Northland primary and secondary schools have said goodbye to at least 201 registered full-time and relief teachers as the Covid-19 vaccine mandate bites.
Education Ministry figures indicate 6.7 per cent of Northland school teachers, 159 people, have refused the Covid vaccination.
The figure only represents the 90.8 per cent of the population who have responded with their vaccination status, meaning the vaccination status of 241 teachers and 39 day-relief teachers is still unknown.
According to official figures, there were 2612 teachers and 422 relief teachers working in Northland in 2020. A vaccination rate of 93.3 per cent translates to more than 159 unvaccinated teachers and 89.9 per cent translates to 42 unvaccinated relief teachers.
Northland had the lowest vaccination rate in the education sector, with the national average of vaccination for teachers being 97.6 per cent, and 95 per cent for teacher aides, latest figures show.
Official figures further suggest 92 per cent of other school support staff were vaccinated in the region.
The figures did not come as a surprise, with Northland being the second-least-vaccinated region, with 80 per cent of the population fully vaccinated and 87 per cent partially vaccinated.
All schools in Tai Tokerau were open and operational when the vaccine mandate came into force on November 16.
Hautū Te Tai Raro (North) Isabel Evans, from the Ministry of Education, said last month that a small number of schools had needed external support to continue operating.
"Our regional office staff are working on a day-by-day basis with those affected schools and kura, and with local Principal Associations and RTLB to find solutions.
"Where staff roles are needing to be replaced, principals and boards have made plans to maintain business continuity and remain open for learning."
Hautū Education Workforce Anna Welanyk said only 11 schools of the 2500 schools and kura nationally (around 0.5 per cent) indicated they had a high risk of staffing issues due to the mandate, and they had all been able to remain open, using a range of strategies to do so and with help from local Ministry of Education teams.
However, the ministry could not say if any of these 11 schools were in Northland, even though the Advocate specifically asked for Tai Tokerau figures.
"The ministry has established processes for addressing supply challenges. Examples of support that can be put in place include using relief staff and teachers who usually work across a number of schools," the ministry said.
"No specific areas of the country raised concern but we recognise that there are often greater challenges for smaller schools, rural schools and special character schools."
Education and Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said he was proud of all the teachers and support staff who had stepped up right across the country to get vaccinated and protect tamariki, young people and their whānau.
Hipkins acknowledged the high vaccine uptake among Northland teachers and said it was something to be really proud of.
However, the region experienced the lowest vaccination rate among teachers compared to the rest of New Zealand.
"I am proud of them and proud of school communities for adapting to Covid-19 and ensuring schools and kura can return to face-to-face learning safely.
"There is still time for those who have not yet been vaccinated to get protected from Covid-19 and return to work next year. As long as they have had two doses of the vaccine they can continue work at school and I really encourage them to do so.
"Mandates are not easy decisions. They have been put in place to ensure schools are safe places for children and young people to go and learn.
"The high rates of uptake across the country, including over 93 per cent of teachers in Northland, is something to be really proud of."
A Ministry of Education spokesperson said the teachers who did not meet the vaccine mandate on November 16 were still going through an employment process with their schools and kura.
"The picture is not clear as to how many vacancies will eventuate at this time. All schools in Tai Tokerau are open and operational. A small number of schools have needed additional support to respond to the mandate,'' the spokesperson said.
"Our regional office staff are working on a daily basis with them."