The EIS has written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister John Swinney and to the Holyrood leaders of Scotland’s major political parties, calling for their support to vaccinate school staff against Covid.
Last week, the Scottish Government announced that it did not intend to prioritise the vaccination of teachers and the EIS is calling for urgent reconsideration of this position.
In the letter, EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan says, "It seems short-sighted of the Scottish Government not to utilise the vaccination tool to ensure continuity of education – an action at odds with the political rhetoric about the importance of education to the lives of our young people."
The letter continues, "Given the caring role that teachers and other education staff undertake, particularly Early Years, Primary and ASN staff, and the difficulties that there are in maintaining physical distance between staff and pupils in these contexts, in omitting to vaccinate teachers, the Scottish Government will have failed to take appropriate mitigating action of the kind that it has undertaken for other frontline care workers."
The letter also calls on Government to "consider the impact of teacher absence on the education of young people.
In secondary schools, for example, staff absence over the next period through Covid related reasons could seriously impact on the SQA qualifications. On average staff absences in schools has been around 1,500 per week, at one stage last September peaking at over 2,500.
Clearly this is disruptive to education continuity especially for senior phase secondary pupils, already facing a tight timeline around accreditation processes."
Calling for school staff to now be prioritised, the letter says, "Whilst the EIS very deliberately did not call for education staff priority within Phase 1 of the programme, as that was very clearly predicated on those most at risk of death, we believe there is scope within Phase 2 to take a different approach as 99% of that 'at severe risk' group will have been covered in the first phase. Within Phase 1 the Scottish Government chose to reorder the JCVI priorities to accommodate its own policy agenda with regard to care homes and we believe a similar approach should apply to schools."
An online campaign calling for school staff to be vaccinated, launched on Friday by the EIS, attracted almost 5000 signatures over the weekend.