In light of the British government’s decision to keep early-years settings in England open during this current lockdown, Leonor Stjepic, CEO of the Montessori Group, has written a comment, urging the government to recognise teachers and early-years professionals as key frontline workers, prioritising them for the vaccination, alongside other key workers.
“With schools shutting their gates, we urge the Government to recognise teachers and early years professionals as key frontline workers and prioritise them for the Covid-19 vaccine,” she said.
If the government is serious about prioritising education and getting children back to school, they must show a commitment to protecting the staff that make this possible,” added Stiepic. “Face to face learning has undoubtable benefits and we must minimise the disruption to education provision where we can, but this can only be done if a safe environment is created for all to return to.
“Not only is it important for teachers to be vaccinated in order for schools to re-open, but it is also vital that we protect those who have been asked to continue to provide face-to-face support throughout lockdown. Nurseries, childcare centres and special schools are to remain open, and vulnerable children and those of key workers can continue to attend school. We need to ensure these staff are able to feel safe in their classrooms.”
School and nursery staff have been at the frontline of the pandemic since last March, providing vital support to parents and educating children, but this has not been recognised, according to Stiepic. “To ensure their safety, and the continuity of education for children, it is only fair that they should be classed as key workers and put at the front of the queue for the vaccine,” she concluded.
Elsewhere, Tops Day Nurseries, which comprises 29 settings across Dorset, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Somerset and Devon, sent an open letter to MPs highlighting that they are having to close ‘room after room’ as staff test positive, often with no symptoms.
The letter is a cry for help. “Could you prioritise our day nursery staff for inoculations along with NHS staff? As we are on-site, we could also potentially send a couple of colleagues over at the end of the day to prevent any wastage if that is an option? Please just email or telephone the nursery to let us know,” it said.
“Schools, colleges, universities have already been sent free boxes of tests – why haven’t day nurseries? Why do we keep being overlooked? We have purchased additional thermometers, cleaning materials and a fogging machine, and risk assessments are in place, but we are experiencing a sharp increase in cases, and the government wants us to stay open. Please can you help?
“We may have to close completely, imminently, due to lack of staff who are fit or allowed to work, which will of course be a major childcare headache for your staff and could prevent them working too.”
And Unison's head of education, Jon Richards, is also calling for school and nursery staff to be a "priority" for vaccination and mass testing. "Keeping nurseries and other pre-schools open puts staff and communities at risk,” he said. "Social distancing is impossible with young children and the government has yet to publish the scientific evidence to justify nurseries being treated differently to schools."
He accused the government of taking decisions “with little regard to the health and safety of employees”.
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