Some Northland principals fear they will lose teachers due to vaccine mandate

Source: 1News

Some Northland principals are concerned they will lose teachers due to the Covid-19 vaccine mandate. 

The mandate for teachers, announced last Monday, means staff must get their first dose of the vaccine by November 15.

It comes as students head back to the classroom as the region returns to Level 2.

“We've changed our school timetable structure, put a lot of different interventions in place, including one-on-one learning support,” Kaitaia College principal Louise Ānaru said.

While some students are upbeat about the return to in-person learning, it comes with its own challenges for schools in the Far North.

Less than half the teachers at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Tanga are vaccinated.

"We are going into a really uncertain time of whether or not we have the teaching staff needed to teach the tamariki here at our kura," principal Shelle Sarich said.

Sarich is calling for an alternative to vaccination, such as having mouth or nasal swabs carried out weekly to "prove that unvaccinated staff are Covid-free".

"At the end of the day that's what we want — a Covid-free school," she said.

The Te Tai Tokerau Principals' Association’s Pat Newman said Northland has a "large number of people who do not believe in vaccinations for whatever reasons".

"We have a number of teachers who fit into that category."

One teacher who doesn’t wish to be vaccinated is Mark Tam, who works at Kaitaia Abundant Life School.

"If it comes to me losing my job, so be it; I'm prepared to stand up for this."

The Ministry of Education does not yet have data on the number of school staff unwilling to be vaccinated at this stage. A clearer picture is expected to emerge in mid-November when the deadline closes for teachers to get their first jab.

"Been a rough year for kids, it's been a rough year for teachers, it's been a damn rough year for parents," Newman remarked.