Elementary school students stuck at level 3 are still waiting to find out if they will return to a real classroom this year, which means even more distance learning.
While the government has set November 15 as the return date, it is not yet set in stone.
For Aucklandites, it has been twelve weeks out of primary school.
And some principals have told Checkpoint that only 40 percent of their students have engaged with online learning due to problems accessing devices and a lack of the Internet.
Ellen McGregor-Reid, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Learning and Student Achievement at the Ministry of Education, said it had been a difficult time for schools.
“I would like to acknowledge how difficult it has been in Auckland, I see it in my own family, and we have certainly heard the message from the schools that they are doing the best they can, but it is difficult,” he said.
McGregor-Reid said the Ministry of Education had shipped around 50,000 devices across the country since the start of the pandemic, with an additional 6,500 shipped to Auckland for the current lockdown.
While this had met “all known secondary needs,” he said he did not have exact figures on how many younger students were missing devices, but he estimated it at around 40,000.
“I totally understand that younger children would have appreciated a device,” he said. “What we had to do is supplement that with learning packages, which are aimed at different age groups.”
McGregor-Reid said the devices weren’t necessarily essential for elementary school students.
“The important thing is something that we will have to work on over time, but a device is not the beginning or the end of learning,” he said. “Learning happens in many ways and while it would be nice to have a device, it is not essential.”
But some elementary schools have reported that students who were absent from online learning did not always participate with the learning packages.
“What I would encourage those families to do is inform their school or kura,” McGregor-Reid said. “If you can tell your school or kura, then you can tell us and we can do something about it.”
She said there were also problems supplying a large number of devices during the lockdown.
“With devices, yes, havinews: //RNZNEWS/3_NEWS.4_WEB_NEWS.PREP/2855e80e-0038255b-eoEDU-DEVICES
We have had supply problems, “he said.
“It’s a lot of devices to bring into a country during a blackout scenario, when there is also demand for devices from other industries and workplaces. We have bought as many as we can and have partnered with MFAT and other industries to bring them.”
The government had funded the Ministry of Education for the number of devices they could access, he said. The ministry also paid for internet connections and associated data usage.
“We calculated how many were needed for the high school students sitting in the NCEA, which was the priority group, and we received sufficient funds to purchase those devices,” he said.
“We got funds to buy some more on top of that, which was what was available, but it doesn’t make much sense to have a lot of money in there if there are no devices to buy with it.
“We prioritized high school students, they are sitting at the NCEA, online works well for them, and as I said earlier, while I fully accept that learning will be lost and three months have been exhausting, learning can be made up.”