Advice for schools/kura

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

COVID-19 Alert Levels 1–4

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 page:

Health and safety in schools for COVID-19: Guidance for Alert Levels 1–4

See also:

COVID-19 FAQs for schools

Face coverings guidance and FAQs

Previous versions of the Ministry Bulletin for School Leaders | He Pitopito Kōrero

Planning for a pandemic event

Every school should have a pandemic plan in place to support the health and safety of children, students and staff. Pandemic plans should be consistent with public health planning requirements.

Planning for a pandemic event (quick guide)(external link)

Distance learning

If tamariki need to learn from home (or wherever they’re based) due to a COVID-19 resurgence, we have resources and guidance available on our Learning from Home website to support this.

Learning From Home(external link)

Guidance for school hostels

Hostels/schools, as a 'person conducting a business or undertaking' (PCBU), have obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2005 to ensure the health and safety of its staff, children and the public. You must also comply with the Education (Hostels) Regulations 2005.

Guidance for school hostels

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.

Schools connected to a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 [DOCX, 809 KB]

This document provides further information including a number of different scenarios, to help support your planning.

COVID-19 closure planning checklist [DOCX, 29 KB]

This checklist will support your preparations if you are in the future required to close at short notice.

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 judgment 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, your 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.

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)

Urgent Response Fund – supporting wellbeing and attendance

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 families

Apply for the COVID-19 Urgent Response Fund

Targeted support for at-risk ākonga

A funding package has been provided from Budget 20 for targeted support for the 5,530 students in at-risk settings in Alternative Education, Activity Centres, Teen Parent Units and Te Kura Gateway programmes. This support targets learners already at risk of disengagement, who are likely to be disproportionately impacted by the Covid-19 disruptions.

Funding is provided from the 2020 and 2021 years to support these students to re-engage with their learning, and/or to successfully transition on to further education, training or employment.

Enhanced Wellbeing Fund (EWF)

The Enhanced Wellbeing Fund is to provide ākonga/students in at-risk settings support for their continued participation and engagement in education.

Around 5,530 students will benefit, with funding on a per-student basis to providers in Alternative Education, Activity Centres, Teen Parent Units and Te Kura at risk gateway until the end of the 2021 school year.

Wraparound transition support for ākonga moving out of at-risk settings

Existing providers can apply for additional funding to improve support for students transitioning to other training, employment or further education. The fund will also be used to co-design a transition model specifically for Alternative Education (AE) and Activity Centres (AC) providers.

Professional Learning and Development (PLD) for alternative providers

Providers can apply for additional PLD funding to build staff capability to respond to student wellbeing needs.

PLD is also intended to upskill staff in dealing with stress, anxiety, and challenging behaviour in students.

Alternative Education (AE) funding for a temporary extension for ākonga aging out of AE only

The support package includes funding for additional places in alternative education to enable students to remain on for an extra year, without taking the place of newcomers.

For any further details on the package providers should contact their regional offices.

Changes to NCEA to address the impact of COVID-19

The Ministry of Education and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) are making changes to NCEA this year to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

Delays, extensions, and waivers

The changes:

  • 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, allowing students more time to complete their portfolios and teachers more time for marking.
  • The delay to NCEA examinations means they will now finish on 9 December 2020. An amended examination timetable is available on NZQA(external link)’s website.

Changes to NCEA and University Entrance (UE) requirements

  • Students working towards an NCEA can gain additional credits, based on the number of credits they achieve during the 2020 school year. For every five credits a student attains towards their NCEA either through internal or external assessment, they can be awarded one additional credit. Students at NCEA Level 1 are eligible for up to a maximum of 10 additional credits while those at Levels 2 and 3 are eligible for up to a maximum of eight additional credits.
  • Students will be awarded a certificate endorsement if they achieve 46 credits at Merit or Excellence level, rather than the usual 50. Students achieving 12 credits at Merit or Excellence level in a course (rather than 14) will be awarded a course endorsement.
  • Current UE requirements have been reduced from 14 credits to 12 credits in three UE-approved subjects. Students still need to attain NCEA Level 3 and meet literacy and numeracy requirements to be awarded University Entrance.

