A West Leeds principal has written to Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew calling for all school staff to be vaccinated in a bid to keep schools open.
In his letter, Fulneck School’s Paul Taylor has asked Mr Andrew to add his voice to calls pushing vaccinations for school staff further up the priority list.
The government has set out a list of nine high-priority groups, most of which are age-related except for frontline health and social care workers.
Teachers do not currently feature in the high-priority groups but Mr Taylor tweeted:
Whilst appreciating that there are many groups in our society who need prioritising for the vaccine, I wrote to our MP @StuartAndrew today to highlight the need for school staff to be vaccinated if we are to keep schools open. @WLDispatch @VickiSmith_ @JayMitchinson @ISC_schools pic.twitter.com/41Z3VXweBZ— FulneckPrincipal (@FulneckPrin) January 4, 2021
Mr Taylor said in his letter:
“I support the Government’s priority of keeping schools open: Indeed, our primary section will be open as planned on Wednesday and then the rest of the secondary section will come back on the 11th and 18th January. We are also planning for the testing of children – logistically difficult but again I support the principle behind the idea.
“My concern is that it will become very difficult to keep school open ‘in person’ over the coming weeks. Although the rate per 100,000 is not as bad in Leeds now as it was in November, it is creeping up. In addition, once we do start to test pupils and staff from next week, if the statistics about asumptomatic cases prove correct, inevitably we will have more staff needing to isolate.
“Consequently I think it would help matters immeasurably. including the mental health of anxious colleagues, if school staff were to receive the vaccination sooner than current plans would suggest.”
Mr Taylor added:
“If we don’t see the vaccination rolled out for school staff soon, I fear we might see a more prolonged period of school closure and therefore remote learning, with subsequent impact on pupil progress, exams and physical and mental wellbeing.”
A spokesperson for Mr Andrew told WLD that the MP spoke to Principal Taylor today and will be discussing the issue with Ministers when the House of Commons is recalled on Wednesday.
Headteacher: Staff ‘confused’
Peter McQuillen Strong, head teacher of Holy Family Catholic Primary in Armley, which is due to re-open tomorrow after the Christmas break, told the BBC teachers were “confused” by government guidance.
“As leaders we are making it as safe as we possibly can but there clearly is risk, that’s why they’ve closed lots of schools in London, that’s why they’ve asked high schools not to come back this week,” he said.
“So when they say schools are safe I’m not quite sure what they mean by safe.”
Five Lanes Primary in Wortley was also closed today.
Leeds City Council has today issued a statement on school closures.
Saleem Tariq, Director of Children and Families at Leeds City Council said:
“The Department for Education’s expectation in Leeds is that no primary schools are expected to close as the region remains in Tier 3 restrictions.
“We are supporting schools to continue to operate in cases where staff have chosen not to come into the workplace. In cases where a school is unable to remain open to all children due to a high number of staff choosing not to attend, we are asking that they remain open to children of key workers and to vulnerable children, where possible.
“Teaching staff who choose not to attend school are expected to deliver remote learning to pupils.
“This is clearly an evolving situation which is very challenging for schools and their staff, and will continue to support them wherever possible.”
A Department for Education spokesman said:
“Children’s education has consistently been a national priority, which is why we want classrooms to reopen wherever possible in the new term.
“Schools will continue to implement appropriate safety measures to help mitigate the risk of transmission.”