11 May 2020

Schools under level 2: Teaching changes and a lot more hand washing

8:04 am on 11 May 2020

Timetable changes, zoom meetings and a lot more hand washing will be features of the new-look schooling awaiting more than 800,000 children and teachers under alert level 2.

Students at Pacific Advance Secondary School. Note only use identifying pictures for stories about PASS - only non-identifiying pictures may be reused.

Principals say school at at level 2 won't be a return to normal. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Principals hope to find out today when they can move from partially to fully open and they warn that when they do, it won't be school as usual.

The earliest possible date is Monday next week.

Principals' Federation president Perry Rush said schools had learned from the five weeks of remote learning they had so far completed.

He said principals had observed more emphasis on children having control over their own learning, more awareness of digital resources they could use in their teaching, and more effective relationship-building with their students.

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Principal of Wakefield School and Nelson Principals' Association president Peter Verstappen said restarting classes under alert level 2 rules would not be straightforward.

"It's tempting to think that it'll be a return to normal, but it won't be," he said.

"Schools are going to have to be a lot more vigilant around health and hygiene. We need to be able to ensure families that they can send their children back to school safely. So we are going to have to make sure our systems are well in place for contact tracing should it become necessary, for managing hygiene and health."

To date, children have spent seven weeks away from the classroom, including two weeks of holiday and they have at least one more week - this week - ahead of them.

Verstappen said remote learning had significantly strengthened his school's relationship with children's families, but teachers would not be able to go straight back into their usual routine.

"Although families have been truly heroic in maintaining learning over this period of time, we do notice that kids have fallen behind in progress and achievement," he said.

"We don't think it's huge, it's something that they will pick up again when they get back, but it will be like starting the year again."

Albany Senior High School principal Clare Amos said the school was well prepared for online learning but it had learned from the experience and would change its timetable as a result.

She said students had told the school they enjoyed having more control over their day, so the school would set Thursday and Friday aside for more self-directed work.

"What it actually gives students is this opportunity to check in with their teacher and then go and work in the place and the space and at the pace that suits them."

Amos said teachers and students were looking forward to seeing each other again, but it would be a bit weird after so many weeks of remote learning.

"I think there will be an element of nervousness. I think we've had it ingrained into us that we need to keep our distance, that we shouldn't be all crowding together."

William Collenso College principal and Hawke's Bay Secondary School Principals Association president Daniel Murfitt said he expected the Education Ministry and schools would make a lot more use of video conferencing for meetings as a result of the lockdown.

He said teachers were also are a lot more confident with online learning and that was likely to flow through into their regular teaching.

"That's going to be really beneficial, in that teachers all of a sudden are way more proficient because they had to be," he said

Murfitt said he also hoped people would be less likely to come to school sick and more likely to observe good hygiene practices.

"People's hygiene, awareness of health and sickness and coughing into elbows, we actually hope that in the long-term we can change some behaviours about that so there is less sickness in the community."

Murfitt said schools might have to adjust their timetables to cater for those students who had fallen behind.

For example, more students are likely to need lessons right through to the end of the year, instead of leaving school at the start of NCEA exams.

"That's probably going to be a change of practice for many secondary schools, they'll need to continue with their students longer actually at school at the end of the year," he said.

"There'll be timetable structural changes in the day, there'll be a dropping in the number of credits being delivered per subject."

The Education Ministry said all students and teachers, except those who were unwell or were vulnerable to Covid-19 could return to school at the start of the week following a government announcement that level 3 would end.

It said students should avoid breathing on one another and touching, and schools should maintain good hygiene practices.

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