Teachers hoping for priority Covid vaccination to help schools reopen

Teachers and their unions are in the news this week as pressure grows on the Government to provide them priority status in the queue for the Covid-19 vaccine.

So far, with the vaccination programme looking like it’s progressing well throughout the UK, teachers are requesting they become the next in line to receive the jab to ensure a quick and safe return to the classroom.

As the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, announced this week, schools are to remain closed until at least March 8th in a bid to help reduce the spread of the virus. Meanwhile, the mass vaccination programme works flat-out to achieve its first milestone of having all health care workers, vulnerable or people aged over 70 vaccinated by mid-February.

One of the country’s largest teaching unions, the NASUWT, has launched the Vaccinate2Educate campaign, asking for all members to sign the petition to see teachers given immediate access to the vaccine. With many teachers expected to work in confined spaces, often with no provision of adequate PPE, the union has concerns for their members’ welfare should this not be addressed quickly and schools allowed to reopen.

It’s a view shared by the opposition leader, Kier Starmer, who is pressing the Government to use the approaching half-term break – running February 15th-19th – as an opportunity to vaccinate teachers once the current priority groups mass vaccination roll-out is complete. Alongside other critical ‘frontline’ professions, including police officers, firefighters and transport workers, teachers would jump the queue ahead of those aged between 50 and 70 years, who are currently the next group set to receive their invitations to a vaccination centre for their first dose.

Some schools have gone as far as offering their facilities in the hope of having their calls for support answered. According to the Daily Mail, a group of school headteachers – known as The Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference – has presented a plan to the Government to allow almost every school-based worker to receive their vaccination during February. By utilising 150 schools across the country as vaccination hubs, around 1 million doses of the vaccine could be administered to headteachers, teachers, teaching assistants, catering staff and caretakers in just one week.

No one can argue that teachers have so far put themselves in a position of vulnerability every day during the pandemic, and adequate protection from Covid is required. And many feel that by vaccinating teachers and their co-workers, schools and colleges will open quickly, in turn, having a positive impact on the millions of children currently home-learning. It’s clear nobody in the teaching profession wants schools to remain closed any longer than is necessary, with many fearing for the long-term ramifications on children after being out of a structured learning environment for months on end. No doubt it is a sentiment shared by millions of parents across the UK as they try desperately to juggle work commitments and the multiple components of homeschooling, supervising their children’s learning being only one among many new daily demands.

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