Letters: Teachers and education staff should be prioritised for Covid vaccine

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I am Aisling Gammon, secretary of the Teacher’s Union (NASUWT North Bedfordshire), representing our member teachers in Bedford and the surrounding area.

As a mother of three children, NASUWT local secretary and school teacher I wholeheartedly support the NASUWT #Vaccinate2Educate campaign for all teachers and education staff to be prioritised for the Covid-19 (coronavirus) vaccine.

We need to save lives and help get children back to school.

We owe it to our children to ensure this first vital step to ensure the safe opening of schools and the learning and social emotional wellbeing of our children.

While some may argue that primary schools are incredibly safe, we are extremely concerned.

The last thing we would want is to bring the deadly virus home and infect our families.

It needs to be recognised that staff at special schools and AP’s where social distancing is challenging at the best and students rely on a more hands-on approach are particularly vulnerable.

As a mother, I know that schools are the best environments for our children to learn but only when safe to do so.

The young children I teach, although an absolute joy, find social distancing impossible.

Classroom spaces are certainly not big enough to allow for the government’s ‘strict’ social distancing guidance that applies to other workplaces.

We are told time and time again to avoid unnecessary contact as it could be a potential link in the chain to a vulnerable person contracting the virus.

We are told to stay at home and act like you have the virus.

But we are also told schools are vectors for the new highly transmissible strain and I and many educational staff go to school and mix with lots and lots of households.

Schools have worked incredibly hard, but we cannot make our classrooms physically bigger to allow for social distancing.

Our General Secretary, Patrick Roach said: ‘It is in the national interest that all teachers and education staff are prioritised in the roll-out of the Coronavirus vaccines.

“Teachers and education staff are unable to practice social distancing from their pupils and few are provided with essential PPE as part of their day-to-day roles.

“Many schools continue to operate with very high number of children and young people on site and alternative provision continues to operate as normal.”

Before Christmas, my son had to self-isolate, he was thankfully fine, but as many children exhibit little to no symptoms, I knew that it would probably be myself or my husband that would test positive or show symptoms first.

Responding to many emails and calls, it is clear the stress and anxiety amongst teachers and education staff.

Especially those who live with vulnerable family members, as we all know a friend or colleague who has contracted the virus, been diagnosed with Long COVID-19 and it feels remarkably close.

Thank you to our local MP, Mohammed Yasin, who has shown support for our schools and vaccinated education staff.

It is, of course, right that the vulnerable and health and social care staff are prioritised for access to the vaccine, but teachers and education staff must also be recognised as a priority group for the vaccine.

Your sincerely

Mrs Aisling Gammon
NASUWT Local Secretary (North Beds)

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