Education and Training Bill will allow state and state integrated schools to offer education to eligible students based outside of New Zealand, and for registered schools to offer NCEA to eligible students outside of New Zealand. 


  • where approved by the Minister of Education, State and State-integrated schools will temporarily be able to provide education to their students based offshore who are unable to enter New Zealand due to the pandemic (there is nothing preventing private schools from doing this already).
  • where approved by NZQA in accordance with its Rules, registered schools (state, state-integrated and private) will also be able to temporarily provide NCEA to their eligible students while they are offshore. NZQA will be given authority to specify the standards against which a registered school may or may not asses students in this situation – focusing on those standards that are more suitable to teaching, learning and assessment by distance.

These changes are time-limited and will expire with the close of 31 December 2022. This will allow affected students who are enrolled in Level 1 NCEA in 2020, to continue their NCEA pathway through to Level 3. These provisions only apply to students who have an existing 2020 enrolment with a New Zealand school.

NCEA offshore: Frequently asked questions

You can read the Cabinet Paper(external link) here for more information. 


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