COVID-19: Government has given little guidance on school vaccine mandate - deputy principal

Auckland and Waikato primary schools are set to return to the classroom this week, coinciding with COVID-19 vaccine mandates kicking into gear for the education workforce.

Educators had to have had at least one dose of the vaccine by Monday, and the second by January 1.

But one deputy principal, Gina Rosendaal, told The AM Show there's been very little guidance on the mandate from the Government - and it's been a rollercoaster.

"We're really looking forward to having our tamariki back with us, but we're still not going to have all of us... and that's really sad," said Rosendaal, from Waikato's Waeranga School.

"At the end of the day, we have got children coming back who are not going to have their teacher in their class and I am really surprised at the Prime Minister this morning when she was talking, saying that there's going to be little effect. The thing is, this is a calculated move by the Government, these mandates." 

Rosendaal feared staffing shortages as a result of the mandates, and has no idea how they could be addressed. 

"The ripple effect on our tamariki from this is not going to be known for probably another 12 months," Rosendaal told The AM Show.

She said it made her sick to know unvaccinated parents won't be able to attend the likes of school camps under the mandates, and believes that's wrong.

"The unvaxxed parents; I am sickened at the fact that we're going to have to say to parents, 'I'm sorry, you're not going to be able to support and come on school camp.' How is that being kind?

"It sickens me that schools are going to be made to do this - I don't believe it's right."

In Auckland, the Post Primary Teachers' Association believes the vaccine mandate is for the greater good.

Association chair Paul Stevens said school communities will be safer for it.

"Our school communities are safest when we only allow vaccinated people on site. It is hard but I think we just need to stand on that science because so far in New Zealand at least, that science has served us well."

He said COVID-19 meant extraordinary measures were required.

Stevens said that means tough calls had to be made.

"If the vaccine is working, then we need to promote it and we actually do need to make the really tough calls of saying, 'Because of the situation we're in, there are new requirements for being a teacher now which include being vaccinated.'"

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she doubted there would be a large number of resignations as a result of the mandate.

"This was always because we have a group of New Zealanders, a large group of New Zealanders, who cannot be vaccinated - and they're our children," she told The AM Show.

"The best way we can offer them protection, and also try and create a safe environment as much as possible in schools, is by having the adults who can be vaccinated, vaccinated."

Ardern said she was unaware of any school applying to the Ministry of Education for exemptions.