5 Oct 2021

Teachers encouraged to get vaccinated, but no mandate - NZEI

From Checkpoint, 5:47 pm on 5 October 2021

Unvaccinated teachers across the country could soon face tougher Covid-19 restrictions. 

Yesterday on the programme, Education Minister Chris Hipkins wouldn't say whether vaccination for schoolteachers would be mandatory... but signalled tougher rules will be introduced for those who haven't yet received a jab. 

The president of the primary teachers' union, the New Zealand Educational Institute, Liam Rutherford, told Checkpoint they are waiting for the government to make Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for teachers before they make a call on it. 

“The advice at this stage is everybody should go out and get vaccinated and that's 100 percent the right move,” he said. “And that's what we've been encouraging members to do. Talk of vaccine mandates hasn't come to light yet, so we're not calling for that.”

Yesterday Education Minister / Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins did not say if vaccination for school teachers would be mandatory, but signalled tougher rules for unvaccinated teachers will be introduced. 

The education sector throughout Covid-19 has attempted not to politicise the approach the government has been taking, instead leaving the public health experts to work out the best way to keep students, staff and the community safe, Rutherford said. 

"So we're happy to leave it to them and sit back and see if mandatory vaccines are the way to go." 

The union's consistent approach has been to support the experts so if they called for mandatory vaccinations: "we'll fall in behind that." 

He said members have been encouraged to get vaccinated and he is confident that the overwhelming majority are fully vaccinated or on the way to it.

"But at the same time,  like any profession,  there will be a small percentage of educators who haven't or won't."

There were no plans to survey members on their vaccination status. 

Asked how the NZEI reconciled the possibility of unvaccinated teachers working in primary school classrooms with pupils ineligible for the vaccine, he replied that the union supported the pro-vaccine messaging from the government and the Ministry of Education. 

There have been no conversations about a Covid-19 testing regime for teachers, he said, and the union didn't want to second guess what the experts might recommend on the issue.