Getty Images

Education Minister Chris Hipkins: Distance learning package to help parents and caregivers

Opinion 12/04/2020

By Chris Hipkins, Minister of Education

OPINION: I want to acknowledge how tough the last two weeks have been for many New Zealanders, in particular for parents and caregivers. The usual resources available to them to keep kids entertained and engaged throughout the school holidays like swimming pools and libraries are closed.

Parents have had to get creative to keep children busy at home, and I know from personal experience that isn’t always as easy as it sounds!

With Term 2 starting on 15 April, the Government is working hard and fast to support families and schools so that children can keep learning throughout the lockdown. 

Over the past week we’ve begun the roll out of a significant distance-learning support package. This will ensure that children and teachers have access to at least one distance-learning option to support learning from home.

The package includes:

  • Increasing the number of students who have internet access and devices.
  • Delivering hard copy packs of materials for different year levels.
  • Providing two television channels broadcasting education-related content – one for English medium and one for Māori medium, plus content tailored for Pacific and other communities.
  • More online resources for parents, available through the Learning from Home and Ki te Ao Mārama websites, and fast-tracking ways to connect Learning Support Coordinators with families remotely.

Supports are also being prepared for households with children under five, to help parents and whānau keep their children engaged in learning through play.

Pulling all of these material together has been a huge job, and not every household will get one. We’re targeting those most in need first, and priority is also being given to senior secondary students who have NCEA exams and assessments this year.

I’d like to end with saying that I know parents are juggling working from home and having to look after their children 24/7, so I urge parents to be reasonable in their expectations of themselves.

The roll out of these additional supports isn’t so they can replicate a classroom environment at home. We don’t expect parents to become teachers overnight.

These are unprecedented times. Thank you to parents and learners for your understanding. We are doing our very best to minimise the impact on children’s learning and wellbeing as we work together to keep New Zealanders safe. 

Chris Hipkins is Member of Parliament for Rimutaka. He is ranked seventh in the Cabinet and is the Leader of the House and Minister of Education and State Services. He is also the Minister responsible for Ministerial Services.