“The Education Minister and the Secretary for Education need to decide who is right about teachers being critical workers,” says ACT Deputy Leader Brooke van Velden.

“In answer to my question in Parliament, Ayesha Verrall, on behalf of COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said that schools will be eligible for the Close Contact Exemption.

“However, last night, Education Secretary Ioana Holsted emailed school principals saying “Generally, we are not anticipating schools and kura will need to access the scheme for staff (other than those employed in critical roles in school hostels). However, there may be some situations where it will be necessary for schools and kura to access the scheme – for example, in instances where you have insufficient staff able to come onsite to supervise the children of critical workers who are unable to have them at home.”

“I can understand Ayesha Verrall might have assumed that teachers would be critical workers. Most people would expect them to be. The insulting truth is teachers are not deemed critical workers by this Government, but they might get an exemption if they’re teaching the children of people the Government does deem critical.

“The real problem is that there are not enough Rapid Antigen Tests to go around so the Government is having to ration them. They don’t have enough for teachers, but the cascading effect of teachers isolating will be catastrophic for the economy as kids have to stay home too.

“The Government should be making teachers critical workers who are eligible for the Close Contact Exemption Scheme, just as Ayesha Verrall appears to think they are. Meanwhile, the Minister for COVID-19 Response really should talk to the Education Minister so the left hand knows what the right hand is doing.”

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