Online learning: Parents, students urged to prioritise wellbeing first, learning second - Auckland principal

As students gear up for the first day of term two for state and integrated schools, one Auckland principal is reassuring parents not to sweat the small stuff as families prepare for potentially weeks of online schooling.  

Ormiston Primary School principal Heath McNeil is urging parents to prioritise their children's health and wellbeing first and stick to a schedule that works well for the family.

"Our expectation is around the wellbeing of the child and the learners. We said to our parents to make sure everyone is safe and well first and then think about the learning," he told The AM Show on Wednesday morning.

"Make sure the schedule fits your family, it doesn't have to fit everyone's family. It doesn't really matter what time children do some reading, whether it's at night or 9am. 

"Our message to parents is to look after yourself and the children first, then we'll provide some activities to break up the day."

McNeil says he received a message from worried parents who both work eight hours a day from home and have primary-school-aged kids. He urges parents to remember that given the circumstances, it's okay for children not to be working as per their usual school schedule.

"Teachers will be there to support you during the day. We're not trying to replicate the school day, that would be far too intense," he told The AM Show.

"We don't want children to be sitting in front of devices for six to eight hours a day, we know that's not good for them."

For Ormiston Senior College, Junior College and Primary School students, around 200 of the schools' own devices are set to be couriered out to families who currently don't have access to online learning.

"Most of our community is connected to the internet, so we're lucky in that we're a new suburb in Auckland," McNeil said.

"One of the things we've been working on over the last 48 to 72 hours is getting the devices that normally sit in our schools out to our parents, so I'll be off to school to package up around 200 devices to courier out to our families. We have to make sure everything is safe and we're not putting anyone at risk."

For families nationwide who don't have internet access or have yet to receive a device and workbooks from the Ministry of Health, McNeil suggests opting for the ministry's TV Learning, which begins at 9am on Wednesday, as a good bet for a variety of lessons. 

"That would be a great way to get different types of learning - there's te reo lessons, science experiments - [different] things to engage with. We know that when there's quality, educational TV programmes - we know from overseas research, like Sesame Street - that's had a huge impact on communities and their readiness for learning," he explained.

"We want learners to be ready and excited to come back to school, that's the most important thing."