Approved subjects – NZQA(external link)

Support and NCEA changes for students in Auckland

  • Additional places will be available in programmes led by Te Aho o te Kura Pounamu (Te Kura) from Term 4, to support students most at risk of not achieving their NCEA goals in 2020.
  • In partnership with the Ministry of Education, Te Kura will have extra places in their Summer School this year, for students who need up to 10 additional credits to attain an NCEA or University Entrance award
  • Students working towards an NCEA can gain up to six extra Learning Recognition (LR) Credits at Level 1 and up to four extra LR credits at Levels 2 and 3.
  • The credit requirements for Certificate Endorsements have been reduced further by two credits. This means students will be awarded a certificate endorsement if they achieve 44 credits at Merit or Excellence level, instead of 46.

These changes recognise that students in Auckland lost 13 days of classroom-based learning in August following the resurgence of COVID in the community.

The Ministry of Education and NZQA will look to apply similar measures to other regions should COVID-related school closures occur during the remainder of the 2020 school year.

Further information

Additional support for NCEA students due to continuing COVID disruption (8 September 2020)

Further changes to NCEA and University Entrance address COVID-19 impact (6 June 2020)

Changes to NCEA address impact of COVID-19 (13 May 2020) 

Providing Education and NCEA outside New Zealand

State and State integrated schools are normally unable to provide education to students outside New Zealand, and the Education and Training Act 2020 prohibits the provision of NCEA outside New Zealand with two exceptions.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has created considerable uncertainty about the continuation of New Zealand study pathways for international fee-paying students studying in New Zealand in 2020, as well as for the New Zealand schools that host and educate them.

To provide more certainty for these students and schools, the Act temporarily allows State and State-integrated schools, where approved by the Minister of Education, to provide education to their eligible students while they are based outside New Zealand.

It also allows registered schools to provide NCEA to their students while they are outside New Zealand, where approved by NZQA in accordance with their Rules.

Eligible students are those who were enrolled for the 2020 school year on or before 3 July.

This includes those enrolled students who are currently overseas due to border restrictions and those who are present now and may wish to go back to their home countries but are unsure if they will be able to re-enter New Zealand.

In their application, schools will need to demonstrate they have the capacity, capability and processes to provide suitable learning programmes, information and support to these students while they are outside the country.

All exceptions are time-limited and will expire at the end of 31 December 2022.

This is to allow affected students who are studying towards Level 1 in 2020 to continue their NCEA pathway.

Outside of this response to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the policy settings relating to the provision of education and NCEA to students outside New Zealand have not changed.

Make an application

Schools seeking to provide education and/or NCEA to their eligible students outside New Zealand can apply through this single form.

Read the instructions and the accompanying guidance document carefully as you complete the application, and submit it via email to the address below. We aim to process your application and provide a decision within 20 working days.

To submit completed applications and make further enquiries email:

Read the frequently asked questions here

Read the cabinet paper(external link)

Granting domestic status to school-aged children unable to return home

Around 1,300 school-aged children from overseas are unable to return home due to COVID-19 and cannot currently access education in New Zealand for a number of reasons, including:

  • they could be in breach of their visitor visa requirements
  • they cannot afford the unanticipated costs of international student fees.

Clause (p) in the  Education (Domestic Students) Notice 2021 allows schools to enrol these children as domestic students for Term 1 and 2 of the 2021 school year and collect domestic funding for their education. Schools do not have to be signatories to the Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code of Practice to enrol these children.

