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Education unions and employers tell government that education staff must be prioritised in Covid vaccine rollout

13 January 2021

UCU, alongside other education unions and employers*, today called on the secretary of state for health and social care, the minister for Covid vaccine deployment, and the secretary of state for education to prioritise education staff in the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines.

In a letter sent today  they ask the government to urgently consider raising the priority level for all staff in early years, school, college, adult education, and independent training provider settings. The signatories say these staff must be prioritised because: 

  • fully reopening education settings is a national priority - the moment it is safe to do so
  • learning often takes place indoors and in close contact with large numbers of students in multiple groups, putting staff at high risk of both catching and transmitting the virus
  • vaccination prioritisation, combined with mass testing, would reduce transmissions, remove any further disruption to the education of young people and support the resumption of economic activity by reducing the burden of home schooling on working parents.  

They also say that education staff working in early years, specialist settings and those whose role involves elements of health care and very close contact, should be first among education staff to receive the vaccine.    

UCU said that further education staff must be prioritised in any government plan for rolling out the vaccine.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'The government was right to belatedly move teaching online at colleges last week as part of the new lockdown. But college staff and students have too often been treated as an afterthought during the Covid pandemic. Any safe return to in-person teaching in colleges must include a commitment to prioritise offering the vaccine to college staff. A vaccination programme for further education will help reduce transmission, allow colleges to reopen safely, and ensure that colleges are well placed help the country rebuild after the pandemic.' 

*Full list of signatories 

Jo Grady, UCU general secretary
David Hughes, Association of Colleges chief executive officer 
Jane Hickie, Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief executive officer 
Kevin Courtney and Dr Mary Bousted, National Education Union joint general secretaries 
Geoff Barton, Association of School and College Leaders general secretary 
Neil Leitch, Early Years Alliance chief executive
Stuart Fegan, GMB national officer
Alex Payne, Landex chief executive officer
Bill Watkin, Sixth Form Colleges Association chief executive officer 
Siobhan Endean, UNITE national officer for equalities 
Dr. Sue Pember, HOLEX policy director 
Clare Howard, National Association of Specialist Colleges chief executive officer 
Jon Richards, UNISON head of education and local government  

Last updated: 13 January 2021