Teachers ‘would feel more comfortable’ if they had vaccine before reopening schools, says head

The head of an independent day and boarding school has highlighted the importance of teachers getting the Covid-19 vaccine ahead of school reopenings

The head of St Margaret’s School in Hertfordshire has highlighted the importance of vaccinations for teachers as schools are set to reopen to all pupils on 8 March.

“I, like many others, saw the benefit in teachers getting vaccinations early,” said Lara Péchard.

“The Government has quite rightly put a big push on getting schools open again but it is quite hard to have these conversations with teachers if those vaccinations aren’t coming through in time. The anxiety is understandable.

“The argument that you are potentially taking the vaccine from someone who is more vulnerable is a tricky one and I wouldn’t want to be the one making that decision. But there is a real balance here, our teachers are going to be teaching hundreds of children face to face and I know most of them would feel more comfortable if they had a vaccine in their arm.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the Government “must prioritise all school staff for vaccination”. Doing so, said Whiteman, will not only protect staff, but reduce the need for further disruption.

The Government has quite rightly put a big push on getting schools open again but it is quite hard to have these conversations with teachers if those vaccinations aren’t coming through in time – Lara Péchard, St Margaret’s

Currently there are no plans to offer school staff prioritisation in the Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

“As such, there are currently no plans to deviate from the advice set out by the JCVI and prioritise teachers, school or childcare staff during the first phase of deployment unless these individuals are over 50 or have an underlying health condition which place them in priority cohorts 1-9,” the Government said in response to a petition.

The Government said rolling out an asymptomatic testing programme to staff in primary and nursery schools, and rapid testing in secondary schools, will support the full reopening.

‘Headaches’ for schools

Péchard said she is “delighted” that all pupils will return in March, but bringing all pupils back at the same time creates “headaches” for schools.

“Ensuring that the whole process runs smoothly and is as safe as possible is paramount. There are concerns for many schools around how they will test everyone in advance. We plan to have everyone back on 8 March at my school and we are fortunate to have the facilities in place to be able to test everyone safely in advance of their return. Some larger, more cramped schools across the country may not be so fortunate and will find this very difficult.”

Péchard said in order to protect vulnerable members of staff there will be an aspect of remote learning continuing in March for a few weeks at least.

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