These are challenging times as we deal with a very tricky global pandemic and school leaders are being called upon to lead when the conditions and the criteria are changing quite rapidly. I want to paint a different picture than what has been presented in some media headlines over the last few days and which has also been presented in some education-focused Facebook groups.
I am writing this on Thursday morning, so just short of 3 days since the announcement of testing and vaccination mandates. Facebook groups have included a clamour of agitation, anger and panic from a very small group of teachers and leaders about the lack of detail to support us in our work. The group is small but their clamour has occupied these spaces and can give a distorted view of our profession.
I'll kick off by saying that I have received the exact same Bulletins from the MOE and I have found them clear and timely. By Monday night I knew that my school in Auckland would not be opening as normal on the following Monday. I knew that before any of my staff could return to school to teach students (whenever that may be) that we would all need to produce a clear Covid test and I knew as a Principal that I would need to operate a confidential register for that. I knew that all staff would need to be fully immunised (2 jabs plus 2 weeks) by January 1 2022 and have first jab by November 15 and that I needed to keep a confidential register of that. I also knew that all staff, after return, would need to provide a clear Covid test weekly until they reached full immunisation status.
By the end of Tuesday I fine-tuned my current staff register on vaccination status - this was one I created a couple of months ago when I requested my staff share their vaccination status with me and keep me updated as they progressed through the vaccination process. I told them I respected their right not to supply that information. The good news was that all but 2 of my 91 were happy to do so knowing it was confidential to me. Very quickly I modified it to include Covid testing results and a confirmation of vaccination status.
By the end of Wednesday I was able to confirm all of this with my staff and immediately began to receive the updates and evidence I require from them. That is continuing this morning.
I am not waiting to hear from MOE about how I have conversations with any staff who are currently not vaccinated. This is because I know how to have these conversations. They have no choice but to be fully vaccinated by 2022 and my conversations with them will be all about supporting them to make the decision that will work for them - all of the time respecting their decision. I'm not panicing about that because I have until November 15th to do my best to support them to become vaccinated.
This morning I received a very clear outline from my union describing my obligations which supported the steps I had already taken.
But this is what I'm annoyed about:
Did everybody who saw this headline read this sentence in it?:
When asked if the decision related to the Covid-19 vaccine, he said “no, not directly”.