10 Sep 2020

State schools to open doors to international students for rest of 2020

5:28 pm on 10 September 2020

Foreign children and teenagers stuck in the country due to Covid-19 will temporarily be able to attend local schools for the rest of the year.

Young students running through hallway of school.

Photo: 123RF

Their international status would usually have prevented them from attending school here.

In a statement, Minister of Education Chris Hipkins said the pandemic had made it difficult or impossible for young people to get flights back home.

"These children will have missed out on, in many cases, months of learning," Hipkins said.

"By allowing them to attend our state schools as domestic students, we are doing the right thing for these families so their children can get their studies and development back on track.

"Most of the children were visiting here in New Zealand - either with their parents or staying with family - and cannot afford to pay fees as international students."

To be eligible to attend, they must have arrived before 2 April 2020, hold a valid visa, be living with family, and not have arrived already intending to enrol as an international student or already enrolled as an international student and paying fees.

It is not yet known how many children this announcement will affect, but the government expects that the school roll could grow by up to 1300 students from countries around the world for the remaining school term.

That figure includes 250 students assumed to already be enrolled as international fee paying students.

"We expect the additional students to be spread around schools throughout New Zealand, with some concentration in cities such as Auckland and Wellington," Hipkins said.

Anecdotal reports from regional Immigration New Zealand offices indicates that these children are located all across New Zealand, but are clustered in denser urban centres.

The ministry said it did not expect great demand on an individual school level, however, if a school's enrolments increase by the number needed to receive more funding, they can access this through the Extraordinary Roll Growth process.

Staffing would also be recalculated using the new roll where there is great demand.

Auckland Primary Principals Association president Stephen Lethbridge said being able to enrol the students was great news.

He said they were here through no fault of their own and deserved to continue their education.

"It's clear that children need to be in school," Lethbridge said.

"Schools in Auckland are safe places, children need to be in front of teachers and getting on with their learning."

Lethbridge said there were about 300 million children worldwide whose learning had been affected by Covid-19.

He was grateful New Zealand could play its part to help them.

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