Update on School Sport

By Michael Mackenzie | Posted: Monday May 4, 2020

The board of School Sport NZ, in partnership with National Sporting Organisations (NSO’s) and event providers, has announced that due to the ongoing impact of Covid-19, the National Calendar of Sanctioned Events will be further suspended until 20th July, the beginning of Term 3.

The government announcement that NZ will remain at Alert Level 3 pending a review on May 11, along with the requirements for sport at Alert Level 2 yet to be determined, the degree of uncertainty and lack of lead in time required for schools and sport to prepare and plan will not enable a resumption to national level school sport at this point. To view the updated list of suspended events, please Click Here

School Sport NZ recognises the importance of rangatahi returning to normal activities as soon as possible and the crucial role that school sport plays in contributing to the physical, mental and social health of our young people. We also support government guidelines in keeping NZ and our people safe from Covid-19 and we continue to work with national and regional sport bodies on the resumption of school sport that is safe for all participants and aligned with NSO guidelines.

Winter Tournament Week (WTW), scheduled for late August, the culmination of the season and a highlight for schools and students, is unlikely to look like it normally does in 2020. Some WTW event organisers have indicated they will not be in a position to provide some events as currently planned and School Sport NZ is working through the options for 2020 WTW with NSOs, schools and other event partners. We are very conscious of the certainty and lead in times required by all partners and expect to make an announcement regarding WTW and other Term 3 national school sport events in early June when the situation with Alert Levels and permitted activities has become clearer.

School Sport NZ national events, more so than local or regional school sport, involve heightened risk with students coming from and returning to communities throughout NZ, extensive travel, communal living in motels / marae. National events also come with greater costs to families, to schools and to event organisers, all of which provide significant challenges in the current environment. With some WTW national events not being viable in 2020, the possibility of providing regionally based school sport opportunities during the WTW window which can be planned with increased certainty and less risk is being explored with NSOs, RSDs, RSOs and schools.

Undoubtedly a return to school sport will be more readily achieved at a local, intraschool and regional interschool level than at national level and we encourage schools and regional bodies to actively explore ways to get our students playing again as more definitive guidelines around permissible sporting activities at Alert Levels are released in the coming weeks.

To provide some context, there are a range of factors that impact decision making in regard to resuming the School Sport NZ national calendar of events including but not limited to:

  • Covid-19 national (or regional) Alert Status and government restrictions on sport including travel, size of gatherings, hygiene, physical distancing, and ability to provide rapid contact tracing.
  • NSO readiness and capacity to resume play at a national level. Many NSOs have indicated the focus will be on grassroots sport (local and regional) and have cancelled most, in some cases all, events at national level.
  • Ability for NSOs and schools to complete qualification processes for national events.
  • Lead-in time required by schools (funding, travel, accommodation) and event organisers (venue hire, funding, volunteers).
  • Comments made by the Minister regarding possibility of changes to 2020 holiday/term dates.
  • NSOs planning to extend community winter sport to create a viable grassroots community season overlapping WTW and placing pressure on officials, volunteers, hosts and venues.
  • Likely school focus on core business (curriculum / academic) given the significant disruption.
  • Appetite of parents, teachers (as coaches/managers), and principals for students to travel outside their region, use airports and stay in communal accommodation.
  • Financial pressure on families, schools, and communities in sending students to national tournaments following economic downturn (household income levels, job losses)
  • Absence of Class 4 Trust funding to support travel and accommodation for schools and event costs for NSOs (unlikely to be available before October) and additional loss of event sponsorship.
  • Availability of volunteers for WTW events given many will have used annual leave during disruption and significant proportion of volunteers in the vulnerable age bracket.
  • Availability / affordability of air travel.

As stated, we acknowledge the importance of our students and schools resuming sporting activities as soon as it is safe and permitted to do so and are working with a wide range of partners to ensure that the messages driving a resumption are clear and are aligned across the sport sector.