Education and Training Act 2020: New powers for the Secretary for Education when a state of emergency, transition period or epidemic notice is in place
To ensure that the education sector is able to respond to future emergencies and epidemics, sections 653-658 of the Act provide a new set of powers for the Secretary when a state of emergency or transition period is declared under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002, or an epidemic notice is in place under the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006.
The Secretary will be able to direct the governing body of an education entity to:
- close and open an education entity or any part of it,
- close and open an education entity for physical attendance, instruction, or both,
- set restrictions on the attendance of students and those working at an education entity after having regard to any relevant employment and health and safety legislation,
- comply with specified requirements for the operation, management, and control of the education entity,
- provide education or instruction through the education entity in specified ways (e.g. through distance or online learning).
All education entities may be covered by a direction from the Secretary, including early childhood education service providers, all schools, tertiary education organisations, and school hostels.
The Act also enables the Secretary to direct a board of trustees to reopen a school that has been closed due to an emergency, when the Secretary considers that the closure is no longer justified after consulting the board and relevant others.
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