You can find the Education (Domestic Students) Notice 2021 on the Gazette website(external link)

Eligibility criteria

The child must meet all of the following criteria to be eligible to enrol as a domestic student:

  • Holds a valid visa. Note, these children are likely to have arrived on a visitor visa.
  • Arrived in New Zealand before 2 April 2020.
  • No prior enrolment and fee payment as an international student since they arrived in New Zealand. They should not have arrived in New Zealand with the intention to enrol as an international fee-paying student.
  • Living with family, either a parent or close family member. This is a person aged 18 years or over, who is financially responsible for the child, and must be either the child’s legal guardian or a relative that has been granted permission by the legal guardian to act as guardian for the child.

Please note, children who have already been enrolled as international fee-paying students are not eligible. They will continue to be considered international students, subject to international fees.

Enrolment and funding process

If schools are aware of children in their community who wish to enrol at their school but are not currently able to do so, they should contact their regional office. The regional office will support schools through the enrolment and funding process.

If enrolling these children causes a schools’ roll to increase by the number needed to receive additional funding, schools can access this through the Extraordinary Roll Growth process, and staffing can be recalculated using the new roll. These are existing processes for funding and staffing, more information can be found here:

Staffing for roll growth

Additional information

28-day waiver

Some schools have been allowing visiting children to attend school under a 28-day waiver. This is a provision that allows a school to enrol an international student for a period of up to 28 days without the payment of any fees, at the principal’s discretion.[1] These children have not paid international student fees so they are able to be enrolled as domestic students under this notice.

Visas and time-limited study rights

The notice does not extend time-limited study rights on a visitor visa. A visitor visa holder is ordinarily entitled to study with a New Zealand education provider for up to three months in any 12-month period. After this time, if a child wishes to continue attending school, they must be granted either a new visitor visa or a student visa.

For more information about visitor visas, see the Immigration New Zealand(external link) website. If you have any questions about temporary changes to visas due to COVID-19, please direct these to Immigration New Zealand.

Examples of who is and is not eligible

A child who came to New Zealand … Then this child is ...
To visit her cousins on a visitor visa. She is staying in with her aunt and uncle and has not been going to school Eligible as they are living with family and have not enrolled as an international student. They can enrol for 3 months on their visitor visa
With her father to visit her grandmother. Her father hoped to enrol her in school and has applied for her to get a student visa. She has been attending school for two weeks without paying fees (at the principal’s discretion) while they wait for her visa to be processed Eligible as they are living with family and have not paid fees as an international student. They will be eligible on their student visa as well
To stay with her grandparents and attend a local school. She arrived on a student visa and has been attending school as an international fee-paying student Ineligible because they have enrolled and paid fees as an international student
With her parents on visitor visas to see if they would like to move to New Zealand. She enrolled with a local school so that she could try it out while the family were in the country. She has been attending school on a visitor visa for 2 months and paying international student fees Ineligible because they have enrolled and paid fees as an international student
In 2019 with her father while he did work in New Zealand. She attended school as a domestic student for 3 months in 2019 as her father’s work visa granted her domestic status. His work visa expired at the end of 2019 but they both stayed in New Zealand on visitor visas for a summer holiday. She has not attended school in 2020 as they cannot afford international student fees Not eligible as they no longer have study rights remaining on their visitor visa. They would be eligible if they applied for a new visitor visa or a student visa.
With her parents to attend a family wedding. They have now been in New Zealand for a few months and have enrolled her in a local school as an international fee-paying student to keep up with her schooling Not eligible as they have enrolled and paid fees as an international student
On a visitor visa as part of a holiday programme and is staying with a host family. She now wishes to attend school but cannot afford international student fees Not eligible as they are not living with family

Please contact your regional office if you require any further information or support. Parents who wish to enrol children under this provision can contact schools for assistance.

International education recovery plan announced

A long-term recovery plan for international education includes a $51.6 million investment to help the sector recover from the impact of COVID-19. There will be three workstreams running concurrently that focus on stabilising the education sector, strengthening the system and accelerating the transformation of the sector, as signalled in the 2018 International Education Strategy.

Support for schools

The Government has approved $20m for Transition Funding to support state and state-integrated schools that have had a reduction in international student numbers, and therefore a decrease in international student revenue, as a result of COVID-19. This funding is for the remainder of the 2020 school year.

