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High school students to keep learning from home

Mitch Redman
Online Learning
Most high school students will continue learning from home once New Zealand moves into alert level three.  Mitch Redman

Canterbury high schools will re-open for some students next Wednesday, but the majority will continue studying remotely.

Year 9 and 10 students have the ability to return, if working from home is not an option. People in those year groups are often under 14 years old, the legal age to stay home without supervision. 

This will mean that senior students, working towards their NCEA qualifications, will have to continue doing their assignments away from the classroom. 

Despite the disruption COVID-19 has caused, one Christchurch principal seemed happy with how both staff and students were adapting. 

"People are engaging, and that’s what we want - keeping students connected to schools, and the learning that is going on," President of the Canterbury Secondary Schools Principals Association, Phil Holstein said. 

"There are those that are really thriving and want more then there’s those on the other hand that are less engaged, and we’re having to find new ways to better engage with them as well."  

However, the new way of learning has proved to be a challenge for those without internet connection at home, or access to devices.

Holstein, who is also principal of Burnside High School, said there was only a small number of families affected at his school, but schools in other areas of Canterbury were "having to deal with a lot more." 

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said on Tuesday more than 6,000 internet routers had been distributed around the country, on top of 10,000 devices. Physical learning packs have also been spread far across the country, written in English and Te Reo Māori.

Christchurch schools had also been working with the Ministry of Education to courier their own devices to the homes of students. 

Maadi Cup is an example of one secondary school sporting event that has been cancelled due to COVID-19. Mitch Redman

Some subjects, such as technology, physical education and drama are not as well equipped to be taught remotely.

"We’re very mindful of that, and one of the big things we are hopefully going to consider as we go through this, is if level three goes for longer, are we able to bring in small groups of senior students," Holstein said. 

Whilst some students have found online learning enjoyable, there are concerns that Year 13's are at risk of missing out on memorable moments of their final year.

"Some of us are struggling to find the motivation to continue learning out of the classroom. I'm also worried I'll miss out on being able to play 1st XV, or go to formal. This year is supposed to be the time of our lives, but coronavirus is stopping that," St Thomas' of Canterbury College student Jack Smith said. 

With NCEA exams still expected to take place at the end of the year, teenagers are being advised not to stress. 

"I take a lot from knowing that Christchurch has been through this before with the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. NZQA modified things then and already they are working on ways to modify the way exams would look so students aren’t disadvantage. The message I’m trying to get across to students is don’t panic," Holstein said.