COVID-19 Information for Boards


Vaccination requirements for parents coming onsite

Parents or caregivers who are dropping off, picking up or settling their children, or who are attending meetings or events on site are still permitted to attend on site whether they are vaccinated or not.

Vaccination requirements for parents coming onsite

Type of role: Parents or caregivers dropping off, picking up, or settling children at a school or kura. 

Are they required to be vaccinated under the Public Health Order? NoThe Order does not apply to people who are visiting the school.

 

Type of role: Parents or caregivers attending meetings or events on site (e.g. for parent-teacher interviews).

Are they required to be vaccinated under the Public Health Order? No. The Order does not apply to people who are visiting the school.

 

Type of role: Parents, caregivers or volunteers at an EOTC or LEOTC programme or excursion.

Are they required to be vaccinated under the Public Health Order? Yes. These people are required to be vaccinated because they are carrying out work (unpaid) at or for a school or hostel and they may have contact with children or students or will be present at a time when children and students are also present.

 

Type of role: Parents, caregivers and members of the community who are volunteers at a school, kura or hostel.

Are they required to be vaccinated under the Public Health Order? Yes. These people are required to be vaccinated because they are carrying out work (unpaid) at or for a school or hostel and they may have contact with children or students or will be present at a time when children and students are also present. If the volunteer is working offsite and will not have any contact with children or students as part of their role, then they are not required to be vaccinated.

 

When an employment issue comes to the board – first steps

Questions a board may ask when seeking assurance from their principal in an employment issue under the Vaccination mandate

Usually, the day-to-day management of employment is delegated to the principal. However, the board may find itself in the final decision-making stage of some employment issues to help ensure a fair and reasonable process. This could be possible under the Public (Vaccination) Health Order if an employee remains unvaccinated. 

If this happens, the board needs to be assured that the principal has followed a fair process and acted in good faith before it can move forward. We have put together a guide of questions that a board may first want to check of themselves and of their principals.

For the board to ask of itself:

Have we delegated authority to the principal to deal with this matter by resolution and is the resolution recorded in our board meeting minutes? Does the delegation outline the terms of reference – detailing the scope of the powers that have been delegated? See NZSTA governance framework template C2 Delegation and Committee Principles.

If the answer to the above is yes, here are some questions the board could ask of the principal:

  1. Do we have a vaccination register in place?
  2. Have you engaged in initial conversation(s) with employees and provided follow up in writing (either via email or letter)?
  3. Have you provided further information to hesitant employees around the vaccine – pointed to MOH and MOE resources for example?
  4. Have you provided discretionary leave for any employee? What is the reason behind this leave? Is it paid or unpaid? 
  5. Have you genuinely listened to the employee’s feedback and any proposals for alternative options, and given consideration as to their viability (including exemption(s))?
  6. Have you offered support (eg, access to resources, time given through the workday if required to seek further information or to get vaccinated)?

The board needs to be assured that the process the principal has followed has been fair and reasonable for the employee. If any answer to the above questions indicates a process contrary to this and to the principle of ‘good faith’ then the board can take steps to ensure a good employment process is restored. We would encourage you to talk to NZSTA employment advice in this situation. 

Board meetings with student representatives

In schools and kura with year 9 students and above the board will have a student representative. Board meetings held where members will come into contact with the student will need to adhere to the mandate.

Dealing with complaints

As we all know, COVID-19 has created, and continues to create levels of high stress for our staff, students, parents and whānau. At times like this, boards may have to deal with an increase in the volume of complaints they receive. Now is a good time to pause, take a breath and remind ourselves of tried and true processes that will help us through.

Even though these are unusual times we should stick to our usual practice including, firstly, ensuring that the person raising the issue has followed the school’s concerns and complaints process, (each school should have their own). If they have not, we should gently but firmly guide them to do so. This has potential to exacerbate the tension that already exists, but following the process helps ensure the principles of natural justice are upheld and that the board is acting as a good employer within conditions of any employment agreements. It helps reassure the complainant that their complaint is being taken seriously as well. Once a complaint has been legitimately escalated to governance level, we may wish to establish a delegated committee to deal with it. This will mean that the rest of the board is more easily able to focus on the governance of the school.

Any conflicts of interest must be declared, and conflicted board members must not participate in any discussions/deliberations/decision making around the matter.

