15 March 2019 Christchurch Lockdown Review

The 15 March 2019 mosque attacks required an unprecedented response from schools and early learning services in Christchurch.

Following the event, the Ministry of Education initiated an independent review by KPMG(external link) of the lockdown to ensure that any opportunities for improvement were identified and acted on, so we can strengthen any future response should a similar event occur.

The review identified several areas for improvement including:

  • Review current lockdown and broader emergency management guidance
  • Each Police district and Ministry region will have dedicated contact people who can liaise with each other in an emergency event.
  • The Ministry will use Mataara to communicate instantaneously and simultaneously with schools and early learning services in the event of a future emergency.
  • In order to ensure a consistent approach nationally, the Ministry is ensuring their FIRST database, which contains contact details of schools and early learning services, is accurate, so it can be used for future events.
  • The Ministry will work with the NZ Police to develop an emergency management guidance document for parents/caregivers (including how to respond to an incident).
  • The Ministry will consider the findings from this review and make any adjustments to policy (building design) as required.

The Ministry of Education, NZ Police and representatives of early learning services and schools, have now completed the majority of these actions.

Christchurch mosque attacks lockdown review - response to legal questions

Emergency planning guidance for schools and early learning services

Working with sector representatives and NZ Police, the original guidance for schools has been reviewed to now also incorporate support for early learning services. The guidance has been expanded to strengthen the content including clarifying how shelter in place differs from lockdown and when they might be used:

  • A shelter in place directive would be issued when the threat is external and not directed at the school or early learning service such as a nearby chemical spill, swarm of wasps or toxic smoke from a nearby fire.
  • Lockdowns would be used more rarely when a higher-level response is required as the threat is directed at the school or early learning service. For example there is an attacker onsite or on instruction from NZ Police or other emergency services.

The content to support improved planning for students/children with diverse needs has been strengthened and a new section has been included as Appendix 1 to complement: Protecting Our Crowded Places from Attack: New Zealand’s Strategy(external link)

Emergency planning guidance

Police – Ministry of Education connect

Connections between Police and the Ministry of Education have further developed both regionally and nationally.

Emergency cell phones are in place in each Ministry regional office for Police to call if they require Ministry support to quickly contact schools and early learning services in a particular area. For example to request that schools and early learning services in a particular area need to go into lockdown / shelter in place.  The call centre at the Ministry of Education National Office provides a back up to that system.

Any regional office and national office can send messaging via Mataara (see below) to all schools and early learning services across the country, should this be necessary.

There are also key connections between NZ Police District Commanders, Ministry Directors of Education and other senior managers. Ministry National Office staff are also able to directly contact the Police National Command and Coordination Centre if needed.

Mataara and FIRST

Mataara was already under development when the attacks occurred, and is an online emergency tool that allows the Ministry to contact schools and early learning services by text message in the event of an emergency in their area (such as a fire, flood or earthquake). Early learning services leaders and principals may be asked for the status of their service/school. They can reply by text using the corresponding number eg:

(1)        = Open

(2)        = Open – NEED HELP

(3)        = Closed

(4)        = Closed – NEED HELP

The information provided is collated in easy to access reports. This allows the Ministry to quickly prioritise support for schools and early learning services, and follow up with those schools and services which did not reply.

Mataara has now been used for a number of emergency events across the country since it was launched in July 2019.  

There are approximately 250 users in regional offices and national office able to use Mataara to send messages and follow up with schools and early learning services which have not responded, or who have signalled they need help to respond to the emergency event.

FIRST is a Ministry database that captures key contact information for schools and early learning services.  The emergency contact information in FIRST is used by Mataara to send text messages and emails to schools and learning services. Accuracy is primarily reliant on schools and early learning services sending correct and updated contact details.

Further information about Mataara

Guidance for parents and caregivers

Guidance has been developed to support parents and caregivers better understand the emergency planning and responses required in schools or early learning services, and to understand their own role if an emergency were to occur.

The guidance will be translated into a range of languages and will be disseminated to schools and early learning services in Term 1, 2021.

While this is underway, we have developed a simple template [DOC, 55 KB] schools and early learning services can use to summarise the key emergency management information parents and caregivers should know about their school or service. This template can be edited to suit the needs of the school or service and their community.

Building design policy

The Ministry has undertaken a review of their building design policy. The Ministry’s Designing Schools New Zealand Standards document is currently being updated and is due for completion in March 2021.

Next steps for schools and early learning services

Schools and early learning services need to ensure that appropriate local policies and procedures are in place for emergency management which recognise:

  • The school’s/service’s own unique context and environment.
  • Provisions for a longer lockdown/shelter in place.
  • The role of staff (including relief teachers) in supporting the safety and wellbeing of children and young people.
  • The need for adaptive leadership to a range of dynamic potential situations.
  • The role of parents, caregivers and whānau in emergency events.
  • The potential for a future lockdown/shelter in place event to continue outside of normal hours.

In order to develop the appropriate level of preparedness to a range of potential future events, schools and early learning services should ensure:

  • There is adequate communication and practicing of emergency management procedures and policies to staff and regular communication and engagement with parents/caregivers.
  • Emergency management drills are practised at an appropriate level of frequency in line with good practice.
  • School/service leadership and staff, including relief teachers, have adequate emergency management capability.

Schools and early learning services are encouraged to review the Ministry’s emergency planning guidance and identify any opportunities to strengthen their emergency management policies and procedures.

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