All schools and education providers, whether they’re public or private, are now controlled by the Government under new emergency legislation passed to try break the chain of Covid-19.
When they shut, open and how they educate students will now be directed by Secretary for Education Iona Holsted, but she won’t be able to tell them what to teach.
The temporary changes to the Education Act were made in the Covid-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Legislation Bill which was passed this afternoon in Parliament’s last sitting before the four-week lockdown.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the new powers would “only be used when absolutely necessary”.
But it would ensure there could be a unified response while the country endeavours to slow the spread of the deadly Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
There were 50 new confirmed or probable cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 205.
Community transmission is attached to cases in Marist College and from the World Hereford Cattle conference in Queenstown, while there are four other cases of community transmission.
The temporary changes to the Education Act mean Holsted is now in charge of all education facilities including 2,500 school board entities and 4,000 education service providers.
Holsted can direct how they operate and direct them to provide education in specific ways, for example online learning.
Hipkins said any direction shouldn’t impinge on the academic freedoms of academic institutions.
For example, institutions would still be able to determine the nature and content of the educational programmes they provided, he said.
“We may need to act quickly with speed and pace from the centre and in order to do this these powers will be required.
“Education entities in New Zealand have a large degree of autonomy and in normal times this works well,” said Hipkins.
“In an emergency such as this we need to move to a different way of working to allow central direction, co-ordination and cohesion and to move quickly to deal with issues as they emerge.
“This decision was not taken lightly. We’ll be looking for things to go back to normal as soon as possible,” Hipkins said.
Hipkins thanked all educational institutions for their “incredible response”.