The COVID-19 pandemic will continue to require a health and safety response to minimise transmission of COVID-19. The same measures used to respond to COVID-19 will also help reduce transmission of other infectious illnesses and will form part of your overall health and safety plan.
COVID-19 health and safety response
Latest COVID-19 updates
To read the latest COVID-19 updates for schools and kura, visit our He Pitopito Kōrero | School Leaders Bulletin page.
Health measures to reduce transmission
There are a range of health measures that can be implemented to reduce the risk of transmission of infectious illnesses, including COVID-19.
Immunisation can protect people against harmful infections, which can cause serious complications including death.
COVID-19 vaccination provides very good protection against developing severe disease. Everyone aged 5 and over can be vaccinated for free. If you’ve had COVID-19 you’ll need to wait 3 months.
You can continue to encourage vaccination in your community. However, schools and kura can’t require students to be vaccinated to access education. This includes parents, caregivers and whānau supporting students and their learning.
Good hygiene practices
Continue basic hygiene measures, including cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, washing your hands, coughing or sneezing into your elbow and avoid touching your face.
Masks are no longer strongly encouraged in school settings and are not required on public or school transport.
For those that choose to wear a mask, for best protection, wear a good quality mask that fits well and is comfortable to wear.
Schools may choose to continue to use masks when their risk assessment determines it is appropriate to do so and where it will not have a significant impact on teaching and learning, for example, when COVID-19 case numbers and winter illnesses are affecting their ability to remain open to all students onsite.
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 minimise risk of transmission of COVID-19 or other airborne illnesses, for example physical distancing or regularly airing out the room.
Stay home if sick/get tested
A child must stay at home if they appear unwell or if they develop any of these symptoms: new runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, they are off their food and drink or show signs of feeling miserable.
If a child becomes increasingly unwell and/or you are concerned about them, call your GP or Healthline on 0800 611 116. A child who is refusing to drink anything is likely to be very unwell.
Call your doctor or Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice about getting tested for COVID-19.
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.
Returning after illness
With COVID-19, if it has been more than 10 days since the onset of symptoms and students are no longer feeling unwell, they are very unlikely to be infectious and can therefore return to school.
If they are continuing to feel unwell or their symptoms are worsening after 10 days, they should not return to school. A GP review or a call to Healthline is recommended.
Contact Healthline – 0800 358 5453
Other respiratory illnesses
If a child has been unwell with a respiratory illness other than COVID-19, they can return to their school 24 hours after they have significantly improved and are behaving/eating normally.
If a child still has a runny nose or dry cough without any other symptoms such as a fever, vomiting or diarrhoea, they are unlikely to be infectious and could be considered well enough to attend school.
Any child who has a runny nose after a change in temperature – for example, moving from outdoors to indoors – or sneezes due to obvious stimuli (such as the sun or dust) does not need to be sent home.
Hay fever and other allergies can show similar symptoms to the common cold such as sneezing, a runny or stuffy nose and coughing. If a child has a history of allergic symptoms and shows one or more of these symptoms, or an itchy face (especially around the eyes or throat), consider if hay fever or an allergy could be the cause. You may want to check with the child’s caregiver to confirm.
Vomiting or diarrhoea
Following vomiting or diarrhoea, a child should be symptom free for 48 hours before they can return.
Case management at school
Cases of COVID-19 will continue to arise in communities. 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.
In the event there is a case of COVID-19 in your school, you may wish to use this letter template to notify parents and caregivers.
Risk assessment and planning for COVID-19
Regular review of health and safety plans including a risk assessment, is good practice for all school boards.
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?
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.
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 held several webinars to support schools with understanding their health and safety and employment obligations. Click below to watch them.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.