Limited change to onsite learning – for senior secondary students – in Level 3 regions


Onsite learning at schools in Level 3 regions will start from next week for senior secondary school students to prepare for end of year exams, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said today.

“Secondary schools in these regions will start onsite learning for years 11 to 13 on Tuesday 26 October,” Chris Hipkins said.

“This is a complex issue requiring difficult trade-offs between improving education and increasing potential health risks for children and young people.

“Learners in this age group are able to be vaccinated and are required to wear masks, and staff and volunteers working on site will need a negative test before attending.

“Government agencies have also continued to refine public health measures for school and early learning services.

“Children, young people and staff at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 should stay at home unless fully vaccinated, face coverings are mandatory for staff and learners in years 9 to 13, and records must be kept for contact tracing purposes. Face coverings on school transport will also be mandatory.

“And staff and volunteers in all regions need to receive their first vaccine by 15 November.

“For years 1 to 10 the picture is more complex. I’m not completely ruling out these students in level 3 regions being able to return before the end of the year but if they do, we’ll need to be satisfied there are sufficient processes in place to minimise any risk.

“We’ve got to acknowledge that any settings where there are groups of children under 12, it’s higher risk – as they are not yet able to be vaccinated.

“But there are mitigations that can be put in place to keep the risk as low as possible. We can consider rostered attendance to reduce the number of students on site at any given time. The warmer summer months also provide more opportunities for learning outdoors where the risk of COVID-19 spreading is lower.

“Cabinet will consider the latest health advice and the options on Tuesday.”

Notes to editors

There will no longer be bubbles of up to 10 students required when all senior students return on-site, including for those students already on-site in years 1 - 10.

Wherever practicable a 1 metre distance should be kept from all others on-site, particularly between staff, and a two metre distance from people you don’t know.

Requirements for secondary schools:

  • staff and children who are unwell must stay at home, and get tested for COVID-19
  • children at higher risk of severe illness remain home, where possible
  • staff who are not fully vaccinated and at higher risk of severe illness must remain home
  • mandatory mask wearing for staff and students in years 9 - 13
  • only essential visitors will be permitted onsite, and all visitors on-site will need to wear a face covering
  • good hand hygiene and cough and sneeze etiquette
  • classrooms to be well ventilated
  • high touch surfaces will be cleaned and disinfected each day
  • physical distancing will be adhered to wherever practicable, particularly between adults
  • physical distancing of two metres will be in place from people you don’t know
  • QR code posters for the COVID app will be displayed
  • a contact tracing register in place for everyone coming onsite including students and staff, through the attendance register, timetable and visitor register.
  • face coverings will be required on school transport for people aged 12 and over
  • time outdoors for students and staff will be maximised, including breaks, lunchtime, before and after school (unless the weather does not allow), and rooms will be aired during breaks
  • exercising and singing will take place outdoors
  • groups meeting indoors, including assemblies or staff meetings, will be avoided.