MoE update 28 February 2021

Early Learning Bulletin 28 February 2021

Message from the Secretary for Education

Kia ora koutou

The Prime Minister last night announced that from 6am this morning Auckland would return to Alert Level 3 for a period of seven days, and the rest of New Zealand would go to Alert Level 2 for the same period. 
 
This decision was taken for two reasons – first it is not immediately clear how the latest person to test positive got infected and second, that person has visited several large sites while potentially infectious and it will take some time to identify and track down what could be a large number of people.  
 
This is particularly tough on Auckland. The planning you have done for resurgence is so important. 

We are rerunning our key guidance for Alert Level 3 and Alert Level 2 in this Bulletin and our Auckland staff are ready to support you in any way they can. A reminder for Auckland services that you need to be physically open to receive children whose parents have to work and need to send their children to early learning. We know this is a very small number overall but it’s very important that we support those parents that are unable to work from home.
 
I can’t emphasise enough how important it is for connections to continue to be made with family and whānau and their tamariki; being in touch virtually and making sure children are OK cannot be overestimated, particularly in times like this.
 
Included below is a template letter for Auckland services to use if helpful.
 
Please reach out to your local office if you need additional support to ensure the health and wellbeing of your children and young people and your staff. And remember – be kind and look after each other!
 
Kia kaha
Iona

In today’s bulletin:

Information for services at Alert Level 3

  • Early learning services at Alert Level 3
  • Funding arrangements for early learning services at Alert Level 3
  • Business Support
  • Supporting staff at Alert Level 3
  • Contactless pick-ups of resources in Alert Level 3

Information for services at Alert Level 2

  • Early learning services at Alert Level 2
  • Funding arrangements for early learning services at Alert Level 2 
  • Business Support
  • Supporting staff at Alert Level 2

Early learning services at Alert Level 3 – Auckland Region

Alert Level 3 applies from 6am Sunday February 28: 

  1. Early Learning Services are open for children who need to attend
    Any child who can’t be supervised at home by an appropriate person, needs to be able to attend early learning.  Services, including home-based services, are expected to be open for these children to attend (unless they are unwell or have been asked to stay away by health authorities e.g. because they are self-isolating).  Playcentres and playgroups must be closed during Alert Level 3.
     
  2. There is no such thing as an “essential service/business” at Alert Level 3 (only at Alert Level 4)
    At Alert Level 3 a large range of businesses and services are operating (including early learning services and schools) which means that parents and caregivers may be required to go to work, rather than work from or stay at home.
     
  3. Bubbles will need to be put in place for those attending on-site
    For those who are on-site, bubbles of no more than 20 children will need to be formed and keep a 2-metre distance from other bubbles. Where possible, it is recommended that teachers stay with the same bubble of children.
     
  4. Early learning services are not classified as gatherings
    Early learning services are exempted from physical distancing requirements when people are there to receive, provide, or support education services. All other requirements specified in the COVID-19 Public Health Response orders do however apply. 
     
  5. Services will close for cleaning and contact tracing if there is a confirmed case who was infectious when at the service.
    Your Director of Education will work closely with you and health authorities should this occur. Please contact your Ministry regional office if you hear of a confirmed case in your early learning community but haven’t been advised about it by health officials.
     
  6. Testing remains a crucial component in preventing an outbreak.
    If a child or staff member is sick, they should stay home. If they have cold or flu symptoms, they should call their doctor or Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice about getting tested. If recommended to get tested, they should do so.
     
  7. Sick people must stay at home.
    They should seek medical advice if they have COVID-like symptoms and get tested if advised to do so. If that person displays relevant symptoms of COVID-19, tests positive for COVID-19, or has been in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, they must self-isolate.
     
  8. You must have a contact tracing system in place.
    This includes displaying QR code posters at your entrances, attendance register and visitor register.
     
  9. Fundamental public health measures continue to apply:
    – Adults should physically distance by 1 metre inside and 2 metres outside at Alert Level 3
    – Hand hygiene
    – Cough and sneeze etiquette
    – Regularly cleaning and disinfecting high touch surfaces (daily at Alert Level 3).
     
  10. Your Ministry regional office team is available to provide support.
    For more detailed information for Alert Level 3, please refer to our health and safety guidance

    You may wish to use this letter template [DOCX, 19KB] to communicate with Auckland parents and caregivers.  You may also like to use this poster [PDF, 740KB].

