Hampshire headteachers ‘cannot understand’ why half-term is not being used to vaccinate school staff against Covid
THE region’s headteachers have said they ‘cannot understand’ why the government are not using half-term to vaccinate teaching and support staff against Covid.
With ministers’ mantra that reopening schools is the ‘government’s top priority’, education leaders believe the February break offers the ‘ideal opportunity’ to vaccinate school staff in preparation for the targeted reopening date of March 8.
St Edmund’s Catholic School headteacher Simon Graham said: ‘It would be the logical time to carry vaccinations out and this is a missed opportunity.
‘I understand there are other vital roles but the government has constantly said the reopening of schools is a priority. It’s difficult to compare teaching to other jobs. Staff are mixing with large numbers of students daily and there’s an expectation not to wear masks in classrooms.
Mr Graham feels the failure to recognise the opportunity will ‘only lead to further disruption’.
He added: ‘Last term we had Covid cases which resulted in staff having to isolate. Without vaccinations we may end up back in the same situation when schools return.
‘Some staff are understandably worried and vaccinations would provide a real sense of security and support the needs of our children by preventing further disruption.
It’s a sentiment shared by Crofton School headteacher Simon Harrison who described half-term as ‘the obvious time to do it’.
Mr Harrison added: ‘If reopening schools is a priority then surely so should be the vaccination of school staff. Half-term would provide the ideal window in which to do this.
‘Most schools have already set up testing centres which could easily be used for vaccinations. If I received a call on Friday informing me vaccinations were to take place then I would open up the school and it would be greatly welcomed by staff.’
Horndean Technology College headteacher Julie Summerfield said she agreed with the idea but also understands the difficult decision facing the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and the government who’ve already identified the top nine priority groups.
The JCVI is discussing which groups to prioritise next with an announcement to be made ‘by early March’.
Mrs Summerfield said: ‘It’s difficult but if you want schools back then you need to vaccinate staff. However, I can also understand why someone may not want a younger teacher to be vaccinated ahead of a more vulnerable family member.’
The proposal has the backing of Portsmouth South’s MP Stephen Morgan.
Mr Morgan said: ‘Labour has consistently called for teachers and school staff to be vaccinated over the February half-term.
‘With ministers telling us we are now vaccinating a rate of 1,000 people per-minute, the 500,000 teachers nationwide could be inoculated with minimal disruption to the wider rollout. Teaching staff are not only key workers, but also support working families and vulnerable children.’
Portsmouth City Council’s cabinet member for education Cllr Suzy Horton also backs the idea, describing half-term ‘as a really sensible time’ to inoculate school staff.
A government spokeswoman said: ‘We are committed to reopening schools as soon as the public health picture allows and will set out further plans for education settings, parents, pupils and students as soon as possible, providing as much notice as we can. We continue to follow the advice of the JCVI to prioritise those at greatest risk.’