This funding is intended to provide transition support to enable schools to ensure continuity of education and pastoral care for international students still in New Zealand through the continued employment of staff working with international students. This funding will relieve financial pressure, giving schools greater ability to transition to lower future numbers of international students.

The Ministry consulted with peak bodies and has developed a formula to allocate the funding to schools. No funding has been approved for future school years.

Further information

How do we calculate the additional funding?

Any state or state-integrated school that has experienced a reduction in their number of international ‘full-time equivalent students’ (EFTS) in 2020 compared to 2019 is eligible.

The formula uses international ‘full-time equivalent students’ (EFTS) rather than comparing headcounts of students at a point in time. This approach takes into account variability in students’ length of stay and avoids skewing funding towards schools with large numbers of very short stay students.  The EFTS data is sourced from ENROL.

The Ministry has calculated each school’s funding using a ‘per-lost-EFTS’ rate and a tiered funding rate. This pays the highest rate for the first five EFTS lost, slightly less for the next five EFTS lost, and so on. Using a tiered approach rather than a flat rate per student recognises that the relative cost of providing education is greater for a small number of students.

Rates are shown below.

EFTS loss

Rate per-EFTS lost October 2020 funding

Rate per-EFTS lost January 2021 funding


$ 3,900



$ 3,400



$ 2,900



$ 2,400



$ 1,900


When will schools be informed?

The funding was automatically paid to eligible schools as part of the October 2020 operational grant instalment. Schools did not need to provide any additional information to the Ministry to receive this funding. All schools received a letter on their School Data Portal on 27 August about additional funding to contribute to unexpected costs resulting from COVID-19. For schools that were eligible for the international student transition funding, this letter also stated the amount they would receive based on this initiative.

What if a school was expecting more students to enrol in 2020 than in 2019?

The funding is not intended to cover losses as a result of lost international student revenue, but to help and support the education and wellbeing of international students still in the country. While the proposed approach doesn’t account for potential growth, and there can be a high degree of variability from year to year, the 2019 information is the best proxy readily available.

In case there are exceptional circumstances for some schools, the Ministry reserved $2 million of funding to allocate with discretion. For example, a school may be able to show extraordinary growth in confirmed enrolments in 2020 that led to the employment of additional staff compared with 2019.

Schools that expected an increase in enrolled international students in 2020 and have had additional costs because of it were able to request additional funding. Schools that had an application approved will receive this funding in the January 2021 operational grant instalment. Any remaining funding will be distributed to all eligible schools as part of their January 2021 operational grant instalment, using the same methodology as October.

Why aren’t private (independent) schools eligible?

Private schools were able to apply for the Government’s COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme.

Isn’t this unfair to schools that don’t receive international income? They may have lost income from grants or fundraising.

This funding is not intended to reimburse schools for their lost international student income. It is intended to provide some support for the rest of the 2020 school year to address the impact on the workforce employed to work with international students, help meet staff costs and ensure continuity of education and pastoral care for international students still in the country, as schools transition to a lower future income stream.

Will $20m cover all schools’ losses?

No, this funding is not intended to cover losses as a result of lost international student revenue, but to help and support the education and wellbeing of international students still in the country.

How does the Recovery Plan relate to the 2018 New Zealand International Education Strategy?

The Recovery Plan is consistent with the vision and objectives of the Strategy which identified sustainability, educational quality, and student experience and wellbeing as key strategic drivers. The strategy was developed following extensive sector consultation.

Further details about the recovery plan

Go to the Education New Zealand website to find out more about the recovery plan and what this means for the international education sector:

International education recovery plan – Education New Zealand(external link)

Managing staff leave

The following leave provisions are available to schools and kura during COVID-19 Alert Levels, including information on how to make claims.

Managing staff leave

Staff travelling to Australia from 19 April

Information about the emergency payment scheme for casual workers

Last reviewed: Has this been useful? Give us your feedback