No funding cuts but schools MUST close, Ardern triggers lockdown

COVID-19 concerns have escalated to Level 4 Alert

Education Minister Chris Hipkins followed the PM’s announcement on Monday by saying that “funding for all education providers will continue to flow as normal” and will not be cut based on non-attendance or performance.  Unions are working hard to ensure no teachers or school staff lose income over the lockdown period.

Schools will all close but e-learning will be provided to students where possible in accordance with self-isolation measures. The government will make further decisions about schools based on how long children are at home and how much e-learning takes place.

Asked whether students may have to retake the year, Hipkins said it was premature to discuss that at this stage. His focus is on equity, looking at the 20% of kids without broadband or devices at home to make sure distance learning can be as widespread and effective as possible. 

For children with learning difficulties, he said families need to liaise with and make close arrangements with schools and health authorities. 

All our schools will completely close from midnight this Wednesday. Schools began to shut on Tuesday with instructions to remain open only for children of essential workers, including doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers and police. The 48-hour buffer intends to give schools and parents time to make longer term arrangements for these children and for any e-learning strategies to be put in place. 

For the remainder of the school term, schools have been told to focus on moving their curriculum online. The government is in the process of providing information about e-learning to students and parents.  

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stressed that the government is taking proactive, serious measures to combat early signs of community transmission. If left unchecked, she said intense community transmission would mean “tens of thousands of New Zealanders will die”. 

Ardern will raise the alert to Level 4 on Wednesday night, when the nation will go into lockdown for a period of four weeks. Two of those weeks will be taken as school holidays to minimise impact on the school year and give the education sector some time to settle into an e-learning routine. It is possible the lockdown period will be extended, depending on advice from health officials and how well containment of the virus goes.

Ardern said: “We are all preparing as a nation to enter self-isolation. […] It will help give our healthcare system a fighting chance.” 

She clarified that in the short term, cases of coronavirus will rise, but the lockdown will allow testing and containment to “get ahead” of the spread. Ardern stressed supermarkets will remain open along with all other essential services like medical facilities. Asked if she is scared, the PM said: “No, because we have a plan!”

School News will continue to update this story as we receive new information. 

Pandemic measures will evolve quickly as future recommendations roll in from health officials. We will all likely receive another Federal update on Tuesday, so stay tuned.


Rosie Clarke

Rosie is the managing editor here at Multimedia Pty Ltd, working across School News New Zealand and School News Australia. She has spent 10+ years in B2B journalism, and has spent some time over the last couple of years teaching as a sessional academic. Feel free to contact her at any time with editorial or magazine content enquiries.
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