Funding arrangements for early learning services at Alert Level 3 in the Auckland region

Reduced child attendance numbers
From Sunday 28 February, services (including home based) can use the EC12 exemption for permanently enrolled children who have been absent.  Funding cannot be claimed for children who are no longer enrolled.

Services do not need to complete an EC12 form for children but will need to follow the process outlined in your Student Management System (SMS) to apply this exemption.

Reduced staffing
Eligible services are able to access up to 40 discretionary hours to maintain their certificated teacher hours in situations where staff are unwell and qualified relievers are not available.

If it is not possible for you to remain open (e.g. you are not able to meet public health measures or there are no children attending) then you should apply the Emergency Closure (EC) code in your Student Management System. You do not need to apply to the Ministry to access this funding. Please use the EC code for the days the service would normally have been open. 

If you have any questions or concerns please contact us at [email protected] for further advice or support.

Business Support

Both the wage subsidy and resurgence support package are now available to support services nationwide that experience a reduction in income.  You can find out more information about the financial support available to businesses on the COVID-19 website.

Financial support for businesses – COVID-19 website

Supporting staff at Alert Level 3

When planning and arranging staff you must make reasonable efforts to ensure that only those who are necessary to support the number of children that you have at your service, are on site. You should work with your staff on how you will manage children’s learning for those who are learning at home.

When planning for staffing, you should also consider staff who usually work at more than one service. During Alert Level 3 staff may only work in one service and only one bubble. You could consider assigning all the hours they would normally be employed for, in that one bubble or a mix of onsite or remote delivery of learning.

Throughout Alert Level 3 and 2, staff continue to have access to their usual employment agreement entitlements, including the child contact/non-contact provisions of those agreements. 

You must follow Ministry of Education and public health guidance to operate in a way that minimises the risk of COVID-19 transmission and ensures a safe environment for your staff and children. 

Where the usual work that a staff member performs is not available, consider providing them with alternate duties as you adjust to different alert levels. Consider paying day relief or casual staff who have been booked for work but are no longer required during the Alert Level 3 restrictions.

Reasons some staff may need to remain at home
Staff must stay at home if they:

  • are sick with COVID-19, or unwell generally.
  • need to self-isolate, as per Ministry of Health guidelines, due to close contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19.
  • are caring for dependents who need to self-isolate, as per Ministry of Health guidelines.

Employees may choose to stay at home if they, or someone they live with, meets the definition of a vulnerable person, including those with underlying medical conditions, especially if not well-controlled, and the elderly.

Where someone meets the definition of a vulnerable person you may agree they can work on site if they choose to, and you both agree they can do so safely. 

Staff who are at-risk and are staying away from their centre might be prioritised to support learners from home. You may request a medical certificate for confirmation of vulnerability to assist you in providing appropriate health and safety measures for them.

You will need to initiate discussions with employees who may not be able to return to work, and ensure working from home or leave arrangements if required, are in place for these staff members during Alert Level 3.

You may have staff who cannot get to your service because they are unable to enter or exit the Alert Level 3 zone. Consider asking these staff to work from home wherever practicable.

You should talk to your staff who care for children who are younger than 14 years old. Staff may require flexibility of duties, or start and finish times, due to the staggered timing of school days and limitations of before and after school care. Their children should remain at home if they have a parent or caregiver available to look after them at home, and they have access to distance learning.  

Contactless pick-ups of resources in Alert Level 3

You can arrange for parents and caregivers to pick up learning resources from your service in order to support distance learning. This must be a contactless system.

Please focus your plans for this on:

  • avoiding large gatherings of parents and caregivers (e.g., stagger when people can pick up, or for example stay in their cars)
  • those who are working onsite to hand out resources need to be physically distanced from each other with good hand hygiene practices 
  • anyone who is unwell must stay at home and seek advice on getting tested
  • advise children and whānau receiving these packages to wash their hands after opening them.
Information for services in Alert Level 2

Early learning services at Alert Level 2 – All regions outside Auckland

Alert Level 2 applies from 6am Sunday February 28:

  1. Early learning services are open to everyone, and all children may attend.
    Early learning services, including home-based services, kōhanga reo, playcentres and playgroups continue to remain open.  At Alert Level 2 the disease is contained but there is still risk of community transmission.  It is safe for children and staff to attend early learning as there will be appropriate measures in place, including for children and staff vulnerable to severe illness.
     
