27 Oct 2021

Covid-19 briefing: Govt aims to open Auckland primary schools next month

6:59 pm on 27 October 2021

Auckland primary schools could be resuming classes as soon as mid-November, possibly under a staggered system, the government has announced today.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield have provided today's Covid-19 update.

Watch the update here:

Hipkins said the indicative date for students to return to primary schools and kura is 15 November, but did stress that it was indicative only, and more work needed to be done for years 9 and 10.

Year groups may end up attending on different days to keep numbers down, Hipkins said.

Hipkins said decisions about sending some pupils back to school were among some of the "toughest I have had to make as a minister".

Hipkins told Checkpoint an announcement will be made "as soon as we can" for primary school students returning to school part-time, but would not say if a decision will come in the next week.

"If we see case numbers stable, and if we see that we're managing case numbers in a way that gives us confidence that we can get kids back at school with the risk being relatively low, with those extra protective measures in place, then I think the 15th is absolutely a deliverable timeframe."

This afternoon he thanked schools that had partially reopened for their efforts.

He said the Ministry of Education had been asked to liaise with education providers to work towards staged reopening of primary schools, with the indicative reopening date of 15 November.

Auckland Primary Principal's Association president Stephen Lethbridge told Checkpoint if students return to school on 15 November, he wanted to see some clear guidelines around the "gold standard" for health and safety.

"We're just really keen to engage with the Ministry about what that might be, what the requirements are, and how we can translate that into daily life at schools."

Lethbridge said the last month of the school term is really important for students, and each school will look at those weeks differently.

"We'll be looking at socialising, getting back to how we learn at school, reconnecting with teachers and moving on with learning," he said.

As for early learning, the government was working with the sector on how to get children back on site, and work was also underway with the tertiary education sector, Hipkins said.

Hipkins said bringing pupils back to schools might include them coming back on a roster and maximising time outdoors.

The issue with year 9 and 10s would be the concentration of pupils in schools.

"I would like to see (them) back at school this year if possible," he said.

Yesterday, the government revealed vaccination would be mandated in any workplace that required a certificate of vaccination for entry.