19 Nov 2021

Allowing unvaccinated parents into school events, classes 'ridiculous'

3:19 pm on 19 November 2021

Some principals are surprised and angry that the government's vaccine mandate does not ban unvaccinated parents from schools.

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

File image Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The tumuaki of Te Kura Kuapapa Māori o nga Mokopuna in Whanganui a Tara, Rawiri Wright, said the guidance was ridiculous.

"It's totally contradictory to expecting kaiako and kaimahi to be vaccinated and it's just a green light to everybody else. It just makes no sense," he said.

It was too hard for kura to administer one rule for staff and volunteers and another rule for more casual visitors, Wright said .

"We're going to apply our own rules. We've put a sign up at our gate already saying if you are not vaccinated, sorry, stop here, do not go any further."

Tāmaki Makaurau's Flanshaw Road school principal Cherie Taylor-Patel said she accepted that it might be legally difficult to extend the public health order to parents.

However, she said the situation was frustrating.

"It really creates a dilemma. So on the one hand the government's gone to huge lengths to ensure that students are safe on site in schools because teachers and staff are vaccinated and then we get this directive that tells us parents can be on site, they can be in classes, they can be at events."

Allowing unvaccinated people into schools created a risk of infection, Taylor-Patel said.

"We think it would have been really helpful if they had been able to say 'parents if you could not be on site'.

"Our goal is to for our school to be Covid-free for Christmas and basically unvaccinated parents on site put that at risk."

The Ministry of Education said the public health order did not cover parents because they were not in contact with large numbers of children.

It also balanced the need to protect children with the rights of individuals who do not work for education services.

It said though the mandate did not apply to parents, it had previously advised schools on ways of limiting the risk from unvaccinated adults.

It said possible measures including banning non-essential visitors, requiring all adults to wear a mask on site, and not holding events involving large numbers of people.

The ministry said its guidance to schools recommended they treat all parents and caregivers as unvaccinated.

"Schools should consider not allowing non-essential visitors on site at alert level 3. At alert level 2 we strongly recommend that large events and activities do not take place, including those that bring parents and caregivers onsite," it said.

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