A Bedford headteacher and chair of governors have prompted a question in the House of Commons, urging the Government to give priority for vaccination to teachers and frontline staff.
Anita Barker, headteacher at Scott Primary and Malcolm Redford, the school’s chair of governors, wrote an open letter to their MP, Mohammad Yasin, on behalf of the governing body of the school.
They said: “We implore the government to recognize, not only the crucial role that education staff play in our children’s learning, development and mental wellbeing, but also in the contribution they make to the restarting of the economy by allowing parents to return and sustain more normal working patterns.
“Professor Adam Finn, (a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and immunisation), amongst many others recently expressed the view that given the ‘critical role’ that teachers play, they should be prioritised in the government’s vaccine roll out programme.”
The letter concluded: “We therefore look to you and all our elected representatives to call on the Prime Minister to make access to vaccinations for education staff a priority.
“It is only by giving them protection that we can ensure that the reopening of our school and the return to ‘on-site’ learning can be sustained.”
At today’s Covid-19 (coronavirus) update by the Secretary of State for Health, Mr Yasin raised Mrs Barker’s concerns, asking if Mr Hancock had the political will to do all he can to prevent further school closures by vaccinating school staff as soon as possible.
Responding, Mr Hancock said he was was happy for school staff to be vaccinated within the JCVI categorisations, but said there was no evidence that teachers were worse affected by Covid than other professions.
He said the order of priority of vaccinations was based on the best clinical advice as to how to save most lives, most quickly.
Commenting on the Secretary of State’s response, Mohammad Yasin MP for Bedford and Kempston said: “Matt Hancock’s response misses the point of my question.
“Vaccinating teachers is not just about keeping them safe but preventing the huge disruption caused by closures if teachers have to self-isolate as we saw in December.
“I understand the JCVI’s reasoning that changing priority for vaccines from an age to occupational basis might hold up the rollout but research suggests it would take one day to vaccinate school staff.”
He said the whole lockdown roadmap depends on schools opening safely.
“It’s the key to opening up the rest of society so it should be obvious to the Government that a vaccinated school workforce is the only way of guaranteeing the roadmap.”
Mrs Barker told the Bedford Independent: “We are really looking forward to welcoming all children back to school on 8 March.
“However, our children and parents deserve this return to school to be sustained and not to be littered with a succession of bubble closures.
“Along with my Governors, I have a duty of care for our staff and this is a responsibility that we take very seriously.
“Our staff are more than willing to be in bubbles of 30 children and the very least that we can do for them, is to offer them the protection that they deserve, along with all Emergency Service workers.
“Let’s care for the people who care for others.”