Teachers not certain of vaccine priority in Scotland

Education secretary addresses Covid vaccination question and also speaks on possible cancellation of exams

Tes Reporter

Coronavirus: It is not clear if teachers in Scotland will be given priority for the Covid-19 vaccine

It appears unclear whether teachers would be considered a priority group for a Covid-19 vaccine in Scotland, when it becomes available.

Education secretary and deputy first minister John Swinney was questioned about access to a vaccine at the SNP conference, which is being held online this year.

He said the vaccination programme outlined by health secretary Jeane Freeman in the Scottish Parliament earlier this month prioritised healthcare workers, vulnerable people and those most likely to be exposed to the virus.

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The Scottish government has said that up to 320,000 doses of the vaccine could be distributed around the country by the second week in December, while up to a million people may be inoculated by the end of January.

“There’s essentially a combination between the approach to the vaccine, which will be clinically driven judgements, and the expansion of the testing regime,” Mr Swinney said.

“Given the scale of the rollout of the vaccination programme, which will be significant from December onwards, there will obviously be a very intense focus on making sure we get that vaccination programme carried out across the population and that will, of course, include teachers.”

Coronavirus: Exams must be fair for all

Meanwhile, Mr Swinney also said during his speech on Saturday that a decision on the holding of Higher and Advanced Higher exams will be made before the February deadline.

National 5 exams have already been cancelled in Scotland due to the Covid-19 pandemic but some form of Higher and Advanced Higher exams are still due to go ahead in 2021.

However, despite a final decision being expected by mid-February, for the exams usually held in May, the education secretary said at the SNP conference that an announcement will be made earlier.

The topic will be up for discussion this week by the Covid-19 Education Recovery Group – a body set up by the Scottish government in response to the pandemic – but the final decision will be for Mr Swinney.

Speaking at a fringe event hosted by the EIS teaching union, Mr Swinney said: “I’m not going to leave it until February.

“I’ve said that’s the backstop but I appreciate that’s too late in the year for that.”

The most important issue when making the decision is the impact the coronavirus has had on pupils and the inequalities it could cause, he said.

“The key issue, and we’re gathering data about this, is what’s the degree of disruption to a candidate’s learning, because that’s the crucial point in whether I can be assured there can be the fair delivery of [an exam] diet to all candidates.

“If you’re in an area where one child has not had any period of self-isolation but another child has had three periods of self-isolation, there’s big equity issues around that.

“The key consideration…is there equity of learning for all candidates, and that will shape my judgement.”

In a recent survey by the National Parent Forum of Scotland, most of the 4,196 parents or carers wanted all exams cancelled next summer.

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