Poll finds 1 in 50 teachers have not had first Covid vaccination

Author
Dubby Henry, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 19 Nov 2021, 5:11PM
(Photo / 123RF)
(Photo / 123RF)

Poll finds 1 in 50 teachers have not had first Covid vaccination

Author
Dubby Henry, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 19 Nov 2021, 5:11PM

A snapshot poll of principals' associations has found about one teacher in 50 was not vaccinated as of Tuesday's deadline - while one in 25 support staff had also not had the jab.

Those vaccination rates - 98 per cent for teachers, and 96 per cent for support staff - are much better than the New Zealand average of just over 90 per cent.

But their loss is still causing staffing issues for some schools, with some principals calling for more support to navigate the employment process.

Children under 12 can't yet be vaccinated so having all school staff vaccinated is considered essential to help lower the risk of students catching Covid.

The NZ Principals' Federation carried out its "informal snapshot poll" on November 16 - the first day when unvaccinated teachers weren't allowed on site under the new education sector vaccine mandate.

The data was collected from principals' associations in Wellington, Kāpiti, Whanganui, Christchurch, South Canterbury, Masterton, Kaipara, Central King Country, Otago, Selwyn, Nelson, Hunua, Eastern Southland, Manawatū, Western and Eastern Bay of Plenty, Waiuku, Waitākere, Mid-Canterbury, Central Otago, South Taranaki, and New Plymouth.

Just over half of schools (54 per cent) had 100 per cent of staff with at least one dose of the vaccine, according to federation president Perry Rush. The remainder had at least one staff member who was not yet vaccinated.

"Results show pleasingly high Covid vaccination compliance rates in our schools across the motu," Rush wrote in his newsletter to principals this morning.

And high numbers of staff had had their first vaccination over the weekend so they could keep teaching - with many principals reporting that the deadline was "a helpful incentive".

They found 2.2 per cent of teachers had not yet had their first dose. And 4 per cent of support staff - which includes administration, cleaners, caretakers and teacher aides - were also unvaccinated.

Those numbers are higher than initial survey responses had suggested. Rush told Stuff earlier this week it appeared about 1 per cent of teachers weren't vaccinated.

Rush said the survey was not fully representative - and did not include some areas with lower vaccination rates.

Ministry of Education collecting school vaccination data

The Ministry of Education has previously directed schools to talk to their regional office about staffing issues related to the mandate, but it's now started gathering the data nationwide.

Schools have been told they will be contacted by their regional office today or on Monday for summarised data on the vaccination status of their registered teachers, teacher aides and other paid non-teaching staff.

"This information will be used to help us understand the national and regional vaccination status of the education workforce and to ensure we are providing you with the support you need," the ministry said in its bulletin last night.

Sean Teddy, the Ministry's hautū (leader) of operations and integration, said asking for the aggregated data was not a mandated process as the Ministry was not the teachers' employer.

Gathering the data would support the work the Ministry had already done leading up to November 15 to identify the schools who expected the mandate to have impacts on staffing.

"We are giving schools plenty of time to come back to us, as we appreciate that it is an exceptionally busy time for them. The information collected won't be definitive but will support the work we are already doing," Teddy said.

The Ministry was not planning to ask early childhood educators for aggregated vaccine information at this time, but rather was working with centres that needed support on a case-by-case basis.

Earlier this week Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said four schools had asked for exemptions to the mandate, and 11 had concerns about staffing as a result but that none would need to close.

The Herald asked the Ministry for the names of the schools, and whether they had moved to online-only learning.

Teddy said it would not be appropriate to identify individual schools. "We do know that the vast majority of schools and kura are managing with the resources available and we've worked to provide additional support where necessary. Most are providing on-site learning, with some schools providing distance learning, including those in Alert Level 3 areas."

Regional office staff would keep working with schools and kura to find solutions to any issues, he said. That could include access to relievers and using qualified support staff such as Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour (RTLBs).

No exemptions for significant disruption had been granted, as solutions were available, Teddy said.