All complaints should be dealt with in public excluded business (“in committee”).

Complaints Process

  • The need to act in a timely manner may mean that the board needs to convene a special meeting
  • All correspondence addressed to the presiding member (chair) is for the whole board. The presiding member cannot decide independently what action will be taken unless delegated authority to do so by the board
  • Subject to agreement between the parties, resolution or dismissal of the complaint will not occur before all information is to hand
  • The school’s insurance agent should be advised of any complaint as soon as possible
  • Receipt of the complaint should be acknowledged in writing to the complainant as soon as possible
  • The complainant should also be advised of the process that the board will follow and kept updated as necessary
  • The board should give a copy of the complaint to the principal and request a written response (to the board, not to the complainant)

The board must conduct a thorough investigation into the complaint and weigh up both sides of the issue before reaching its conclusion. The committee may have decided to use an external investigator for this process or have done it themselves. The terms of reference for any investigation will determine how you handle the process itself, including who gets to see the outcome of any investigation and any board provisional decision.

Regardless, it is important that the investigation has given the employee (in this case the principal) opportunity to respond and all explanations have been considered before conclusions are made with possible actions taken.

On the presentation of the final report, the complainant should be made aware of their right to escalate the matter to the Office of the Ombudsman or the High Court, if they are not satisfied with the outcome. 

The NZSTA Governance Advisory and support centre can assist with dealing with complaints.

Boards should exercise caution when dealing with complaints regarding staff, particularly in relation to confidentiality and processes to ensure that the principles of natural justice are met. Please contact the NZSTA Employment Advisory and support centre in such cases.

Please feel free to contact the teams at govadvice@nzsta.org.nz and eradvice@nzsta.org.nz  and it will help them to help you if you can supply a copy of the original complaint, a copy of the board’s relevant policy/policies and employment agreements when you first make contact.

Also, the board should recognise that not all complainants will be satisfied with the outcome. After one reconsideration, if the board is confident of its decision, it may refuse to enter into further discussion/correspondence. In making such a decision the NZSTA Governance Advisory and support centre can assist by giving an objective assessment of the board’s processes in dealing with the complaint.

Useful links:

NZSTA Governance framework – D9 – Example concerns and complaints policy

NZSTA Governance framework – C4 – Example concerns and complaints process

NZSTA Governance support resource – Principles of natural justice

NZSTA Governance support resource – Board delegations

NZSTA Governance support resource – Public excluded business

What to do if there is a case of COVID-19 in school?

Notification through public health
When there is a confirmed case in the community, public health officials will undertake a case investigation and work closely with the confirmed case to identify any close contacts, including any connection to a school or early learning service.
Health officials will then contact either the regional Director of Education or the school directly to provide direction on contact tracing and other relevant information.
As a result of the case investigation, public health may be able to provide the following information:

  • infectious period or information that the person was not infectious when at school
  • any known activities onsite during that infectious period
  • isolation end date and testing advice for contacts

In addition to the case investigation by Health, schools will be able to identify those in who may also be considered contacts, through:

  • timetable (which staff were onsite with which classes, groups, bubbles)
  • attendance register
  • sports, cultural and other extra-curricular group lists
  • visitor register.

Notifications from staff, students, parents or caregivers
Alternatively, a staff member, parent or caregiver will first notify the principal that they or their child are a confirmed case.
In those instances, school should contact regional Director of Education. Their team will connect with public health services to seek advice on next steps and will advise the school.

Closing the  school may not be required and should only occur in consultation with direction from Health or in discussion with the Director of Education.
Case investigation can take some time to ensure the risk assessment undertaken by public health is based on good information.
If the case investigation is therefore still underway, as an interim measure to mitigate risk and if advised by the Director of Education to do so, the following actions can be taken:

  • the confirmed case and their household should already be self-isolating
  • as a precaution, those who have been in the same classroom/bubble/room as the confirmed case for the previous 48 hours can be asked to stay away, until public health advice has been received
  • there is no testing requirement at this time for those individuals unless they are feeling unwell and are advised by Healthline or their GP to get tested
  • schools will be provided with specific guidance based on the public health risk assessment as soon as possible. This is likely to require any close contacts to self-isolate and get tested
  • school should undertake a clean prior to the other students, children and staff returning on site

 If needed, the Director of Education will provide a letter template to support  with communications, and the MoE regional office will continue to provide support, as needed.

