Jacinda Ardern's former high school condemns Government's decision to partially reopen schools

The principal of Jacinda Ardern's former school has criticised the Government's decision to allow some students to return when New Zealand's alert level decreases to level 3.

Under the new level, schools and early childhood centres will reopen but only for students in years 10 and under whose parents have to return to work and have no other options for childcare.

Several schools have hit out at the Government's decision including Morrinsville College which Ardern attended in the 1990s, the NZ Herald reported.

In a three-page newsletter, principal John Inger said he was "surprised" and concerned by the rules and warned students returning so soon could end in a "potential disaster".

"As things currently stand, it seems to me that Government wants to pass on to teachers all around the country the responsibility of child-minding, in our case Years 9 and 10 students, so that more parents can go back to their workplaces," he said in the email obtained by The Herald.

"This ignores the potential disaster that this could result in, with our schools possibly becoming incubators for the virus.

"The students who might return to school during level 3 will most likely be the children of essential workers, and apparently also those whose parents want to send their children back to school for some reason that they do not have to explain to their school, perhaps because their children are a 'pain in the neck' at home, although there could well, of course, be some other good reasons to do so.

"In the former case, these students are likely to be those who are most likely to bring COVID-19 into our school because their parents are 'on the frontline' every day and so are more likely to be exposed to the virus and infect their children when they return to their bubble."

Inger said it was his"strong recommendation" that students should stay at home.

This comes after Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield tried to quell concern from schools concerned about the risk involved.

While on The AM Show, Bloomfield said the decision to partially reopen schools was based on firm data from around the world which showed they were not a high-risk setting for students getting infected.

"We're really confident that the measures that the education sector are going to put in place inside early childhood education centres and in schools will actually keep students safe, keep staff safe and of course keep families safe - that's the whole point."

He also said it was "very unusual" for children to pass the virus on to adults. 

But Inger said: "this represents the current thinking aimed at assuring people rather than hard facts".

He said around 30 of the school's staff or those in their bubbles would be at high risk if children returned to school.

Inger isn't alone in his concern, some Auckland schools are encouraging students to stay away, leaving parents who have to return to work feeling pressured to find alternative care options.

One West Auckland primary school has encouraged parents to "be creative with your problem solving" and says parents should ask their neighbours to babysit their kids.

Mother Cathie-Lee says she and her husband were "taken aback by the, to be frank, guilt trip".

"We are both workers who cannot work from home and will be returning in level 3. Myself as an early childhood teacher and manager of a centre know only too well that, yes, if you can stay home do so…

"Of course I would consider family but all of our close family are either already working as essential workers or will also be going back in level 3... To ask a neighbour is simply rude I don't even understand why this was a suggestion."

Some parents say they are already stressed and under financial pressure from the pandemic and are now struggling to decide on childcare.