Schools are officially open again - but one in six schools are not expecting any students through their doors this week.

Principals' Federation president Perry Rush says parents have got the message that they should keep children at home in alert level 3 if they possibly can, and many are still worried about the health risks of sending them to school.

Some small schools have also decided not to open because teachers are unavailable due to health concerns or, in one case, not having up-to-date first aid certificates.

A Principals' Federation survey with responses from 620 schools found an average of only 6 per cent of students expected back at school this week, with 16 per cent of schools not expecting any students to turn up.

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Ministry of Education deputy secretary Katrina Casey said the ministry's national data as at 1pm on April 28 indicated that only 4 per cent of all school students and 7 per cent of children in early learning services are expected back in their schools and centres this week.

"We are seeing the highest expected attendance rates reported for early learning in Auckland and Taranaki/Whanganui/Manawatū (9 per cent) and the lowest in Tai Tokerau/Northland (2 per cent)," she said.

"In schooling we are seeing the highest expected attendance rates again in Auckland (5 per cent) and in Nelson/Marlborough/West Coast (6 per cent), and the lowest in Bay of Plenty/Waiariki (2 per cent)."

The country's biggest early learning company, BestStart, said 1830 children attended at 241 of its 260 centres today - 10 per cent of its normal roll of 18,500.

Brothers Korban and Luka van Staden, aged 4 and 3, were two of just five children who turned up at BestStart's Ngatai Rd centre in Tauranga, also a tenth of the normal roll of 50.

Korban van Staden (left), 4, and his brother Luka van Staden, 3, make their own fun in a largely deserted Best Start Ngatai Rd in Tauranga under the watch of teacher Nicola Jones. Photo / Alan Gibson
Korban van Staden (left), 4, and his brother Luka van Staden, 3, make their own fun in a largely deserted Best Start Ngatai Rd in Tauranga under the watch of teacher Nicola Jones. Photo / Alan Gibson

They were placed into one "bubble" with three teachers who will stay with them through alert level 3.

Parents had to drop the children at the front door and were not allowed inside, to minimise the risk of Covid-19 infection. Spokeswoman Rachel D'Cruz said parents were told of the changes in advance so the new system "went smoothly" and parents and children were "quite relaxed".

However an Early Childhood Council survey last week found that only 55 per cent of its 1300 services planned to open this week, with 33 per cent planning to stay closed and 12 per cent unsure.

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Kōhanga Reo spokesman Tahuri Tomoana said only 52 of the country's 444 kōhanga plan to open this week for about 7 per cent of the normal numbers of children.

"Over one third of kaiako [teachers] will not be attending due to age or health conditions posing a risk - 83 per cent of kaiako surveyed indicate they are not feeling safe to return to work," he said.

"Within particular areas there will sufficient staffing to meet [the required teacher/students] ratio. In other areas kōhanga will remain closed because they cannot meet ratio."

Hohepa Campbell of the rūnanga representing the country's 64 kura kaupapa Māori schools said "very, very few" children are expected to attend, and most schools "won't actually be opening or will open only for a few tamariki".

"When the whānau have met they have all recognised the need to protect and support the vulnerable within the whānau," he said.

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Watson Ohia of another group of 38 kura-a-iwi schools said "very low numbers" of children were expected.

Myles Ferris, principal of Ōtāngarei School in Whangārei, notified his parents on Facebook that he had decided not to open the school this week because his teachers had not been able to renew their first aid certificates because of the lockdown.

Level 3 Update - School to remain closed Kia ora whanau, we have had to make the call to remain closed under Level 3...

Posted by Te Kura o Otangarei 2018 on Monday, 27 April 2020

Edendale Primary School in Auckland has told its parents that the school will reopen for attendance next Monday, May 4.

----------------------MONDAY 4TH MAY--------------------------------- Kia ora koutou and a brief update re COVID-19...

Posted by Edendale Primary School on Thursday, 23 April 2020

Rush said "a considerable number" of small rural schools would not open this week because of extremely low numbers wanting to attend.

But he said the low numbers were consistent proportionately across all income deciles, despite earlier concerns that students might return in bigger numbers at low-decile schools.

Level 3 education rules

• Students must be kept in bubbles of no more than 10 initially, possibly rising to 20 "once all processes are running smoothly".

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• Start, break and finish times must be staggered so that children in different bubbles don't mix.

• Early learning centres must provide 3 square metres of indoor space per ]child, up from 2.5 square metres normally, and must keep temperatures above 18C, up from 16C.

• Children and teachers must keep 1 metre apart inside and 2 metres apart outside, except that the ministry accepts that physical contact is needed in early learning centres.

• Playgrounds (but not sandpits) can be open in early learning centres but not in schools.

• Children cannot play with anything that is touched by other students such as balls, ropes or sticks.

• More detail: covid19.govt.nz.

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