NAG2 requirements – reporting on progress and achievement

2021 has certainly been a year of enormous challenge in terms of teaching and learning. For all of us what we do and how we do it has been disrupted and, for many of us, completely over- turned.

At times like this it is critical that we, the governing boards of our schools, keep our focus on the end game – honouring our school’s values and vision, steering the school towards our long-term strategic goals and achieving our board primary objectives. Even if we have to pause or veer off our expected path or alter our goals for a while, we are still heading in the same direction.

Part of our role in ensuring that our schools stay on track is to monitor what is happening, what is being achieved and what we have had to put on hold. We continue to seek assessment information from our principal - albeit that there may be some variance in what we had hoped to achieve this year and what we have actually managed.

For some, our principal’s reporting may look very different from the information we usually receive.

For schools where online learning has predominantly been the only mode used for the second half of the year, the focus of reporting might be on engagement in the online learning. What numbers of students have engaged in online learning? Has it waned over the year? What was more successful – physical attendance or online class attendance?

For some schools that have been in extended lockdown (particularly in Auckland) principals may have concerns that their assessment data as not of ‘good quality’ this year – perhaps because assessment hasn't been able to go through a moderation process, or student engagement in online testing has been limited. This could also be noted in the reports.

National Administration Guideline (NAG) 2:

Parents and whānau will still want to understand how the school, and their own children, are progressing.

We still need to comply with reporting requirements under NAG 2, reporting to the school’s community on progress and achievement. The Ministry of Education recognises that COVID-19 disruptions may have impacted on our normal reporting cycles and suggests that we consider what is reasonable and pragmatic, in light of lockdowns.

Our principal and staff are still required to report to students and their parents on their individual progress and achievement. This may require considering different ways of reporting that are meaningful, for example it might talk about key competencies that a student has gained by participating in distance learning.

Annual reporting:

The Ministry of Education has acknowledged that, for some schools an analysis of variance may not be a priority for this year.

All the same, we should we working towards submitting an annual report (which is required to include a copy of your statement/analysis of variance and your audited financial statement) by 31 May 2022.

Remember that we must also publish our annual reports on our school websites.

Tell it like it is:

Again, for those schools that have been in extended lockdown, there is no expectation that this will have been a ‘business as usual’ year – this will be reflected in your Analysis of Variance.

Acknowledge disruption and report honestly on the impact COVID-19 has had.

Planning:

The Ministry of Education has also acknowledged that, for some boards, reviewing charters is not a priority at the moment. Its suggestion is that schools in this position focus on their annual plan for next year rather than a full charter review.

Typically, updated charters should be submitted to Ministry by 1 March each year. However, next year, Ministry is relaxing due dates and, if you are not able to provide your charter by 1 March 2022, its advice is to “just do so when you are able”.

For others, this will not be such an issue and reviewed charters can be submitted by 01 March, as usual.

Also, you may need to alter your strategic and annual goals for next year. Remember that this is done in consultation with your school’s community – now more than ever it is important to listen the voices of you students, staff, parents and whānau.

Suspension meetings

A suspension meeting held where board members will come into contact with students will require those board members to be vaccinated. However, the board has the option for running these electronically, that same as any other board meeting. Everything pertaining to electronic meetings (details further up this page) applies to suspension meetings:

  • The board must ensure that the student and their family/support people can attend the first part of the meeting electronically – being able to hear and speak simultaneously, the same as the board members.
  • Everyone must have received the paperwork, including the principal’s report and the suspension letter at least 48 hours prior to the suspension meeting.
  • The 7 school/10 calendar day timeline still applies to the board having to make a decision within a specified period.

If the board needs to cancel a meeting it should make all reasonable and practicable efforts to advise its community of the cancellation in advance. It is a board decision to cancel or reschedule its meeting, not the presiding member’s or the principal’s.

The board would also need to advise the time, date, location (all be it via electronic means) of the next meeting – Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 Section 46 (7).

For information around holding a meeting/passing resolutions electronically please go to this NZSTA Governance Support Resource, which is available to boards on both the NZSTA website and Knowledge Hub.

Has the board’s role changed because of COVID-19?

