Schools reopening 'about more than getting kids back to school' - Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti

Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti is confident there's little risk in sending Auckland children back to school - and that there'll be appropriate public health measures in place.

It comes after Education and COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced on Wednesday all Auckland students could return to school next week. 

"Measures to help minimise the risk of COVID-19 will include mask-wearing from year 4 up in most cases, ventilating classrooms, limiting the number of students on site, and making sure groups of children distance from each other," he said.

The Opposition earlier called for schools to be opened immediately. National Party Education spokesperson Paul Goldsmith said children's learning had been damaged by lockdowns, accusing the Government of having no plan to address it. 

Tinetti acknowledged children needed to get back to normality.

"This is about more than just getting our kids back to school," she said. "This is about helping them get back to a sense of normality as well… over the last few weeks, we've had Public Health working with Education [ministry] and have put in multiple layers of protection for our kids.

"Of course, the biggest protection that we've got is, from next Monday, our education workforce is going to have their first vaccine as well so we've got a way more vaccinated population than we've had in the past."

The AM Show host Ryan Bridge asked Tinetti on Thursday how many additional COVID-19 cases could be expected from children returning to school.

"What we've seen in overseas jurisdictions... in Canada, in Germany and in the [Australian] state of Victoria, because they've had that part-time roster they haven't had the big outbreaks or the widespread [cases] that people might imagine might happen because they've had those public health measures in place.

"We've put many public health measures in place. We've got masks… distancing, ensuring that our kids keep away from each other.

"I'm a former educator - I know that young people will struggle a little bit with that but we can teach our young people really well too and we know that this is about keeping our young people safe.

"We know that this is possible for them once they know what the issue is around this and they know why they are doing this… That's one of the reasons why we've got the young people coming back part-time so that schools can manage that."

She went on to say schools have been working hard preparing for children to return.

"They've got some wonderful ideas about how they can welcome their young people back," Tinetti added.

The Government's plan aligned with the National Party's proposal to immediately send children back to school, which was blasted by the Greens.

Green Party COVID-19 Response spokesperson Julie Anne Genter said the wellbeing of health and children needed to be a priority.

"National's plan to reopen schools immediately, even before our most vulnerable communities are fully vaccinated, is hugely irresponsible."

She said children and staff deserved reopening to be "as safe as possible".

"The best way to achieve this is to make sure schools have proper health plans in place before reopening and that high vaccination coverage is achieved for the most vulnerable groups. Families also need to be supported with what they need to keep their kids and local communities safe."