Kia ora koutou - Dear Parents and Whanau - I trust that after the first full week of lockdown and entering the second, your family and lockdown bubble are doing well. The following contains updated information from the Ministry of Education - the related links are well worth a check as they may provide useful information relating to your current circumstances. Firstly however, a poignant quote from Perry Rush, New Zealand Principals' Association Chair:
Let’s not make the mistake of thinking this is business as usual for teaching and learning albeit from home rather than school. To do so would be to miss the significance of our current reality. We are experiencing an international health crisis of a magnitude unheralded in our lifetimes. It has the potential to change the way we live forever. Focusing on keeping teaching and learning going as it always has, is the wrong approach. To do so would be to miss understanding the emotional and psychological impact of this crisis on people.
Some families are experiencing loss of employment; many are experiencing the stress of the whole family being underfoot day after day; and most are simply struggling with the challenge of a changed world of isolation and uncertainty. Our job at this time is to infuse any home learning plan with a deep sense of humanity. (Perry Rush, Principal Matters, Issue 10, 2nd April 2020)
I also thought the opening paragraph from the latest Ministry of Education update (2nd April) was relevant:
… we encourage you to take some time away from the constant news cycle and social media postings about the virus. However, balance becomes even more important in times such as these. It’s important to give our minds and bodies what they need to stay healthy – good food, plenty of sleep, fun, exercise, mindfulness, music, relaxation, reading, nature, laughter, space, gratitude – whatever works for you (Health.govt.nz).
Key items in this extract include
- Keeping online learning safe
- Home learning packs
- Term two dates
- Wellbeing information
- Childcare for Essential Workers
- Connectivity and Data Caps
Keeping on line safe
Parents, caregivers and whānau may want to discuss internet safety with their children - of all ages. We recommend that they should agree with their children what they can do online including sites they can visit and appropriate behaviours including:
· reviewing and approving games and apps before they are downloaded
· reviewing privacy settings of sites and applications
· checking children’s profiles and what they are posting online
· check the sites your child is accessing
· reminding children that anything that is posted online will be permanently on the internet
· taking the time to understand what sites they are visiting and who they are talking with and check in regularly
· some social media sites have age restrictions to join, check these before letting your child use them or join them
· monitoring a child’s use of the internet and consider having them use it in an open, common area of the house
· making sure your children know to report any activity they don’t feel comfortable with to parents and caregivers straight away.
There is a unique opportunity during the lockdown of families going out together, albeit it close to home, but if your child is going out on their own it’s still important to check where they are going.
· Netsafe continues to be available to provide you and your parent and caregiver community with support for online safety. They have information for parents and caregivers and have pulled together their top tips for online safety during the lockdown. To report an incident To Netsafe - https://www.netsafe.org.nz/reportanincident/
· If you think a child in your care is the victim of online exploitation or abuse, report it to Police - if you or a child are in danger or a crime is being committed, call 111 or visit your nearest Police Station immediately.
Sending out packs to homes
Please remember that during a lockdown there is to be no direct contact with people outside your household (bubble). Doing so creates risk of spreading COVID-19, including through putting together and delivering parcels. Staying home keeps people safe.
You will also be aware you and your staff are not permitted to go onto the school sites to collect resources for distribution.
The start date of term two has moved to Wednesday 15 April. Currently the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 is due to remain in place until Thursday 23 April. Schools and kura will open for instruction from 15 April with instruction taking place remotely.
Wellbeing information updated including new tip sheets for families, caregivers and whānau
We have slightly updated the wellbeing information on our website to better reflect how the COVID-19 response has changed over the last weeks. Included in there are three new tip sheets for parents, caregivers and teachers:
· Tips for teachers, parents and caregivers – supporting toddlers
· Tips for teachers, parents and caregivers – supporting children
· Tips for teachers, parents and caregivers – supporting young people
If you know someone who might be struggling in your school or early learning service community, there are a large range of supports in place that may be able to assist including:
· Mental wellbeing
· Supporting children and young people at home
· Managing self-isolation
· Care options for children of essential workers
· Financial support for employers and employees
· Staying safe online
· Preventing harm from bullying
· Family harm
· Responding to discrimination – through the Human Rights Commission
· Accessing healthcare
· For people vulnerable to COVID-19
Information in languages other than English:
· Office of Ethnic Communities
If you are aware there are people in your community who cannot get access to essential goods such as food, they can contact the local Emergency Coordination Centres (ECC), part of Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Groups. These groups coordinate the regional multi-agency response and provide a range of support activities. This is intended for people who don’t have any other options available to them and operates 7 days a week from 7am to 7pm - https://www.civildefence.govt.nz/resources/news-and-events/news/cdem-group-0800-numbers-for-supporting-communities/
You can also email the following people/contacts:
· Northland - ClaireN@nrc.govt.nz; ShonaM@nrc.govt.nz; firstname.lastname@example.org
More providers offer childcare options for essential workers
Parents who are essential workers can get additional childcare support if needed during the lockdown. The Government has increased the range of national home-based providers, with some offering care for children aged 0-14, and others ages 5-14. Our website has more details and will be updated as new providers are identified - Home-based care options for children aged 0-14 of essential workers.
Improving internet connectivity
Our IT team has put together some tips for improved connectivity at home.
For home internet connections
It is important to eliminate performance/speed issues with the home wifi setup first, rather than assuming there is an issue with the connection from the house to the internet. To check this:
· Run a speed test at www.speedtest.net to establish a baseline, and repeat after making any change below to check for improvement
· Power off home router every morning, leave off for 30 secs before powering back on (don’t press the reset button this will reset the device settings!)
· Turn off, or disable Wi-Fi on, unused devices where possible, especially older devices that run at slower Wi-Fi speeds
· Decrease the physical distance between your device and the Wi-Fi router, line of sight is best
· Use an Ethernet cable on devices where possible, to reduce Wi-Fi load (especially smart TVs, gaming consoles) – plug these into a spare LAN port on your router
Data Allowance/Cap issues
· Check you are not already on an uncapped data plan as previously communicated in the bulletin (applies to Spark, Vodafone, Vocus/Slingshot, and 2Degrees, Trustpower). If unsure contact your provider
· Some providers have made uncapped offers to rural and remote customers for off peak (night time hours only). Consider shifting non time critical downloads such as computer patching to these time periods
· Check what options are available for the address at https://broadbandmap.nz/ and if not on the cheapest/best option suggest changing provider as an option (this is covered as an essential service)
In some remote areas speed of connection AND the amount of data is a hard technical constraint based on the capacity of the technology used such as satellite or “point to point” wireless.
· As a very rough indicator if it requires an externally mounted antenna or dish it probably falls into this category
· If this is the situation for a teacher delivering distance learning, consider non-digital alternatives in the short term
For mobile phone connections
· The data plan on mobile phones is NOT covered by the removal of data caps
· Individual data plans vary significantly – high data usage on some plans over the allowance is very expensive
· For personally owed phones consider changing to a different plan that better reflects new usage patterns. Often this can be done at no/little additional cost
· Use the app provided by your mobile phone supplier to track usage
· “Hot spotting” from a mobile phone is less efficient than using home Wi-Fi (aerials are smaller) so this will be slower
· If using for voice calls and running out of minutes consider alternatives where possible such us email/messaging systems.
As a school team, we hope you find the above information useful during this lockdown period.