Information to help implement the COVID-19 health and safety guidelines
COVID-19 Protection Framework for schools and kura
COVID-19 Protection Framework
In the COVID-19 Protection Framework (also known as the traffic light system), schools and kura are open onsite across all settings with public health measures in place.
There is a range of mitigations common to all settings of the framework, and others that will vary depending on the colour setting we are in, or to reflect additional risk factors for your community. For example, you may be in a population that has a lower vaccination rate, and therefore the risk from spread of COVID-19 is greater than it would be for a highly vaccinated community.
You will be very familiar with all the health measures in the framework, as will your community.
Latest COVID-19 updates
To read the latest COVID-19 updates for schools and kura, visit our He Pitopito Kōrero | School Bulletin page.
Health measures at Red, Orange and Green
There are health measures that apply to all traffic light settings, please refer to ‘Health measures at all traffic light settings’ below to find out what they are.
There are also additional measures that may apply depending on the traffic light setting. Click below for more guidance.
As a result of your own risk assessment, you may choose to apply additional health measures as school policy that are above the relevant public health order. For example, you may decide face masks are required indoors at Orange because the vaccination rate in your community is low, transmission is currently high in the community, or you have a high number of immunocompromised staff or learners.
Students at higher risk
Events and activities
Health measures at all traffic light settings
Getting vaccinated including the booster dose, is still one of the best ways to keep ourselves and others safe.
Schools and kura can’t require students to be vaccinated to access education. This includes parents, caregivers and whānau supporting students and their learning.
Getting the vaccine
Everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand, including children aged 5 and above can get their free COVID-19 vaccination now. Parents and whānau can book vaccination online or by phone.
Maintain good hygiene
Use basic hygiene measures, including cleaning of surfaces, washing your hands, coughing or sneezing into your elbow and avoid touching your face.
Ventilate classrooms and shared spaces
Indoor spaces should be well ventilated, for example by opening windows, doors, and any vents. If mechanical ventilation is used, make sure the ventilation system is regularly maintained. If a room being used cannot be well ventilated, contact your Property Advisor. Consider if there are any other measures which could be added to mitigate risk of transmission of COVID-19, for example mask wearing, physical distancing or regularly airing out the room.
If you are sick, stay home and get tested
Call your doctor or Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice about getting tested.
Staff are to observe children on arrival, checking for symptoms. Those presenting as unwell will be asked to go home or arrange for parents or caregivers to come and pick them up.
Principals at state and state-integrated schools have authority to preclude a student from attending if they believe on reasonable grounds, they may have a communicable disease under section 77 of the Education and Training Act 2020.
Private schools are able to ask someone presenting as ill to not attend.
Schools and kura will support offsite learning for those required to self-isolate or waiting for a test result.
Case management at school
Cases of COVID-19 in a school will continue to be managed across the framework. Staff and students should follow public health guidance to identify who needs to self-isolate and get tested. Schools do not need to undertake contact tracing for their staff or students. However, visitors should be captured in a visitor register as is normal practice.
Download a summary of the COVID-19 Protection Framework
If you prefer to print a summary table of all the health measures at Red, Orange and Green for schools, click below to download a copy.
Risk assessment and planning for COVID-19
Regular review of health and safety plans including risk assessment, is good practice for all school boards. In addition to information on this page, click below for further guidance to support health, safety and wellbeing in schools.
Key actions to work through a risk assessment and health and safety review are:
The key question to consider when identifying risks and understanding legal duties is:
- Are there measures in place that, as far as reasonably practicable, provide for the health and safety of workers and do not put people at risk from the work that is being carried out at schools and kura?
This includes considering what work, if any, may still need to be undertaken by a vaccinated worker. There may be some specific roles within a school or kura where vaccination is still appropriate, eg, to provide the greatest level of protection for those who are most vulnerable.
You should undertake an assessment in consultation with your workers, their representatives, and any other relevant parties such as parents and those in your wider school community.
There's guidance to support a risk assessment review, including a sample risk assessment template in the quick guide.
The New Zealand Schools Trustees Association (NZSTA), New Zealand Educational Institute Te Riu Roa (NZEI), New Zealand Post Primary Teachers' Association | Te Wehengarua (PPTA) and Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga | Ministry of Education also held several webinars to support schools with understanding their health and safety and employment obligations. Click below to watch them.
Vaccine mandate removal
Following the removal of the vaccine mandate for workers in the education sector from 5 April 2022, school Boards will need to review their approach to managing the risk of COVID-19 infection and transmission in schools and kura, as set out in their COVID-19 Risk Management Plan.
As part of this, boards will need to determine whether any roles in their school are still required to be done by a worker or staff member vaccinated against COVID-19. The health and safety/risk management plan should be amended accordingly.
Managing staff impacted by vaccine mandate changes
The time required to carry out appropriate consultation on the risk assessment and plan may mean you need to effectively continue with your existing health and safety plan from 5 April 2022 until decisions can be made on the appropriate controls for your school and kura. However, in the meantime, boards should note the Government’s vaccine mandate for workers in the education sector can no longer be relied on as the basis for any employment processes and we encourage you to seek advice.
Board obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act
To meet your requirements under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 you must manage risks and protect staff, children and young people. This means that your leadership, staff, students, and community need to understand what the risks are and what they and you need to do to manage them. How you will do this needs to be planned, thought out and discussed. Your plans should then be detailed in your health and safety plan.
The expectation of the government, community, staff and regulators is that schools will meet the highest possible standards and that school boards, management and individual staff actively manage adherence to the safety measures and expectations. It is expected that all involved ensure they are looking out for the health and safety of their colleagues and community, while at work. It is crucial that board members, principals and managers are seen to be leaders in this work.
Workplaces are obliged to eliminate transmission risks where possible and where not, to substitute work practices or provide as high a level of control as possible. A simple example is where possible, propping or wedging a door open rather than focusing on wiping the handles regularly. It is expected that you maintain or create new practices that meet or exceed the public health measures as they are updated.
Implementing or maintaining infectious disease controls remains vital for the health and safety of workers and other people.
It’s important that you discuss your approach to operating safely with staff or their representatives. WorkSafe recommend you talk with your staff about which controls you’ll use at each setting. This means your staff will understand how you intend to manage work safely and what they need to do to help.
WorkSafe also recommend you document your approach so it can be shared with others, including your school community. This will also make it easier to regularly review and update your approach. This guidance has been designed to support you in this process.
Please also refer to the WorkSafe website for further information and advice regarding COVID-19.
Managing in an emergency
Fire alarms and other emergencies may require you to either evacuate your buildings or move everyone inside. The priority in these situations is keeping students and staff safe from the threat arising through the emergency event – fire, flood, earthquake etc.
You will also need to ensure your health and safety plan can respond to other accidents or issues that may be faced in regard to health and safety, particularly if there are smaller numbers of staff onsite. This includes having sufficient staff with first aid experience.