IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

At-risk teachers need the vaccine

17 December, 2020

Message to Boris Johnson: ‘Your choice not to prioritise school staff for the vaccine will mean that you will have blood on your hands’

Open letter to Boris Johnson

• I AM writing to plead with you to help us.

I have been a secondary school teacher for 18 years and I have never felt such a sense of desperation.

I realise this pandemic has taken its toll on many parts of society and consequently every day at work and for the past year I and other school staff have worked tirelessly to support the young people and families in our school communities.

We have learned how to deliver online learning, delivered food parcels and learning packs, become contact tracers, trauma informed practitioners, sanitised 60 hands every lesson five times day, and kept smiling and positive to provide comfort and structure.

Staff have worked through the holidays and weekends and it has become normal to check emails through every evening so we are ready to respond to each new case.

Despite being the only profession in the country that mixes with such a huge volume of people in small spaces, without any protection, school staff are not being considered as priority for the Covid-19 vaccine.

We do not have PPE like medical professionals, we do not have screens like supermarket staff and bus drivers, and we do not have the luxury of working from home or taking part in lockdown as we have remained in service to this country throughout.

Many school staff are over 50 or are classed as vulnerable or live with people who are classed as vulnerable. There is no other group of essential workers taking this level of risk every day without any protection.

It is also astounding that when we know students can contract and spread the virus without showing any symptoms that you would allow that situation to continue, given danger to the rest of society.

Students go home to their families which increases transmission across the country. The risk of contracting the virus rises if you mix with more people, so only taking into account mortality by age totally ignores the fact that we are mixing with huge volumes of people every day.

Although I believe the pay freeze to be morally wrong, considering the contributions school staff have made to society this year, I am not asking for this to be reversed.

I am not asking for extra holiday. I am not suggesting we should close schools and remove support from children or families.

I do not lay any blame at the feet of school leaders who have been expected to be responsible for the health of their school communities and take on extra roles in already demanding jobs.

I am, however, begging you to understand the fact that without this vaccine we will not be able to continue to support children and families without school staff losing their lives.

We are not expendable. This year should have shown the world that. We should not be expected to accept the deaths of school staff as part of our job.

Your choice not to prioritise school staff for the vaccine will mean that you will have blood on your hands.

Surely at least older staff or those that are classed as vulnerable should be able to get the vaccine before people who are not taking the same level of risk.

Without something changing I have no idea how schools can continue to operate under the enormous strain under which we have be placed.

A SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHER
Full name supplied

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