School staff leaving over vaccine mandates

Western Bay of Plenty Principal’s Association president Suzanne Billington. Photos: John Borren/SunLive.

Some schools in the region could lose up to half of their staff when the Covid-19 vaccine mandates come into force on Monday, says a principal’s representative.

Western Bay of Plenty Principal’s Association president Suzanne Billington says she has surveyed schools in the region and knows of three that could lose around half of their staff.

The majority are looking at losing as little as five or as much as 20 per cent of staff, says Suzanne.

“It’s a really difficult situation for all schools, because it’s been mandated from government,” she says.

“As principals and their boss, we have to carry out what the government is saying.”

The Western Bay of Plenty Principal’s Association represents more than 60 schools from Whakatāne to Waihī.

The government has introduced mandatory vaccines for anyone who comes into contact with children in an educational setting. They must have their first dose by November 15, and be fully vaccinated by January 1, 2022.

For those schools losing 50 per cent of their staff, they may need to close or operate at a reduced capacity says Suzanne.

“There’s a limited relieving pool across the region and we’ve got quite a number of schools that are 80 to 95 per cent vaccinated. So they're looking for three-to-six staff, depending on the size.”

Suzanne has been given a range of reasons for staff refusing to be vaccinated.

Some staff are against all vaccinations, while others are simply against the Covid-19 vaccine and some aren’t getting vaccinated as a stance against the mandates, she says.

“They’re taking a principled stand rather than a stand based on their feelings around vaccination.

“I know there’s one principal in this region that seriously considering resigning because of his feelings around the mandate.”

Suzanne is the principal at Tauriko School and says she’s lucky because all of her staff will be vaccinated by November 15.

She knows of three or four schools in that situation.

Otūmoetai Intermediate principal Henk Popping says staff are quite happy to comply with the health order, with one or two teachers that might not get vaccinated.

Henk Popping.

“The reality for our school is we've got 696 students over 12 who potentially could be vaccinated with their parents, but there are 204 students who aren’t, who are under 11,” says Henk.

“We have to protect them as much as we can. Generally there is support for the vaccination order in our school.”

He says the general response from parents that volunteer or help out at the school is also positive.

Mount Maunganui Intermediate School Principal Melissa Nelson says the school has not been adversely affected and the teaching team will all remain on deck after November 15.

“The vaccine mandate has certainly put pressure on our sector and the timing of it has been difficult for many schools to manage” she says.

Pāpāmoa College principal Steve Lindsey has concerns that he will lose staff because of the mandates.

Steve Lindsey.

“I don't want to lose any of my staff, but we realise that this will have a net effect of us losing some people,” he says.

“That's really gutting for us and obviously for employees as well. It’s a tricky situation for everyone.”

NZEI Te Riu Roa president Liam Rutherford says there is “a lot of uncertainty” around how many educators will leave the profession.

The union is working closely with the Ministry of Education around any staffing issues that could arise as a result, he says.

“The majority of our members agree with the mandate and our support of it,” says Liam.

“We will be actively working with them, schools, early childhood centres’ employers, and the government to be certain the vaccine mandate is implemented fairly and safely.”

Post Primary Teachers’ Association Te Wehengarua president Melanie Webber didn’t want to speculate on whether people will leave their jobs.

“Field staff are supporting members, including those in the Western Bay of Plenty, who have concerns about the mandate,” she says.

The Weekend Sun asked the Ministry of Education if they are aware of how many staff may leave over the mandates, and what they are doing to support schools that will lose staff.

At the time of writing, the Ministry had not provided any data.

Ministry of Education operations and integration leader Sean Teddy says they are working with schools that require their help to meet staffing needs.

“If schools do need our assistance with staffing, we encourage them to contact their regional Ministry of Education office who will work with them on a case-by-case basis to address their specific needs,” says Sean.

 “We are regularly meeting with education leaders to work through issues they are facing and to seek their feedback on meeting the requirements of the government mandates.”


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Posted on 13-11-2021 09:04 | By Slim Shady

Some examples of Child & Adolescent deaths per year: Pneumonia - 1 million, Malaria - 650,000, Road deaths - 220,000. Puts the Covid number into perspective but I am afraid many people have lost all sense of perspective and reality. Most of your 12,000 have been from 3rd world countries, which is not said to be unsympathetic, but we are talking about New Zealand which has access to slighty better healthcare and drugs, if needed, which is extremely unlikey. Children are built to self immunise so all this "protect the kids" is just nonsense. There will be many more children die on their way to school than from Covid. So, if you wanted to protect kids you wouldn’t allow them out the house. Which is ridiculous. But not as ridiculous as the notion that forcing people to be vaccinated offers some sort of protection.

A society divided.

Posted on 12-11-2021 18:07 | By morepork

As a sometime school teacher I have given this a lot of thought. It is a natural Kiwi reaction for us to object to being MADE to do something. Morally, there can be no argument that forcing vaccinations (or ANY medical treatment) on people is wrong. But, where protection is an obvious job requirement (and I think it has to be for schoolteachers/pupils) then it is fair enough to mandate it. I believe the failure we are seeing is because the need to deploy the vaccine was not handled properly. Most thinking people would recognize that even an imperfect solution is better than NO solution, and can buy us time until better solutions emerge. But many (too many?) people allow their emotional reaction to being bullied by the Government to overrule their thinking and evaluating process. This is a dismal failure to present the case PROPERLY to EVERYBODY.

