Primary teachers are speaking out about the impact of Covid-19 disruptions, as the pandemic continues to rage through schools.
Term 2 has only just started, but several teachers told Q+A reporter Whena Owen this year has already been brutal, particularly as it is the third disrupted year in a row.
When it reopened, half of the students stayed at home but online learning was a struggle due to a lack of digital access or devices.
Teachers are also noticing the impact on students themselves, many of whom are coming from families under significantly increased stress and financial pressure.
Canterbury teacher Pauline Trathen teaches kids at an age where they have only known interrupted school years.
“And in Canterbury, unfortunately we have had the earthquakes, followed by March 15, followed by Covid. We pretend that we’re resilient, at some point we can’t be resilient any more," she said.
“The social impact is particularly big”, added Tauranga teacher Rob Wheatley, who primarily works with intermediate-age children.
“For them, it’s about social and emotional well-being, on top of your reading and writing and maths and curriculum-based stuff. It’s really important for them to have that connection, and we’re missing that at the moment.”
Mask wearing is also a difficult issue for teachers to navigate. It isn’t compulsory in schools at the moment, and Education Minister Chris Hipkins says changing that is not currently Government policy.
While mask wearing would likely slow the spread of the virus, particularly among unvaccinated school classes, it also makes teaching and communication more difficult.