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"We've done it before and we can do it again": Teachers and schools prepared for extension of Level 4

The country's largest education union, NZEI Te Riu Roa, says teachers and schools are feeling better prepared if an extension of Level 4 is announced later today.

An anonymous survey of almost 2000 of its members working in primary and intermediate schools has shown that teachers felt much better prepared for the move to Level 4 than they did the first time the nation moved into lockdown.

"Teachers across the motu are working in, and live in, a range of contexts. This means they have each experienced the move to this lockdown differently. But even so, we're heartened that the majority have told us they have been far better prepared for the move", says NZEI Te Riu Roa President / Te Manukura, Liam Rutherford.

"Overwhelmingly, our members are saying they feel more prepared this time than in previous lockdowns. Their feedback to us was united, clear and consistent: 'we've been here before'; 'we know the drill'; 'we were prepared'.

"Our principals have had a big job to deal with - keeping our communities and whānau feeling supported and on board, and getting devices and resources out to homes that need them over the past few days - something that's still ongoing. Even with preparation, of course there's been stress involved - we know how grateful our communities are to them for putting in the hard yards in a tough situation.

"And we all know teaching staff have been working hard as well. In our survey, teachers told us they're much more confident now with the digital tools they’re using, and they feel the children they teach and their whānau are more confident too. Ahead of the last lockdown, a lot of teachers and schools were totally new to online learning, and the tools were unfamiliar. Many schools had to work quickly to put systems in place, and it took time to get tamariki and whānau set up and ready to learn.

"This time, after a year of more digital platforms being integrated into everyday teaching, children and teachers alike have been able to hit the ground running."

Rutherford says schools have also had time to anticipate the possibility of another Level 4 lockdown. "A huge number of teachers told us they already had lesson plans prepared, and knew where to find resources. Many schools had packs and resources ready to go."

He also says the success of previous lockdowns has also been reassuring for the union's members.

"We've probably also adjusted our expectations about what day-to-day school should look like at Level 4. We know this isn't a permanent state of things, and that this is a time to be kind to one another and have reasonable expectations about things like schoolwork. It's clear that tamariki will be learning plenty, whether or not they're in classes from 9am-3pm.

"Level 4 puts everyone under extra pressure, but we're really relieved to hear that by and large people are coping well and supporting one another under what are some pretty extreme circumstances."

Example quotes from the survey:

  • "We know what we're doing and have the appropriate systems in place, whānau and caregivers are also more aware of how online learning works."
  • "The last experience has allowed me to expect the unexpected. It's be ready, not get ready."
  • "I'm feeling calmer and I'm not putting pressure on myself or students."
  • "It is not the unknown any more. We had to be creative and upskilled our tech the previous lockdown. Now we are more prepared."
  • "[Having only] been in the role for a few months I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing last time. This time I feel I have been able to 'hit the ground running'. Also our school as a whole has gathered lots of parent and teacher voice about what worked well last time and this has helped enormously in getting everyone on the same page and having a consistent approach across the whole school for staff and whānau."
  • "We knew what remote learning would look like and had planning documents already and knew what resources to grab from school."
  • "We were more prepared at school. As a school we have learnt what worked for us last time. On a personal note, I know the essentials are still open. Thank you essential workers!"
  • "Learning was prepared at the end of last lockdown so there was no mad rush to get things ready for the next day. Just a quick check with the team that all was in order and ready to go."
  • "Our program is already online, so there is no hassle there, and we altered our programme and teaching style after 2020 lockdown as a result of interviews and feedback from our students."
  • "Remembering and acknowledging how I will feel/be during lockdown makes this one easier. It is still stressful and I have heaps of anxiety, but knowing that I’ve done it once and came out ok makes this easier this time around."
  • "Knowing I have done it all before has given me peace of mind and less a feeling of going into the unknown."
  • "I feel way more prepared than last time, since we have done this before I know exactly what I need to do."

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