No, the board’s role is still governing the school. The principal still has responsibility for operational matters. The only thing that may change for some schools is that the Secretary for Education now has temporary emergency powers including the power to:

  • Direct a school to open or close, or vary their hours
  • Direct how they operate, and how they are controlled or managed
  • Direct education providers to provide education in specified ways, such as through distance or online learning

These powers will only be used when absolutely necessary in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

School board meetings held by electronic means

No board business can be transacted unless a quorum of the board is present at the meeting. A quorum is more than half of the board members currently holding office. 

COVID-19 mandatory vaccination requirements could, potentially, mean that a board is unable to convene a quorum at a face to face meeting.

Regulation 12 (1) of the Education (School Board) Regulations 2020  requires a school board to hold a meeting within 3 calendar months of its previous meeting.

Regulation 12 (3) (b) allows meetings to be held by electronic means providing all of the board members who wish to participate in the meeting have access to the technology needed to participate in the meeting; and a quorum of members can simultaneously communicate with each other throughout the meeting.

Also, Regulation 17 allows that a resolution that is signed or assented to in writing (whether sent by post, courier, or electronic communication) by all members is as valid and effectual as if it had been passed at a meeting of the board.

The board should be aware that, Public Excluded Business aside, its meetings, held electronically, remain open to the public. This means that members of the public should still be able to observe the meeting – by electronic means if necessary.

The presiding member of the board should be aware that:

  • Just because it is meeting electronically does not mean that it doesn’t hold a full board meeting with all the usual agenda items
  • The principal’s report should include everything it always has: student achievement, property, stand-downs, incidents of physical restraint, staffing, etc,etc
  • A finance report should be presented to the board
  • Committees report as usual
  • Any issues specific to that particular school that need to be discussed should be on the agenda
  • All meeting papers must be with the board at least 48 hours before the meeting, as usual

Board employee testing requirements at Alert Level 3

The Public Health Testing Order applies to regions in Alert Level 3 only it does not apply at Alert Level 2 at this time. 

The requirements apply to:

  • Every employee of every school, regardless of their role
  • Every person performing any work or service onsite at a school or hostel, that has not been operating during Alert Level 3*
  • This includes volunteers or unpaid workers (which may include board members), who may have contact with students while performing their work or service

This Order only applies to those who are physically onsite. It does not apply to those who are performing services remotely.

If services are partially on site and partially remote, then the testing requirements apply.

*From Tuesday 26 October the requirements also apply to every employee of a hostel who has been operating during Alert Level 3

  • The testing requirements are: To provide evidence of an initial negative COVID-19 test that has been administered within the last five days prior to returning to work on site (regardless of vaccination status)
  • After this initial test, provide a negative COVID-19 test every seven days (until they have received two injections of the vaccine)

Compliance with the Order

A Public Health Order is a legal requirement and therefore requires compliance.

Exemptions

Employees may not be required to undergo testing if a suitably qualified health practitioner has determined it inappropriate (due to physical or other needs) for the employee to be tested.

Employees will still have to go to a testing centre to obtain an exemption to present to their employer. 

Board’s employer obligations around testing requirements at Alert Level 3

Schools should manage this situation in line with their existing Health and Safety policies and Good Faith employment practices.

Employers have a legal requirement to inform all their employees that: 

  • Employees are required to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test that has been administered within the last five days prior to returning to work onsite (schools) or before Tuesday 26 October (if you operate a school hostel).
  • In the absence of verification, boards can presume the testing requirements have not been met. This can be documented in the employee’s testing record.
  • After their initial test, employees are required to continue to be tested at least once every seven days, until they have had two vaccinations
  • Employees are encouraged to be tested outside of their normal working hours where possible to minimise further disruption to ākonga
    • However, employers must support their employees to be tested for COVID-19 during working hours and must not prevent an employee from reporting for and undergoing testing and medical examination during their working hours

Employers are required to confidentially collect and store details of the employee’s test

  • All information must be collected and stored in line with the Privacy Act 2020

Health, safety and wellbeing checklist

  • as the employer, boards are responsible for managing risks – ensure your principal has covered off risks during their staff communications and check ins
  • Know the hours staff are working – again, ensure your principal has a clear view of this
  • Ergonomics and workspace – ensure staff are supported to establish safe work spaces
  • Give staff contact details for people they can safely discuss concerns or issues with (this could be an EAP-type service, a board member, senior leadership team member etc)

For further information to support your health and wellbeing during Alert Level 4.

