ZB

Education sectors sees 'silver lining' in removing vaccine mandates

Author
Bernard Orsman, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 23 Mar 2022, 6:16pm
Photo / AP
Photo / AP

Education sectors sees 'silver lining' in removing vaccine mandates

Author
Bernard Orsman, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 23 Mar 2022, 6:16pm

Education leaders are pretty comfortable with the lifting of vaccine mandates and agree continuing with mask use in schools is the right call. 

The Police Association has also welcomed today's announcement by the Prime Minister that vaccine mandates will end on April 4, which affects 131 police officers. 

Association president Chris Cahill said there is now no point in battling on with a High Court ruling last month, quashing the vaccine mandate for Police and Defence Force staff. 

Cahill said there will be mixed views among the 98.5 per cent of vaccinated police officers about unvaccinated officers returning to work, but said: "The fact is we are where we are today and let's move on." 

Police Association president Chris Cahill. Photo / Mark Mitchell 

Steven Hargreaves, principal of Auckland's Macleans College, had mixed views on the end of vaccine mandates, saying fewer regulations makes life easier in school but believes there will be apprehension from people who are a bit weary or have underlying health conditions. 

"I think we will be able to cope. They are keeping the most sensible and easily effective mitigation which is mask-wearing. That is probably the biggest protection we can use in school," said Hargreaves. 

The principal said Macleans College had been pretty lucky with fewer than 200 of the roll's 2500 students contracting Omicron, putting that down to a community that is very compliant with the rules and highly vaccinated. 

"We have been able to stay in school. We haven't had to do any rostering at home. We have talked face-to-face the whole way through the year and not too many schools around here have been able to do that," Hargreaves said. 

PPTA Te Wehengarua President Melanie Webber said today's announcement came as no surprise. 
 
"We supported the mandates as the best means of keeping teachers, students, and their communities, particularly the vulnerable, safe against a raging and deadly global pandemic. 
 
"While the vast majority of secondary teachers were vaccinated before the mandates were introduced, the requirement meant that vaccination rates across the education sector rose significantly, and we are now at the stage where the mandates have done their job and are not needed any longer," Webber said. 
 
She said mandates had been extremely difficult for the relatively small number of secondary teachers who chose not to be vaccinated but with teacher shortages it is likely many of these teachers will find new jobs. 
 
Schools will need to work through details for unvaccinated teachers and support staff who are immunocompromised or have underlying health conditions and feel anxious about working alongside unvaccinated people, Webber said. 
 
Asked if removing the teachers' mandate would put immunocompromised children at risk, Ardern said the vaccination rate and immunity from having had Covid-19 had made it a safer decision and mask use and improved ventilation systems in schools were also safety measures. 
 
NZEI President Liam Rutherford said there will inevitably be some anxiety about the removal of the vaccine mandate and this needs to be acknowledged while schools and services work to ensure their health and safety processes prioritise people's wellbeing. 
 
Secondary Principals Association president Vaughan Couillault said the need for vaccine mandates appears to have waned and for a while things will be a bit emotionally complicated for teachers who have had to move out of the profession. 

Secondary Principals Association president and Papatoetoe High School Principal Vaughan Couillault. Photo / Dean Purcell 

"It's really about picking up and going forward. The silver lining is that there is now an increased quantum of teachers available to take up positions after April 4," he said. 

As principal of Papatoetoe High School, Couillault said the changes do not mean a great deal because under the red light level masks are the primary barrier of protection control and the workforce is 100 per cent vaccinated. 

Anecdotal evidence, he said, showed in spaces where masks have been used at school and people have had Covid it has not been passed on. 

"It certainly appears to make a significant difference," Couillault said. 

- by Bernard Orsman, NZ Herald