Unions 'disappointed' over decision not to prioritise teachers for vaccine

Government advisers decided against prioritising school and college staff in "crowded" classrooms in the next phase of the...

Government advisers decided against prioritising school and college staff in "crowded" classrooms in the next phase of the vaccine rollout. - Credit: PA

Education unions have been left disappointed after government advisers decided against prioritising school and college staff in "crowded" classrooms in the next phase the vaccine rollout.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) concluded that vaccinating in order of age - starting with people aged 40 to 49 - remains the quickest way to cut deaths.

Reopening schools could see repeat rapid testing of pupils to be conducted in schools when they return, before switching...

Reopening schools will see repeat rapid testing of pupils to be conducted in schools when they return, before switching to home tests. - Credit: PA

The JCVI considered whether teachers should be vaccinated next, but concluded that age remains a major factor in serious illness and speed of the rollout was of great importance.

Former Suffolk head Geoff Barton, now general secretary of the ASCL head teachers' union, said he was "disappointed" by the outcome - especially after ministers announced this week that all pupils in all year groups in England would return to class from March 8, despite repeated warnings from unions.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, welcomed the chang

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, welcomed the change Picture: PHIL MORELY - Credit: Archant

The heads' union has urged the government to "reconsider" the decision so school staff are prioritised.

"This seems only right if it is asking all these staff to be in crowded environments where the vast majority of people have not been vaccinated, and where the absence from school of any teacher directly affects the quality of education," Mr Barton said.

Last month Conservative MP for Mid Norfolk George Freeman said teachers and other key workers should be given priority, even suggesting they should get the vaccine before some elderly people.

Scott Lyons. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Scott Lyons district secretary of the Norfolk branch of the National Education Union. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Scott Lyons, district secretary of the Norfolk branch of the National Education Union, said it had updated local guidance for school staff who are shielding and and for other medically vulnerable and older staff who “should be allowed to work at home at least until their first vaccination has taken effect”.

He said: “We will continue to press for all education workers to be at the top of phase two of the vaccination schedule, alongside other front line key workers, delivering the jab to those under 50 not included in phase one.”

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Downing Street has defended the decision not to prioritise key workers, such as teachers and police officers.

South Wootton Infant School deputy head teacher, Rebecca Burt taking her Covid-19 self-test. Picture

South Wootton Infant School deputy head teacher, Rebecca Burt taking her Covid-19 self-test. - Credit: Ian Burt

A No 10 spokesman said: "The JCVI have advised that even in the under-50s, age remains the biggest single factor determining mortality and hospitalisations, so it is therefore right that we accept their advice to continue to prioritise by age as this will protect the most people and have the biggest impact on reducing NHS pressures."

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