Overit and slim

Posted on 12-11-2021 16:41 | By Kancho

A mandate means you are required or officially ordered so no you won’t go to prison , you just won’t have a job . Some figures for Slim from UNESCO info Among the 3.3 million COVID-19 deaths1 reported in the MPIDR Coverage database, 0.4 per cent (over 11,700) occur in children and adolescents under 20 years of age. Of the over 11,700 deaths reported in those under 20 years of age, 58 per cent occurred among adolescents ages 10–19, and 42 per cent among children ages 0–9 Not miniscule to nearly 12 thousand families then Slim. Nor for those who survive but have long covid with life long problems. Teachers are exposed to covid via children to but hey that’s fine by me they can take it home with them ,

A few selfish people

Posted on 12-11-2021 14:41 | By davidt5

The children’s heath and safety should be the primary concern of the school. By default this must include all of the adults on the school grounds. Should a principal or teacher not carry out this requirement then the school is best off without them. We are required to do many things in our life which we may object to - pay the mortgage or rent on time, do not hit the kids, wear respectful clothing, have a licence to drive the car to school, keep left when we drive on the road, do not smoke in the school grounds etc. All of us are required to comply with numerous mandates in our everyday life. Teachers, health professionals, and many others just need to get in line with the team of 5 million and get their jabs. Most probably a requirement they be vaccinated to be interviewed for any job.

It’s For The Best

Posted on 12-11-2021 13:43 | By Bob Landy

We need intelligent staff in schools. These people are not intelligent.

No freedom wont return

Posted on 12-11-2021 12:10 | By an_alias

Please Vaccinated catch covid and transmit Delta just like non-vaxxed. Ask yourself why Bloomfield says we need boosters at 6 months ? Does that sound like its going to work ? @Kancho So you would fire all people and give no unemployement, you really are taking the high ground. Do you even have a clue what Natural selection is ? Do you think mRNA jabs are natural ? So firefighters and emergency staff who have put there lifes on the line for you and now get fired for THERE choice aren’t required to save you down the track. Those kids that died overseas you will find on the whole had massive co-morbidities.

The kids, the kids

Posted on 12-11-2021 11:59 | By Slim Shady

Kids don’t rule the world. And the number of children badly affected or killed by this virus is so minuscule they are much more likely to be hit by mum or dad reversing the car down the driveway. Get a grip.


Posted on 12-11-2021 11:58 | By overit

A mandate is not Law.

It is an absolute disgrace.....

Posted on 12-11-2021 10:42 | By Bruja

Teachers, Nurses, Doctors, Firefighters etc etc etc NO mandates!!! Roll on the next election unless these mandates are gone and NOW not after people lose their livelihoods. Despicable control.

Freedom of choice ONLY for you!

Posted on 12-11-2021 10:16 | By xenasdad

To freedom of choice, yeah, YOUR freedom to be an unvaccinated super spreader to a captive bunch of youngsters. What about THEIR rights to be safe from teachers like you who put their "Rights" above anyone else, who then has an increased risk of becoming infected, and also taking it home with them ??


Posted on 12-11-2021 10:13 | By Yadick

So some teachers aren’t getting the vax because of their stand against the mandate. No ones going to tell them what they have to do. Think about it, you’re teachers, you tell kids all day long what to do. What amazing examples you are to these kids. It’s no wonder kids of today are becoming more and more rude and cheeky. I want . . ., I won’t . . . Out protesting instead of being in school, 10yr olds shoving protest signs that they have no idea about in people’s faces. Greta Thunbergs in the making. HOW DARE YOU.


Posted on 12-11-2021 10:07 | By Richard McNair

These people are more concerned with their own rights than their responsibilities or the rights of the children so they need to shape up or ship out in order to keep the children and families safe


Posted on 12-11-2021 10:06 | By Mein Fuhrer

really? are you that hypnotised by the endless covid rhetoric, you really think the vaccine is the magic pill? careful you don’t frighten yourself into a heart attack!

@An alias

Posted on 12-11-2021 09:52 | By Kancho

The point is children can get Covid as experienced overseas. That they are young has some effect means they largely get over it . However many child deaths have been recorded overseas this maybe smaller stats but tell that to the grieving families. More so in that covid infected children can carry covid to teachers and they can take it home and into the community. Thereby teachers can be a conduit to their families and friends. Better to get vaccinated, however I agree they can choose not to vaccinate and leave the profession . This morning’s newspaper article a prominent "Northland principal (Pat Newman ) is calling for teachers who don’t want the jab to quit now. Instead of forcing schools to scramble to fill their positions at the last minute and causing more disruption for the kids in their care".

Our children come first

Posted on 12-11-2021 09:17 | By Alexz

There are now different option re the vaccine so think of others in our community and the children. These are difficult times that require us all to pu These are unusual and difficult times that require us all to do our part to get us through this pandemic. Just do it, take the vaccine.

Freedom of choice

Posted on 12-11-2021 08:57 | By an_alias

It should never be forced vaccination or your job. It has been proven kids are not adversely affected by covid. So that argument is pure propaganda. It should ALWYS be a personal choice. Once we have acceptance of mandates the govt will not stop. You will now be required to get vaccinated with boosters shortly, just look at UK and Israel.

Hey teacha

Posted on 12-11-2021 08:36 | By Menace1432

Do the teachers really think that throwing their jobs in will help their cause? What jobs are out there where non-vaccination is acceptable! Our Covid-19 Vax status has become as much a part of HR as drug testes and police checks!! Get the jab and feel the benefits.


Posted on 12-11-2021 07:37 | By Kancho

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Nor be eligible for any unemployment benefits. For supposed educated people with influence on young minds clearly we are better off without you and education of children will be better off when you are gone. Natural selection in action a great improvement.

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