Education unions, associations and representative bodies have joined forces today to call for teachers and education staff to be prioritised in phase two of the country’s vaccination programme.

The government has said that it is a national priority to reopen schools and colleges, when safe to do so. Currently, no decision has been taken on the future prioritisation of phase two vaccinations.

In a letter sent today (13 Jan) they ask the government to urgently consider raising the priority level for all staff in early years, school, college, adult education, and independent training provider settings.

The signatories say these staff must be prioritised because: 

  • Fully reopening education settings is a national priority - the moment it is safe to do so.  
  • Learning often takes place indoors and in close contact with large numbers of students in multiple groups, putting staff at high risk of both catching and transmitting the virus.  
  • Vaccination prioritisation, combined with mass testing, would reduce transmissions, remove any further disruption to the education of young people and support the resumption of economic activity by reducing the burden of home schooling on working parents.  

They also say that education staff working in early years, specialist settings and those whose role involves elements of health care and very close contact, should be first among education staff to receive the vaccine.   

Association of Colleges alongside ASCL, AELP, HOLEX, Landex, Natspec, SFCA, Early Years Alliance and GMB UCU, Unison, Unite and NEU have written to the Minister for COVID Vaccine Deployment, Nadhim Zahawi, Health Secretary, Matt Hancock and Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson in a joint letter calling on the government to raise the priority level for all staff in early years, school and college settings to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.

The letter sets out the case for prioritising teachers and staff – stating “vaccination prioritisation, combined with mass testing, would be a sure way to reduce transmissions, remove any further disruption to the education of our young people and to support the resumption of economic activity by reducing the burden of home schooling on working parents.”

All organisations agree that this proposal is the right course of action for students, education staff and the wider communities in which they study and work. The group are inviting the government to work with them on the issue of vaccine prioritisation. 

david hughes 100 x100Chief Executive of Association of Colleges, David Hughes said:

"The strength of feeling from all voices within the education sector on vaccinating teachers and education staff could not be clearer. Today's letter is a sign that prioritising vaccinations for teachers and staff who work in education is the best way to support the national effort to reopen all education settings as soon as it is safe to do so.

"As part of a wider plan that includes mass testing and all of the measures schools, colleges and other providers are taking, this prioritisation will be a key part of reducing transmissions and reducing any further disruption to students’ learning.”

Further education staff must be prioritised in any government plan for rolling out the vaccine 

Jo Grady 100x100UCU general secretary Jo Grady said:

"The government was right to belatedly move teaching online at colleges last week as part of the new lockdown. But college staff and students have too often been treated as an afterthought during the Covid pandemic.  

"Any safe return to in-person teaching in colleges must include a commitment to prioritise offering the vaccine to college staff. A vaccination programme for further education will help reduce transmission, allow colleges to reopen safely, and ensure that colleges are well placed help the country rebuild after the pandemic."

Letter in Full:

Dear Matt, Nadhim and Gavin,

Priority COVID-19 vaccination for education staff

We are writing to you to ask that you urgently consider raising the priority level for all staff in early years, school, college, adult education, and independent training provider settings to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.

The government has set the priority list for phase one of the vaccination programme based on Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advice focused on reducing risk of preventable mortality.

JCVI said that more occupations could be prioritised in phase two as it moves to a transmission reduction programme.

The case for prioritising early years, school, college, adult education, and independent training provider staff is as follows:

  • Fully reopening education settings is a national priority - the moment it is safe to do so.
  • Learning often takes place indoors and in close contact with large numbers of students in multiple groups, putting staff at high risk of both catching and transmitting the virus.
  • Vaccination prioritisation, combined with mass testing, would be a sure way to reduce transmissions, remove any further disruption to the education of our young people and to support the resumption of economic activity by reducing the burden of home schooling on working parents.

We would suggest that education staff are sub-categorised for priority so that those working in early years, specialist settings and those whose role involves elements of health care and very close contact, are first to receive the vaccine. This sub-group should be closely followed by wider teaching and support staff in all schools and colleges.

All our organisations agree that this proposal is the right course of action for students, education staff and the wider communities in which they study and work to reduce transmission of the virus and maximise the quality of the education that students receive.

We invite you to work with us on this issue and will offer all appropriate support to you in delivery of the vaccination programme to all education staff.

Full list of signatories:

Jo Grady, UCU general secretary  

David Hughes, Association of Colleges chief executive officer  

Jane Hickie , Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief executive officer  

Kevin Courtney and Dr Mary Bousted, National Education Union joint general secretaries  

Geoff Barton, Association of School and College Leaders general secretary  

Neil Leitch, Early Years Alliance chief executive 

Stuart Fegan, GMB national officer 

Alex Payne, Landex chief executive officer 

Bill Watkin, Sixth Form Colleges Association chief executive Officer  

Siobhan Endean, UNITE national officer for equalities  

Dr. Sue Pember, HOLEX policy director  

Clare Howard, National Association of Specialist Colleges chief executive officer  

Jon Richards, UNISON head of education and local government  

 

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