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Source: New Zealand Education Institute (NZEI)

NZEI Te Riu Roa supports a whānau-first approach to Alert Level 3

23 April 2020

NZEI Te Riu Roa is supporting a whānau-first approach as places of learning make their plans for reopening to tamariki who can’t learn from home during Alert Level 3 next week.

NZEI Te Riu Roa’s Matua Takawaenga, Laures Park, says kura and kōhanga will be busy this week making plans and talking with their communities.

“If we listen to the Prime Minister, she’s talking about whānau-first and health-first,” says Ms Park.

“Naturally there is uncertainty and people who are coming at this from different perspectives, asking: ‘What are centres going to do? What will kaiako and Kōhanga Reo do?’.

“Our solution lies in looking at whānau first and ensuring hauora and stopping the spread of COVID-19 is the top priority.

“If you have children, their needs should be your first consideration before returning to work. If you can support your children to stay at home then do that. But of course your centre or your kura is your whānau too – we’re hearing some heartening stories where kaimahi are working with their whānau to find solutions together that meet their community’s needs.”

Many centres agree. A kaiako at one Kōhanga Reo says the centre has chosen to stay closed and continue supporting whānau remotely during Level 3.

“We were prepared to go back if we had to. We would have brought our staff in to do a full clean.

“But we did a Zoom with our whānau and talked about what Level 3 looks like to them. It was their choice. Because we’re whānau-based everyone had a say, including staff. Everyone agreed.

“We kept our parents informed. We passed on what the Government had said.

“We’ll keep doing what we’re doing. We’ve put up activities on our [online] page, and we use Zoom for karakia and activities. Whānau have been sharing what they are doing at home – baking, colouring, whatever they’re doing. That’s our point of contact with each other. We’ve asked for pictures, and we’ll be including them in Learning Stories for our tamariki once they’re back.”

She said each place of learning should do what is appropriate for their community; “some will have essential workers, and there’s no judgement. No doubt they’ll do what’s best for them”.

Tumuaki of Te Whata Tau ō Pūtauaki, Ripeka Lessels, described a similar approach from her kura in making its plans.

“We’re a small Māori community – we know each other, we know the whānau.

“All the way through this I’ve spoken to the staff, and got board support too. We’ve had two board meetings this fortnight, and sent out three pānui communicating all the major updates from the Ministry.

“This week our staff are surveying all our families and whānau. The thinking is really ‘Let’s identify those families and those children who need to come to kura, and look at how we can support everyone into next week’.

“We’re thinking rather than having horizontal bubbles [grouping children of the same age], we’ll look to vertical bubbles so siblings stay within the same bubble. That means we don’t cross contaminate between bubbles and tamariki can stay together with whānau linked.

“Things like toileting and meals we’re still talking through. But hopefully we’ll have that sorted come Tuesday.”

As for remote learning, Ms Lessels says the kura will continue as it has been during Alert Level 4.

“Throughout we’ve been keeping in contact via email, Google meetings, and Zoom. All the staff and as many children as possible have been coming online every morning to exchange where they’re at – parents too.”