All teachers and school staff could be vaccinated in a single day, says education boss

Teachers and school staff ‘could be vaccinated in less than a day’ to limit disruption to students learning, a Yorkshire education boss has said.

Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council's executive member for learning skills and employment, said it was “vital” the Government did everything in its power to protect children, school staff and teachers when normal schooling returns.

He praised the speed of which the vaccination programme has been rolled out by the NHS, and said it means staff and teachers at schools across the country could be vaccinated, which in turn would limit the impact of the pandemic on pupils’ learning.

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He told The Yorkshire Post: "Schools returning without protecting teachers and school staff will inevitably lead to the huge number of bubble collapses and a return to the uncertainty and disruption we saw last autumn.

Teachers and school staff ‘could be vaccinated in less than a day’ to limit disruption to students learning, a Yorkshire education boss has said. Photo credit: PA

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"Our NHS has made tremendous progress with the vaccination programme, so much so that those who represent the groups from which over 90% of the most severe symptoms of Covid come from should be vaccinated by the middle of February.

"Given the speed at which the NHS are vaccinating, we could vaccinate all teachers and school staff in the UK in less than a day - meaning that there would be no significant delay, but huge benefit in being able to make schools much safer and reducing the spread of Covid.

"Given the latest research on the Oxford Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, that shows that it could substantially reduce the spread of Covid, this only strengthens the argument to vaccinate those in schools. Reducing overall transmission helps us all.

Pictured, Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council's executive member for learning skills and employment. Photo credit: JPIMedia

"The Prime Minister himself described schools as “vectors of transmission” - it is only right that we do everything we can to protect children, school staff and teachers when we reach the point when schools should return."

Last month Leeds city leaders and MPs wrote a letter urging the Government to treat teachers and school staff as a priority group for the Covid-19 vaccine.

The letter, signed by Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake, alongside Mr Pryor, as well as the city's five Labour MPs, said the move would be "in the best interests of pupils and the country".

Addressed to Nadhim Zahawi, the minister responsible for vaccine deployment, the letter stated: "We are writing to you to ask that you give due consideration to prioritising teachers and schools staff for the delivery of the Covid-19 vaccine”.

More than 150 head teachers across the country, mostly from independent schools, signed a letter this week calling for workers from all educational settings to be vaccinated. Photo credit: PA

Mr Pryor has been joined by a number of head teachers, alongside MPs and business leaders across the region to urge the Government to vaccinate all teachers as they supported plans for children to return to the classroom from March.

More than 150 head teachers across the country, mostly from independent schools, signed a letter this week calling for workers from all educational settings to be vaccinated.

The letter coordinated by William Goldsmith, headmaster of St George’s School Windsor Castle, said: “This is saving lives, bringing light to a dark period for many and giving hope that pupils will be back in their schools without any further delay.

“To support this mission, we urge the Government to vaccinate all teachers and school staff, along with other priority groups of workers.”

Pictured, Chris Dyson who has been the head at Parklands Primary School, in the Seacroft area of Leeds said: "Quite simply it is a no brainer for me, vaccinate the staff and schools can reopen fully... schools reopen, children are learning face to face and society reopens allowing no parents to work from home."

Mr Goldsmith confirmed to The Yorkshire Post 156 schools have now signed the letter. In the North of England this includes Matthew Copping, head teacher at Stockport Grammar Junior School and Ian Wicks, head teacher at The Chorister School, Durham.

He told the newspaper safely reopening schools needs to remain a top priority to mitigate the devastating impact on “our children and young people”.

"If Covid is around for months, if not years to come are we doing everything we can to ensure that there is no further interruption for one child? If there is one school up North… or anywhere that has to close for two weeks - that is a real waste for those children and it’s really important," Mr Goldsmith said.

Fulneck School, in Pudsey, was not one of the independent schools to sign the letter, however Principal Paul Taylor agreed with the sentiment.

"I fully appreciate the controversy over vaccinating school staff: moving teachers up the priority list inevitably means moving others down", he told The Yorkshire Post.

"However, if it is the Government’s priority to get children back into schools quickly and avoid more closures because staff are having to isolate with symptoms, the vaccinations will need to take place in the next month,”

Sheffield city region mayor Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis, who is also the Barnsley Central MP, added it makes "good sense" for school staff to be vaccinated over half term in order to support the process of getting young people back to the classroom as quickly and safely as possible.

Previously Mr Taylor had written to Stuart Andrew MP for Pudsey and Horsforth to voice his concerns last month.

In a letter to Mr Andrew he wrote: "I think it would help matters immeasurably, including mental health of anxious colleagues, if school staff were able to receive the vaccine earlier than current plans would suggest.

"I appreciate that there are some cases worthy of being high on the priority list, however transmission rates amongst teenagers would suggest that school staff warrant vaccination very quickly.”

Head teacher Chris Dyson who has been the head at Parklands Primary School, in the Seacroft area of Leeds, for seven years, added due to the progress of the vaccination programme, in vaccinating the most vulnerable, school staff should be “next on the list”.

He said: "Now the most vulnerable members of society have been vaccinated, the next group should be staff who work in school: teachers, TA's, cleaners, office staff - the works.

"Quite simply it is a no brainer for me, vaccinate the staff and schools can reopen fully... schools reopen, children are learning face to face and society reopens allowing no parents to work from home."

In North Yorkshire Paul McIntosh, the acting headteacher of King James’s School, a secondary school in Knaresborough said he would greatly "welcome" the vaccination of all school staff.

He added: "We all want students to go back in schools as quickly as possible, but we must follow the science and listen to when they say it is safe to open".

Chris Kirkham-Knowles, headteacher for Newby and Scalby Primary School in Scarborough, added: "It would be fabulous if we have all frontline workers, including school staff, vaccinated in order to have the best possible chance of keeping services open for communities in the long term.

"No-one wants another lockdown or schools to be forced to close, and anything that helps to prevent this has got to be welcome."

Meanwhile the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP) - a lobbying group representing northern businesses, stressed a prompt vaccination strategy for teachers was needed with urgency.

They called on government to back the approach suggested by Tony Blair's Institute for Global Change, which would use half term to vaccinate all teachers.

Sarah Mulholland, head of policy at the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: "Safely re-opening schools needs to remain a top priority to mitigate the devastating impact on our children and young people. However, it does not make sense to re-open schools, only to send home entire year groups later down the line, because teachers are forced to self-isolate.

"A vaccination strategy will critical to avoiding this problem and we would back the approach suggested by Tony Blair's Institute for Global Change, which would use half term to vaccinate all teachers.

"All 506,400 full-time teachers in the UK could be vaccinated within two days, if the vaccination of priority groups 5-9 is paused during that time."

Sheffield city region mayor Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis, who is also Barnsley Central MP, added it makes "good sense" for school staff to be vaccinated over half term in order to support the process of getting young people back to the classroom as quickly and safely as possible.

He said: "Our teachers and school support staff have been on the front-line of the efforts against the pandemic, working tirelessly to deliver both remote learning and on-site provision for vulnerable children and the children of key workers."

James Bowen, director of policy for school leaders’ union NAHT, added: "We want to see all school staff prioritised for vaccination as soon as possible. This will not only help protect those staff, but also support a sustainable return to school in the longer term.

"We particularly want to see those staff working in special schools, alternative provision and Early Years prioritised given that they have been instructed to stay physically open."

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 Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, whose priority list is designed by experts and clinicians to prioritise those at greatest risk from coronavirus."

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