Coronavirus: Distance learning to continue 'at least another three weeks' - Education Minister Chris Hipkins

Distance learning will continue for "at least another three weeks", Chris Hipkins has announced.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, the Education Minister revealed how the move to alert level 3 will impact on education in New Zealand.

Schools will have a teacher-only day on April 28, with most children who need to attend able to do so from April 29.

"Early learning centres and schools will be physically open for students up to year 10 for the families that need that," he announced.

"But children who can stay home should stay home. At-risk students and staff, including those who are over the age of 70, should also stay home and they will be supported to do so.

"Residential and special schools will not reopen in the early stages of alert level 3 for children to physically attend. They may reopen later during alert level 3 if public health measures can be managed."

Hipkins said the Education Ministry was working on the processes for this, and in the meantime teachers and staff would support these students while they are at home.

He also gave guidelines for how older students - including university students - will be able to study in coming weeks

"Education for students in years 11 to 13 will continue remotely," he said.

"For tertiary education, moving to alert level 3 means remote learning will continue but where that is not possible some facilities may reopen with strict physical distancing rules in place.

"Students in hostels, halls of residence or self-contained flats can stay there, again with strict rules. But if students went home to join their family bubble they must stay home. They can not return to student accommodation whilst we are at alert level 3."

Late last week the early childhood education (ECE) sector pleaded with the Government not to reopen ECE centres during alert level 3.

"Our members do not want to open ECE centres under level 3," CEO Peter Reynolds wrote in an open letter.

"Our primary concern is the threat of carrier risk, along with the myriad of issues we're still working through with the Ministry of Education. We need time to get it right, only under level 2 is it safe to re-open."

But Hipkins said the approach to reopening was based on "the latest public health advice" and there was little chance of the virus "coming through the door".

"I know physical distancing will be very difficult with children and young people, particularly the youngest children in early childhood education," he said.

"We're putting in place measures to keep children and teachers safe. At alert level 3 the approach in an ECE or preschool environment is designed to limit the number of people that children have contact with. All of the evidence does point to children having a lower risk of getting infected and being affected by COVID-19."

Hipkins said the parents can trust this will keep them, their children and teachers safe.