Students returning to school hostels in Alert Level 2 regions

With effect from 11.59pm, 15 October, the Public Health Testing Order allows students who are at home for the holidays in an Alert Level 3 region and board in hostels on the other side of the boundary to travel to their hostel in an Alert Level 2 region.

  • Students over 12 years are required to have a negative COVID-19 test no more than 72 hours before the journey begins 
  • They will also need to carry evidence of the negative COVID-19 test and documentation (for example, a letter from the boarding hostel/school to show they are returning for the stated purpose) 
  • Students can be accompanied by one family member or caregiver who are subject to the same testing requirements

Boarders would then be required to stay at their hostel for the remainder of the term. Travel back and forth between family home and hostel will not be permitted until travel restrictions are withdrawn (for example, the Alert Level 3 region moves to Alert Level 2)

Schools as vaccination sites

While it is often more convenient for many 12 to 15-year-olds to go with their families to get vaccinated, school boards may decide that offering vaccinations at school is in the best interests of its community.

Schools can be used as a ‘community vaccination site’ which will be able to vaccinate staff, students and whānau using a District Health Board (DHB) vaccination team or other team as agreed by the DHB.
In the instance that a school and local health provider agree that the school will be used as a vaccination site, they will be the joint PCBU – schools boards for the health and safety of people on the school site and Ministry of Health/the health provider for the health and safety in relation to vaccine logistics and delivery.

There are two options here:

  • A school-based vaccination programme
  • A community-based vaccination programme, that might be held on a school site

The vaccination consent process for young people receiving vaccinations is different depending on which type of programme is involved:

  • School-based vaccination programmes - written consent from the young person’s parent or guardian for all COVID-19 vaccines administered in schools is required
  • Community-based vaccination programmes - as with other vaccination programmes, and under New Zealand law, children and young people under the age of 16 years may give or withhold consent to healthcare treatment, so long as they are competent to do so. However, a parent or caregiver can provide consent if preferred, and it is the Ministry of Health’s recommendation that young people aged 12-15 years discuss the vaccination with whānau or a trusted support person first.

For more information on the consent process in these settings, please see the Ministry of Health’s policy statement on informed consent for young people aged 12-15.

Board members and the vaccination mandate

Board members have not specifically been included in the vaccine mandate however they may find that it applies to them in certain circumstances.  These are if they are an employee, contractor, volunteer or unpaid worker of the school and they are likely to have contact with students in the course of carrying out their work, or they will be present at the school at a time when students are also present. Boards also need to ensure that board meetings are conducted along with the current alert level requirements in their area.

Boards and their members may choose to follow this mandate in support of the staff who are required to be vaccinated.

Please also refer to our FAQ on school board meetings held by electronic means.

For schools holding Student Representative Elections

Most New Zealand schools with students year 9 and above hold Student representative elections in September. These schools have been instructed to PAUSE Student Representative election processes during the current Alert levels (Alert Level for Auckland and Northland; Alert level 3 for the rest of New Zealand).  

A decision on providing an extension to the election timeframe will be made by the Ministry of Education once staff and students are able to return to school.

We understand there is uncertainty at this time, however we will provide information as soon as decisions are made.

In the meantime:

•  Please do not go into school to issue voting papers.

•  Schools cannot hold the voting process electronically or use e-voting.

NZSTA is committed to providing support to boards and Returning Officers to ensure they can hold compliant elections. If you have a question or concern about any election process at your school, please email us: electionsadvice@nzsta.org.nz

Does the vaccination mandate apply to our board secretary?

If the board secretary is an individual who has contact with students during their work, or is on the school site during the times when students are present, they will be required to adhere to the mandate.  

Health, safety and wellbeing of staff working remotely

As employers of school staff, boards must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and wellbeing of staff at work. Under Alert levels 3 and 4, home is considered a “place of work.” 

As the day-to-day manager of the school, the Principal should be the person managing communication, virtual staff meetings and ‘check ins’ with staff.  The board should ensure they are regularly checking in with the principal; typically this would be the role of the presiding member. 

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