Ministry health

Covid 19 Omicron: Ministry of Education working to update toolkits for school principals

Head teachers want clear information from the Ministry of Education before the start of the school year. Photo/Getty Images

The Department of Education has acknowledged the frustration of principals as they try to navigate the changing protocols around the response to Omicron.

With some students already back on campus and thousands due to return next week, principals said they were struggling to find clear information on recent changes to schools’ Covid response.

Changes include increasing the isolation time for confirmed cases, removing the casual contact plus category, and treating vaccinated and unvaccinated confirmed cases the same.

It also introduced mandatory reminders for eligible teachers by March 1.

Sean Teddy Hautū from the Ministry of Education said he recognized the challenges school leaders had in managing change.

“They’ve done a fantastic job and our regional offices are working hard to provide ongoing ‘on the ground’ support,” he said.

“We will continue to share the latest public health guidance and advice through the bulletins as they become available.”

This week, head teachers the Herald spoke to said part of the frustration was due to the amount of outdated information on the website.

The Department of Education keeps schools informed through school newsletters sent to headteachers.

Recent bulletins sent to schools still linked to rules used for Delta variant – not Omicron.

Hautū said the Ministry of Education was working with the Ministry of Health to update these toolkits.

“As noted in the January 25 bulletin, the government has announced that case management and contact tracing will be handled differently in light of the Omicron variant.

“These changes came into effect on Friday 21 January 2022 and we are working with the Department of Health to update our Head Teacher Toolkits to reflect them.”

For now, the Ministry of Education said the process when a case is identified at school is unchanged.

“Schools are contacting their regional education office who are supporting them through the case management and contact tracing process, alongside the regional public health team.”