Vaccine is 'only way' staff will feel confident, say Suffolk headteachers
- Credit: Archant
The Suffolk Primary Headteachers' Association is calling for teaching staff to be made a priority for getting the coronavirus vaccine, to ensure they feel confident and safe when returning to school.
Karen Mills, the executive of Suffolk Primary Headteachers' Association, said the only way staff will feel safe to return to schools is by having the vaccine.
According to the government, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) does not advise further prioritisation by occupation during the first phase of the programme, but that the first priorities should be the prevention of mortality and the protection of health and social care.
Mrs Mills said there are two main reasons for which teachers and school staff should be made a priority for getting the vaccine early.
"Firstly, if school staff are vaccinated all schools will be able to return to face to face learning which is indisputably recognised as the best way in which to learn and to promote positive mental health and wellbeing for all pupils, whatever their age," said Mrs Mills.
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"And secondly, from a public health point of view if a teacher or member of support staff is with up to 30 others on a daily basis, whatever expectations there are around social distancing, this makes those staff more vulnerable than in most other professions.
"Together with the fact that there is now a new variant of Covid, despite measures schools put in to mitigate against catching it, the lack of vaccination for staff in fully open schools could lead to a higher risk of continuing to spread the virus."
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She said there are few other measures which would make staff feel less anxious at this time, but added an improved Track and Trace system coupled with more robust PPE, provided by central government, would be useful.
"Ultimately the only real way staff will feel confident to return is to make the vaccine available at the earliest opportunity," she said.
"We want to see children in schools where they belong so that they can get the education and emotional support they need in the best way possible."
Meanwhile, Dave Lee-Allan, head of Stowmarket High School and chair of the Suffolk Association of Secondary Heads, added: "Teachers should absolutely be given the vaccine early.
"We continue to be on the list of keyworkers, so if we are so important then prove it.
"As a headteacher it would make such a difference to know my staff are protected, and that they are able to focus on their job.
"A lot of teachers have a level of worry and concern about being in front of 32 teenagers every day, but the vaccine would make them feel much safer coming to work."