Principals slam alert level 3 as 'childcare' over education

The education sector is reeling from the Government's announcement on Thursday that schools will partially reopen under alert level 3.

Principals have told Newshub the decision was irresponsible and rushed, and teachers say trying to help students learn online and in a classroom simultaneously is impossible.

Auckland Grammar School principal Tom O'Connor says he would prefer if his school stayed closed under alert level 3.

"If it's not safe to eat in a KFC or a Burger King, how is it safe for classes of students to return on campus?"

O'Connor says even if he did think it was safe to return, it should be students in years 12 and 13 that are allowed back before those in the younger year groups.

"The Government's decision suggests the return to school is about the provision of childcare facilities rather than educational purposes."

Rotorua's Lynmore Primary School Principal Lorraine Taylor agrees.

"Level 3 will be, literally child care, for the online learning programme."

Taylor understands the economic reality that parents need to go to work but doesn't want them to be under any illusions about what schools will be able to provide under level 3.

She says teaching online and face to face at the same time won't work.

"We're not envisaging there will be teaching face to face all. We're looking at adult supervision of kids in a classroom with a desk, a chair, but all their own equipment."

While their desks and chairs will be separated for the social distancing criteria, early childhood teachers say keeping toddlers two metres apart is an impossible task. 

ECE owner and teacher Cathy Zuill says: "I imagine that Jacinda [Ardern], as a mother, would understand that more than most".

Zuill has owned and taught at her centre for over 20 years and while she wants to get back to work as much as any other small business owner, she's not prepared to sacrifice safety.

"In a centre we're gonna have 30 children or more, how is that a bubble, a small manageable, safe bubble!? It is not."

Finance Minister Grant Robertson called for calm on Friday saying there is plenty of time for teachers, principals, parents and students to make it work.

But education professionals have slammed his comments as missing the point.

They say "making it work" is going to take a complete re-think.