Secretary for Education given power to direct all education providers as part of COVID-19 response

The Secretary for Education has been given new powers, in response to COVID-19, to issue binding directions to all education providers, including all schools, early learning services, and tertiary institutions, whether public, private or integrated.

These powers include the ability to direct providers to open or close, vary their hours and how they operate, and how they are controlled or managed. The powers include the ability to direct education providers to provide education in specified ways, such as through distance or online learning.

The decision to give these powers to the Secretary for Education was taken after very careful consideration. It is being done to ensure a unified and coordinated educational response to the COVID-19 outbreak and to enable the Government and the Ministry to act quickly in the best interests of educators, parents and whānau when required.

Nothing in the new powers infringes the academic freedoms of any tertiary institution. For example, institutions will still determine the nature and content of their educational programmes, and, in their role as critic and conscience, to comment on any actions that the Government is taking on COVID-19.

The proposed new powers are contained in the COVID-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Legislation Bill, part of which amends the Education Act 1989 to give the Secretary these powers.

Schools, kura, early learning services, kohanga, and tertiary institutions have been doing great work on behalf of their learners in response to COVID-19. These powers will only be used when absolutely necessary for the purpose of avoiding, remedying or mitigating the actual or potential effects of the outbreak, and to facilitate co-ordinated processes and planning in response to the outbreak.

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