Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Northland principal Pat Newman says teachers should resign now rather than disrupt kids further

A prominent Northland principal is calling for teachers who don’t want the jab to quit now, instead of forcing schools to scramble to fill their positions at the last minute and causing more disruption for the kids in their care.

November 15 is the last day for the education and health workforces to have their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, and they must be double-dosed by January 1.

From Tuesday that means unvaccinated staff will be barred from school grounds.

Hora Hora School principal Pat Newman said some schools in Northland were expecting major staffing shortages next week when the vaccine mandate kicks in.

But principals haven’t been sitting on their hands – they’ve been working with the Ministry of Education on ways to fill any gaps at short notice.

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Newman is head of Te Tai Tokerau Principals’ Association, which has been brainstorming for several weeks with colleagues from the Secondary Principals’ Association and the Ministry of Education.

Options included contacting universities and training establishments to offer jobs to teacher trainees who were graduating this year.

Newman said the Teaching Council knew there would be an influx of new teacher applications and would be poised to deal with them quickly.

“We’ve talked about identifying people in the community who may not be teachers, but who have skills – and there are heaps of those out there – that they can apply very quickly for LAT [Limited Authority to Teach] status.”

LATs allow people who are not registered to teach in a school in case of a local skill or teacher supply shortage.

Other possible candidates included support staff like RTLBs (Resource Teacher: Learning and Behaviour), and staff at Sports Northland who had “a heap of trained teachers” who were currently not very busy.

Some schools could possibly share staff as well, he said.

Northland schools had been surveyed so they knew where the hotspots were, he said – but he wouldn’t be releasing the numbers. “We’re trying to help the situation, rather than inflame it.”

The association had also been working with schools to ensure they understood they were not firing staff – their staff were choosing not to fill the requirements to be a teacher. It was a choice akin to refusing to pay the fee for their teaching registration.

Newman earlier had told NZMEthere was “quite a big” number of unvaccinated staff in Northland – but he hoped they would change their minds once they realised they had families to feed and bills to pay.

Newman said the Ministry of Education was “working flat out” with those schools that anticipated losing a lot of staff.

But he said the biggest, most important issue was that school was about kids – and kids had suffered enough disruption.

He called for teachers who were certain they were leaving to resign now, giving schools time to find a replacement before next week.

“My view is quite simple. You can understand people having beliefs in certain ways. But if they’re true professionals and believe in the job being about kids, then they only really can do one thing if they have those beliefs, and that is to resign. And let us put permanent people in their places.”

That would be a controversial view, he said.

“There’s quite a belief that people are entitled to their viewpoint – don’t get me wrong – but I have a bigger belief,” he said.

“Individual freedom is great, but it is not free. Individual freedom brings with it a cost and the cost is you have a social and moral responsibility to your community, to your families and to society. And this is what they have forgotten.”

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