  2. Learning will be onsite with distance learning offered in some circumstances.
    Distance learning should be provided for those required to self-isolate, those individuals who health authorities have asked to stay away while waiting for a test result, or those choosing to remain at home because they are vulnerable to illness. 
     
  3. Services are not classified as gatherings and a range of events and activities can go ahead.
    For most day to day activities at services, the rules for gatherings do not apply. Under the COVID-19 Public Health Response Order, services are exempted from physical distancing requirements when people are there to receive, provide, or support education services.

    However as soon as your event or activity brings people onsite who are not there for education purposes, including parents and caregivers, then the rules for gatherings do apply. 
     

  4. Services will close for cleaning and contact tracing if there is a confirmed case who was infectious when at the service.
    Your Director of Education will work closely with you and health authorities should this occur. Please contact your Ministry regional office if you hear of a confirmed case in your early learning community but haven’t been advised about it by health officials.
     
  5. Face coverings are not required.
    This includes vans provided to transport children and staff. Vans can be used to transport all children/tamariki, the van should be cleaned daily. Physical distancing of 1m between all adults involved in the pick-up/drop off is encouraged. Anyone who chooses to wear a face covering in any setting should be supported to do so. 
     
  6. Sick people must stay at home.
    They should seek medical advice if they have COVID-like symptoms and get tested if advised to do so. If that person displays relevant symptoms of COVID-19, tests positive for COVID-19, or has been in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, they must self-isolate.
     
  7. You must have a contact tracing system in place.
    This includes displaying QR code posters at your entrances, attendance register and visitor register.
     
  8. Fundamental public health measures continue to apply at every alert level:
    – Physical distancing for adults (not touching and not breathing on each other at Alert Level 2)
    – Hand hygiene
    – Cough and sneeze etiquette
    – Regularly cleaning and disinfecting high touch surfaces.
     
  9. Think and plan carefully before you go ahead with any activity that brings a large number of children together and/or spectators are involved.
    Some events may need to be cancelled or postponed when we are at Alert Level 2.
     
  10. Your Ministry regional office team is available to provide support.
    For more detailed information for Alert Level 2, please refer to our health and safety guidance.

Funding arrangements for early learning services at Alert Level 2 

We recognise that you will be working with your parents, whānau and community to support the safe return to participation in your service.

At Alert Level 2, services can use the EC12 exemption, effective from Sunday 28 February, for permanently enrolled children who do not attend the service.  Funding cannot be claimed for children who are no longer enrolled.

Services do not need to complete an EC12 form for all children but will need to follow the process outlined in your Student Management System (SMS) to apply this exemption.

We will continue to monitor the situation and will provide further advice as the alert levels are updated.  If you have any questions or concerns please contact us at [email protected] for further advice or support.

Reduced staffing
Eligible services are able to access up to 40 discretionary hours to maintain their certificated teacher hours in situations where staff are unwell and qualified relievers are not available.

We will continue to monitor the situation and will provide further advice if the alert timeframes are extended.

If you have concerns about your ability to remain open, please contact your local Ministry office.

Local Ministry offices

Business Support

Both the wage subsidy and resurgence support package are now available to support services nationwide that experience a reduction in income.  You can find out more information about the financial support available to businesses on the COVID-19 website.

Financial support for businesses – COVID-19 website

Supporting staff at Alert Level 2

At Alert Level 2 it is safe for all children and staff to attend early learning. There will be appropriate precautions in place. Unless required to self-isolate on public health advice, all staff are able to attend work on-site, but are asked to do so in a safe and conscientious way.

Staff continue to have access to their usual employment agreement entitlements, including the child contact/non-contact provisions of those agreements. Staff must stay at home if they are sick with COVID-19, are unwell generally, or are caring for a dependant who is sick with COVID-19.

People at higher-risk of severe illness from COVID-19 (e.g. those with underlying medical conditions, especially if not well-controlled) can also safely work on-site. You should talk to each employee in this situation and agree the safety provisions that will apply on-site.