Exclusive: 'Vaccinate teachers from start of term' plea

NEU calls for vaccinations for school staff as soon as term begins, and for most pupils to move online to allow this
21st December 2020, 12:38pm
John Roberts

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Exclusive: 'Vaccinate teachers from start of term' plea

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/exclusive-vaccinate-teachers-start-term-plea
Coronavirus: The Neu Is Calling On The Government To Begin Vaccinating Teachers In The First Two Weeks Of Term

Teaching union leaders have called on Boris Johnson to begin the vaccination of teachers as soon as term starts and to move learning online for most pupils.

In an open letter to the prime minister, the NEU teaching union's joint general secretaries, Kevin Courtney and Mary Bousted, call on the government to vaccinate education staff, alongside NHS and care staff. 

The letter also calls on the government to keep schools online in the first two weeks of term to ensure that this vaccination programme can start and a Covid testing regime can be properly set up.

It suggests that local directors of public health should be asked to set up the system of mass testing and says the government should support this through a national advertising campaign to find the staff and volunteers needed.


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Their letter raises concerns over rising Covid cases among pupils and reports that a new variant of the virus has increased transmissibility. 

Coronavirus: Call to prioritise vaccinations for teachers

The NEU letter comes as a leading scientist, Professor Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, warned that the new fast-spreading variant of Covid-19, which has led to more restrictions for people in London and the South East, may infect school pupils more than previous variants of the virus.

It also follows the government's announcement at the end of last week that it wanted schools to begin carrying out a mass testing programme of more than 5 million secondary school and college students from January 4.

The DfE has said that only exam year groups in secondary school should return in person during the first week of term, along with vulnerable children and those of key workers.  

But the NEU's joint general secretaries have called for primary and secondary school pupils to stay online, rather than going into school, for the first two weeks of term, except vulnerable children and those of key workers. 

Their letter says: "We support the desire of the government to have an accurate and effective system of mass testing, which could ensure that children who were asymptomatic but positive did not return to the classroom until they were no longer infectious, and which could find asymptomatic cases in further weeks as well. 

"However, we are concerned that such a system will not be in place for January 4."

It calls on Mr Johnson's government to take three steps to "radically reduce" disruption to education in the spring term. 

The letter adds: "Firstly, we believe that you should allow and encourage heads in ensuring that first two weeks of learning should be online, apart from key worker and vulnerable children, to allow cases to fall further and to allow time to properly set up the system of mass testing.

"You will be aware that the Scottish Government has put that step in place. We hope that you would be able to support parents who had to stay at home as a result of this and that government will do whatever it takes to ensure that all students have the devices and facilities to continue learning online. 

"Secondly, we believe that you should ask the local directors of public health to set the system of mass testing. We believe that the government could support them via a national advertising campaign to find the staff and volunteers needed, as you did in finding the volunteers to help the NHS at an earlier stage.

"We are confident that schools and colleges and our members would be really pleased to work alongside the directors of public health to ensure that the mass testing does then happen. We would hope that such a system could then test all children, at their school site, prior to a return to in-person teaching from 18 January.

"Thirdly, we believe that you should use that two-week period to begin to vaccinate education staff, alongside NHS and care staff. Part of the disruption to education, and the extra stress on school leaders, is caused both by the relatively high levels of staff absence due to the virus and self-isolation and by the fear that vulnerable staff have about working without PPE [personal protective equipment] or social distancing."

 

 

 

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