MoE Update – 11 October 2021

Information supplied from Ministry of Education on 11 October 2021.  

COVID-19 update – 11 October 2021

Kia ora koutou,

Kia ora koutou,  
And so our COVID-19 response continues at pace – an important new decision today is that the education workforce needs to be vaccinated.    
Importantly, the strong message behind the Government’s decision is that this is a critical opportunity for community, iwi, whānau, hapu leaders (which you all are) to show leadership to protect your tamariki, whānau and others wherever they are.  
I’ve heard very powerful messages from Māori that they want to lead the work to increase the rate of vaccination. The message was well encapsulated by the musician Teeks this week when he said on social media, “Taking the vaccine doesn’t diminish your sovereignty or mana motuhake, it only enhances and protects the very essences of what these principles stand for”. 
We are connecting up with Māori communities and leaders to amplify the messages of empowerment, whakapapa and hauora that they are leading. We will keep you updated on this work and share the results so that you can further distribute them.  
Beginning this week, we’ll also be hosting a series of webinars with Dr Michelle ‘Nanogirl’ Dickinson, who will be answering your questions about the science behind vaccinations. Details about session times and how you can register are provided below. 

The Ministry for Pacific Peoples continues to provide information to support Pacific communities in New Zealand in a range of languages, through their website, communications to their communities, Zoom meetings and more. 
Following her meeting with Cabinet this afternoon, the Prime Minister and Minister of Education have announced:  

  • Auckland, Northland and Waikato will remain at Alert Level 3 until 11.59pm Thursday 
  • for all Alert Level 3 regions including Auckland, there are immediate COVID-19 testing requirements for early learning staff, see information below
  • from 1 January 2022, schools and early learning services and providers will need to maintain a register and ensure only vaccinated staff and support personnel have contact with children and students. They need to have their first dose by 15 November. 
  • this includes home-based educators and anyone aged over 12 who lives in a home where homebased education and care is delivered, and all those support people in our schools and early learning services such as teacher-aides, administration and maintenance staff
  • alert levels for the regions at Alert Level 3 will be reviewed on Wednesday 
As a result of these decisions, there is a lot of information to come on alert level requirements and how we will work with you to introduce mandatory testing and vaccination. We have tried today to only provide the most pressing information, with further bulletins providing more detail.

You do not need me to tell you that the Delta variant tracks down vulnerable parts of the system – that is, those who have not been vaccinated. As I’ve said before, we encourage you as educators to promote the public health message that vaccination is essential to get us back to some sort of normal. If you or your staff wish to share that you have decided or have already been vaccinated, then individuals are free to share that.    
In the meantime, please keep doing the COVID-19 mahi – support everyone you know to get vaccinated, check in wherever you go, keep people who are unwell at home, and encourage lots of testing. It is hard, but it is working.  
Kia maiea tō rā, 

In today’s bulletin:

Mandatory testing for Alert Level 3 regions  

For those who are already working in centres in Auckland and other Alert Level 3 areas, you will be required to return a negative COVID-19 result by 26 October.
For staff who have not yet returned on site, you will be required to return a negative COVID-19 result before physically returning to your service, regardless of your vaccination status.
All early learning staff who are not fully vaccinated will also be required to undergo weekly testing.
This testing requirement applies to all those working onsite including relief teachers, casual staff, administration staff, caretakers, and cleaners – whether direct employees or employees of a contractor. It also applies to unpaid workers, such as volunteers and any members of the community who are regularly onsite at centre (as they are likely to come into contact with your tamariki).

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Mandatory vaccinations  

All staff members who work in early learning services will be required to have a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by 15 November 2021 and be fully vaccinated by 1 January 2022.   
This applies to all anybody who works on site in early learning including relief teachers, casual staff, administration staff, caretakers, and cleaners – whether direct employees or employees of a contractor.  
It also applies to unpaid workers, such as volunteers and any members of the community who are regularly on site at your early learning service as they are likely to come into contact with children. 
You will need to provide a clear instruction to your employees, advising them of the need to be vaccinated and to be tested if you are in an Alert Level 3 area.  

