COVID-19 and wellbeing

As children return to school, our priority is their health and wellbeing.

We encourage schools and kura to draw on and share the COVID-19 Wellbeing Guide. It has been created to help teachers, parents/caregivers and whānau as they support the hauora/wellbeing of their children and young people.

The Guide was developed by clinical psychologist Julie McCormack, with support from Future Curious Limited. The third module is focused on preparing for the return to school:

Read the COVID-19 Health and Wellbeing guide – Learning from Home website (external link)

Welcoming children back to school

Some families and children will be anxious about returning to school, while others will be excited.

Your calm response and delight at seeing everyone back and together again can make a significant difference. Be assured, most children will settle over time as routines are re-established.

Re-establishing routines for sleep, physical activity, and learning, together with spending time with their friends and peer group will all help.

We have developed some guidance for teachers to support student wellbeing when everyone goes back to school under alert level 2: 

Wellbeing guidance for teachers under alert level 2

Some children might need additional support when they return to school

Take notice of:

  • children who refuse to go to school
  • periods of absence or increased sickness
  • changes in behaviours that don’t settle or are out of character.

We have developed tip sheets for teachers to support children who may be at-risk and to support conversations with parents and whānau

Tips for teachers – what to notice and how to respond

Tips for teachers – talking to parents if their children need extra support

For children with a disability

All schools and early learning centres including day special schools, residential special schools, satellite units and learning support units will all be open from the 18th May.

Resource Teachers:Learning and Behaviour (RTLB), Resource Teachers: Deaf and Resource Teachers:Vision will all also be starting again. Children and young people with a disability or learning support should be going back to school to learn alongside their friends and see their teachers again, unless they have an underlying health condition, are sick or are isolating. 

For children who can’t be in school it will be important to keep online learning going. 

Schools should talk with their whānau about how long this might go on for, whether the children have the appropriate technology and how they might be supported until they return.  It might be possible for a teacher aide to work in a different way with the child, either in their home or remotely if possible.

The first priority must be all children’s wellbeing and settling back into school so it will be important that you work with families and whānau to hear how the lockdown period has gone and to plan together for the support that will be important to keep a child’s learning progressing.

These families and whānau may have experienced additional stress or anxiety during this time. Where they are involved, Ministry specialists will work with you to enable a careful, planned transition where needed.

In addition, Awhi@home is a parent-led Facebook page supported by IHC and partners including the Ministry of Education and Explore services. Awhi@home provides support for parents with disabled children and posts include tools, resources and videos addressing common challenges.

Go to Awhi@home on Facebook (external link)  

Share this page with parents as needed. The page aims to increase parents' ability to cope through providing parenting strategies and tips, links to useful resources, information on Covid-19 and one-on-one support. 

Preventing harm from bullying, racism and discrimination

Every learner has the right to a safe, healthy and supportive learning environment, where they are accepted and respected, and an education that values their identity, language and culture, and those of their family and whānau. It’s important to remember that if bullying occurs for whatever reason, bullying prevention is everyone’s responsibility.

On return to school:

  • Some individuals may choose to wear face masks, as it is part of their cultural practice to do so to support their hygiene needs.
  • Encourage respect - people are being proactive in keeping themselves and families safe.
  • Where children and students are not respected, or treated fairly, or discriminated against - respond fairly and effectively.
  • Speak out against negative behaviours, including negative statements on social media about groups of people, or exclusion of people who pose no risk from regular activities.

You may find some of the information on the Bullying Free NZ website useful in supporting your children and students and creating a culture of support at this time:

Bullying Free NZ (external link)

Race-based abuse

If you experience race-based abuse or it is brought to your attention, whether online or in the community, you can seek help from Netsafe or the Human Rights Commission.

This kind of behaviour is absolutely unacceptable, and we encourage anyone experiencing discrimination to make a complaint.

More information can be found on the Netsafe page on race-based online abuse and New Zealand Human Rights Commission website:

Race-based online abuse – NetSafe (external link)

Making a complaint – New Zealand Human Rights Commission (external link)

Webinars for wellbeing

The Ministry is hosting a suite of wellbeing webinars.

The topics covered will focus on teacher wellbeing, child and whānau wellbeing during transitions back to early learning services, supporting whānau and children with learning support needs to return to school/study at home, and more.

On 15 May, over 900 teachers and others tuned in to watch the first episode of the wellbeing webinar series.

Professor McNaughton, Associate Professor Melinda Webber, educators Raiha Johnson and Jason Swann, and student Maya Edmunds, talked about the diverse perspectives of hauora and wellbeing. You can watch the webinar on Vimeo livestream.

Ministry of Health Melon app

The Ministry of Health has a variety of support, tools and resources to help young people manage anxiety due to the uncertainty and change caused by COVID-19.

The Melon app is an example of an online tool that offers help as part of the COVID-19 response.  Melon has been ramping up content specific to young people which can be found at melonhealth.com/manual (external link)

The Ministry of Health will soon be adding new resources including videos and an Anxiety Toolkit course. This five-session course is aimed at the 13+ age group and focuses on learning how to accept yourself, build confidence and manage emotions to help get through tough times.

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