COVID-19: More funding for schools and boost to construction sector

· $38 million to help schools cover unexpected costs related to COVID-19

· $69 million upgrade for online learning

· $107 million contingency funding to support school construction suppliers facing additional costs due to the lockdown.

The Government is releasing $214 million from the COVID-19 response and recovery fund to help schools and support construction firms facing additional costs due to the pandemic.

“COVID has undoubtedly put additional financial pressure on schools. We have put aside $38 million to contribute towards the additional costs schools have faced related to the response, such as purchasing hand sanitiser and additional cleaning, and for more relief teacher hours to help manage any increase in staff requiring sick leave,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said.

“The funding also supports more than 500 small schools around the country who have teaching principals. This additional funding enables those school leaders to access additional staffing or other supports to support their management the COVID-19 response.

“The Hostel Wage Subsidy Scheme for hostel workers will also be extended until the end of Term 3. This will offer some flexibility for schools where boarding students have not yet returned.

“The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of having a flexible and resilient education system. Schools and students adapted to online learning quickly during the lockdown, so we have an opportunity to build on this momentum and give learners more options to learn safely online.

“We’re on track to ensure that at least two-thirds of NCEA exams can be delivered digitally by 2022. To support the roll out of NCEA Online, we are investing $20 million to develop digital identities for secondary students so they can log on to access their exams and results when they’re released.

“We expect this work a little bit like a Facebook or Google login where people have an online profile and can login into a wide range of websites and services.

“On top of that, the Government is bolstering centralised ICT and cyber security support to give all state and state-integrated schools the option to sign up. This will reduce the burden on individual schools to provide the support and upgrades themselves.

“This means that school leaders and boards can focus on teaching and learning rather than worrying about how they’re going to keep their students safe online. The upgrade to school ICT network and services will cost $49 million over four years.”

Supporting construction firms

“Just as schools are facing additional costs due to COVID, so are construction suppliers who have been working on schools around the country,” Chris Hipkins said.

“The lockdown has introduced delays and led to loss of productivity, putting significant financial pressure on some firms.

“The Ministry of Education has up to $107 million in contingency funding to help those companies.

“I encourage businesses to submit claims if they need to. It’s really important that the construction industry is supported through the pandemic.

“The Government has a huge construction programme, including big upgrades to our schools and hospitals. A thriving building and construction sector is key to New Zealand’s economic recovery.

“The investments announced today are about future proofing the country’s schools and businesses that help build and upgrade our schools. It will go some way towards setting up the system to be able to withstand tomorrow’s challenges,” Chris Hipkins said.

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