A letter to the Secretary of State for Education and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, on schools’ access to COVID-19 vaccine
We wrote to Rt Hon Gavin Williamson MP and Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, urging the Government to give school staff priority optional access to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Dear Secretaries of State,
I am writing on behalf of everyone at Teach First to congratulate you for being the first Government in the world to administer a COVID-19 vaccine. This is an astonishing milestone providing hope at the end of a year that has been a struggle for billions of people.
We are grateful that schools have remained open so that children can continue to learn. Keeping schools going is a monumental undertaking for teachers, leaders and school staff. An undertaking that is not without personal and societal risk for the benefit of our country’s children. Staff absences cause a great deal of disruption, and infection rates contribute to students missing time in school. It is for that reason that we ask you to prioritise school staff for optional access to the COVID-19 vaccine so they can continue to keep schools open whilst reducing risk to themselves and others.
We welcome you agreeing to look at this option, but teachers need certainty as soon as possible so that they can plan ahead for the rest of the school year.
Despite monumental efforts, COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting already disadvantaged communities. That inequality is exacerbated when school staff are sent home to self-isolate, with more pupils often forced to spend time out of classrooms. In some areas, students have repeatedly been sent home this academic year.
This is a particular concern because some families do not have fair access to devices or the internet needed for effective home learning. Our research also shows that most schools do not have the sufficient resources to bridge that divide – with this problem most acutely felt in schools serving disadvantaged communities. We welcome the steps you have taken to provide digital kit for pupils, but the emergence of a safe and effective vaccination against COVID-19 provides a vital route to ensuring that all students can return to the best learning environment: their school.
For students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, school absences risk harming their future life chances and hindering future earnings for decades to come. School absences have also profoundly affected earnings of parents this year as less time has been able to be spent less on paid work, worsening the gender pay gap and the economy.
Our proposal to offer the vaccine to all school staff would be an increase of less than 2 million people, and would provide security for pupils, parents, teachers and all school staff. Allowing pupils to stay in school in turn supports the economy as parents can continue to work. It would help to ameliorate the structural inequalities exacerbated by home learning. We therefore urge you to consider placing teachers and school staff on the priority list for COVID-19 vaccinations.