Family & Education

Vaccinate teachers, Jewish school heads say

Return to school next month welcomed, but heads want greater protection for staff


Headteachers have echoed union calls for staff to be prioritised for vaccination against Covid-19 as schools prepare for a return of all pupils from March 8. 

Teaching unions say that staff should be offered vaccination in the next phase of the rollout (after over-70s, extremely vulnerable individuals and frontline health and care workers). 

Patrick Moriarty, head of JCoSS, said , “It  would have been sensible for the government to offer it to all teachers and support staff before reopening.  It offers additional protection, creates confidence and above all expresses the appreciation of society for the additional risks that school staff will be shouldering.  

“If we are vaccinating 500,000 people a day, the entire national school workforce would only take the equivalent of two days. I think it is a small price that the nation would be willing to pay.” 

Hannele Reece, headteacher of Kantor King Solomon High School, believed “any frontline worker who is working face to face with the public should be given the opportunity to receive the vaccine before those who are working from home once our most vulnerable are protected.   

“This way, schools and all the other frontline services on which we rely, for example transport and catering, can be made a safe as possible without just relying on ‘hands face and space’.”

She was “really pleased” to be opening up the school to all students. “Whilst our students and staff have done a fantastic job of home learning, there is no substitute for time spent in the classroom.   

“I do think that to ask us to have all students tested [for coronavirus] and in school within a week is a challenge but I am sure that we will be successful and I look forward to having a school full of students, not empty classrooms.” 

Secondary school students will be required to wear masks in class for the rest of the spring term and take three lateral flow tests in school and one at home in their first fortnight back at school. 

Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl called on the government to prioritise vaccination for school staff in the second phase of the vaccination rollout last month. "All school teachers and staff deserve to have a safe environment in which to work," she wrote to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

The Board took up the issue again with the Department for Education earlier this week.

Kirsten Jowett, chief executive of the Jewish Community Academy Trust, a consortium of five primary schools in London, said they were delighted to be able to open their doors again to all students. 

“We are hopeful that the health and safety measures we have put in place will continue to safeguard our pupils, staff and parents and reduce the risk of transmitting the virus within the school,” she said. 

“Therefore we are cautiously optimistic about reopening. We believe that the benefits to pupils’ wellbeing from being in school are key to their life chances and therefore a priority for us.”

Rabbi David Meyer, executive director of the Jewish Leadership Council's schools network, PaJeS, said it was "pleasing that school leaders have been given a proper lead time to prepare for their return. However the scheduling of tests for secondary schools before the Pesach break is a complication."

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