There will be no changes to the timing of school holidays in Auckland from the beginning of October despite the region having been in lockdown for nearly five weeks.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins said school holidays in Auckland would continue to be held at the same time as the rest of the country, starting from Saturday, October 2.
“I’ve carefully considered advice on the implications of shifting the dates and concluded that, on balance, maintaining the status quo is the best course of action,” Hipkins said.
“This wasn’t a straightforward decision. I acknowledge the added pressure currently on parents and families in Auckland, but as Education Minister, my primary concern has to be the effects on children’s education and wellbeing and on the good running of our schools.”
Liam Rutherford, president of the union NZ Educational Institute Te Riu Roa, said the news came as a relief to educators.
“Parents and schools have been making plans based on these school holiday dates and it’s reassuring for them to all know that these won’t have to change at the last minute.”
NZ Principals’ Federation president Perry Rush agreed, saying in a statement that young people thrived on certainty.
“The education workforce has worked hard to pivot to remote learning at level 4 and hybrid models down the levels. It makes good sense to avoid disrupting the systems, set up to date, to support students during the latest COVID crisis,” he said.
Rush – who is principal of Hastings Intermediate – said the impact of isolation on young people, and growing mental health concerns, underlined the importance of giving them a holiday when they could reconnect with peers and family.
“There is no guarantee that the final term of the year will be without serious COVID challenges and the potential for further lockdowns. Holding to the current school holiday plan enables young people to be best prepared to cope with the uncertainty of what may lie ahead.”
Cabinet has agreed “in principle” that Tāmaki Makaurau will move out of level 4 next Tuesday. If there are two more weeks of level 3, the city would hit level 2 just in time for the school holidays – meaning two more weeks before kids get back to school.
Parents had been calling for the school holidays to be brought forward to Monday instead of October 2, but teachers’ unions and school principals strongly opposed the move.
Some parents who have been stuck at home on the wage subsidy have told the Herald they will be pressured to return to work in level 2, and will have to take annual leave to care for their children or pay for a carer.
Some say they are concerned they are doing a poor job with home schooling and their children are suffering from not seeing their friends.
Teachers have pointed out many of them are also trying to teach online while juggling childcare at home.
“Keeping the holidays as they are will avoid disrupting the plans already in place for students, families and educators, including curriculum and activity planning and families planning their holidays, and will reduce anxiety,” Hipkins said.
“It also means we don’t have to extend the length of term four, when fatigue among students is at its highest at the end of a school year.”
Extending the return of children to classrooms also meant there would be higher vaccination levels among students aged 12 and over, which principals have advised is important for student mental health and wellbeing, Hipkins said.
Last year all of New Zealand went into level 4 just before the Term 1 school holidays, so it made sense the holidays were brought forward by two weeks, the Ministry of Education said at the time.
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