A photo of 500 Napier Boys' High School students congregating in the school's assembly hall on Monday has received backlash from some quarters - yet Ministry of Education guidelines state school assemblies can go ahead under level 2 with appropriate risk assessments in place.

"You should maintain sufficient distance between students so they aren't touching or breathing directly on each other," according to the ministry's Managing Health and Safety in Schools at Alert Level 2 booklet.

"There are no restrictions on the number of students attending assemblies."

Napier Boys' High School headmaster Matt Bertram said despite the backlash, strict social distancing rules were adhered to.


"At our assembly on Monday, 500 boys were spread out over 1100 seats in a bid to maintain social distancing and we will continue to follow ministry guidelines in all we do," he said.

The ministry's deputy secretary sector enablement and support, Katrina Casey, said they are confident NBHS is doing "everything it can" to make sure students and staff are safe.

"Ministry of Health guidelines make it clear that in some environments like school sites it's not always practical to have physical distance restrictions in place," she said.

"Unlike public spaces, school sites are controlled environments meaning schools know who is there and who they have been in close contact with so contact tracing can take place if required."

Bertram added that maintaining the health and safety of all students and staff members is "of paramount importance" to the school.

"We are very conscious of keeping the students and staff safe, but we also want them to get back into the daily school routine.

"We are quite confident that we can do both."

The school headmaster said the school had put necessary social distancing and hygiene standards in place for all boys to follow.


Casey added that schools have also been advised to prohibit touching, including hongi, handshakes and hugs.

"We know that school leaders are focused on the safety and wellbeing of students and staff and we are supporting them with that," she said.

Earlier this week, Bertram said 94 per cent of students were at school, which was just below average for a Monday in winter.

The school's boarding hostel is also up and running and all students were present except for a few who were absent for non-Covid reasons, he said.