ERO evaluated the quality of pandemic planning in 230 schools (nearly a tenth of all state schools in New Zealand) during Terms 2 and 3, 2007. Information for this evaluation was collected in the course of the schools' regular education reviews.
ERO investigated how prepared schools were for a potential influenza pandemic, and identified specific actions schols have taken to prepare for a pandemic.
Almost all schools involved in this study were taking some steps to prepare for a pandemic, and 25 percent were well prepared. Nine percent of schools had yet to take any steps to prepare.
Issues that schools cited as barriers to becoming fully prepared included:
- a lack of clear communication, information and/or guidance from the local Public Health Unit (PHU) or the Ministry of Education.
- Uncertainty about who would pay for required supplies;
- difficulty for some schools in obtaining pandemic kits; and
- lack of medical services in the local area, especially for rural schools.
Rural schools were finding it more difficult than others to prepare for a possible pandemic. These schools may require additional support and encouragement to become well prepared.
To improve their preparedness for a potential influenza pandemic, ERO recommends that schools focus on:
- informing relevant groups and their community about the school's pandemic plan and how they can help;
- clarifying the school's role in local response plans; and
- using an established cluster of schools as a single point of contact to liaise with their local PHU emergency planner.
To support schools in their preparations for a potential influenza pandemic, ERO recommends that PHUs focus on:
- continuing to work closely with clusters of schools to develop local response plans and single points of contact.
ERO also recommends that the Ministry of Education actively focus on:
- its communications with schools, giving them information on all aspects of pandemic planning; and
- helping rural schools to prepare for a pandemic.