We will provide more information on the evidence and recording requirements over the coming week.
The Ministry of Health have provided vaccine information for New Zealanders here.

What about drop-offs and pick-ups?  
Parents, whānau and caregivers are not required to be vaccinated or tested in order to pick up or drop off children.  
For parents conducting pick-ups and drop-offs, these should occur in an outdoor environment where face coverings must be worn and physical distancing measures retained.  
How does this compare to what’s happening overseas?
A number of jurisdictions overseas have already adopted mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations in education settings, such as Victoria, New South Wales, Washington, the Northern Territory and New York City. 

  • Victoria requires that all staff in government and non-government schools and all types of early childhood and care settings to be vaccinated against COVID-19.  
  • Washington requires all teachers and school personnel including, sports coaches, bus drivers and volunteers to be fully vaccinated as a condition of their employment. 
  • In New South Wales, all people working at a school or early education and care facility must be vaccinated. This includes, teachers, support staff, contractors, volunteers, and students on student placement. 
  • The Northern Territory mandates vaccinations for workers in high-risk settings which includes those who work (or come into contact with) people who cannot get vaccinated and includes all teachers and child-care workers.  
  • New York City requires educators alongside other school staff (including custodians, school lunch helpers and safety agents) in public schools to be vaccinated. 

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Partitions to keep bubbles separate 

Updated public health advice is that if you want to divide a space to accommodate separate bubbles you will need a partition that is floor-to-ceiling height.  
This will help to limit the spread of Delta through the air. The partition must be secured so that it cannot fall. You will also need to consider the impact this has on such things as emergency exits and ensuring that there is adequate ventilation, for example a window in each space. 
If you cannot partition a room in this way, then the room should only be used by one bubble of children. 
Previous advice at Alert Level 3 was that head-high partitions were sufficient to divide spaces to accommodate more than one bubble in a room. Alert Level 3 guidance has been updated to reflect this change
If you have any concerns, please contact your local office. 

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Translations for Alert Level 3  

We’ve translated some key messaging for families and whānau regarding Alert Level 3 in early learning services.  

You should be able to cut and paste the relevant text into your own communications as needed. You can see we’ve also added links to some relevant translated information on the Unite Against COVID-19 website.  
There is also a range of alternate format content on their website including New Zealand Sign Language and Easy Read.  
Here is an Alert Level 3 letter template to send to parents and whānau should you wish.  

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FAQ: What can you say about vaccinations?  

Public health advice cannot be clearer: vaccinations are the most significant tool we have to reduce the risk of serious illness in our communities. If most of us are vaccinated, we can also reduce the risk of outbreaks which can lead to lockdowns and put our health system under pressure.  
As leaders in your communities, we encourage you to promote to public health advice about the need for vaccinations, but you should not put pressure on individuals to get vaccinated or not get vaccinated.   
Staff are welcome to share their own vaccination status at any time, however employers cannot do so without the individual’s permission.  

Find further information and advice about vaccinations in New Zealand.  

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Vaccination webinars with Dr Michelle ‘Nanogirl’ Dickinson  

We’re partnering with Nanogirl Labs to deliver a series of webinars hosted by Dr Michelle Dickinson focused on vaccine science and debunking vaccine myths. 

The aim is to support the education workforce get answers to vaccine questions from a trusted source of information.   

The webinars will be open to all education workforce through a registration process from today. Register your interest here

Webinars will take place:

  • Wednesday 13 to Friday 15 October at 10am  
  • Thursday 21 to Friday 22 October at 4pm.  

Additional webinars will be offered if there is ongoing interest. 
Dr Dickinson is encouraging the education workforce to submit questions in advance of the webinars, which is possible as part of the registration process. Questions will be answered as part of the webinar, which will be 45-60 minutes. A live Q&A will also be possible.