Throughout the pandemic that dominated 2020, and as we move into a challenging start to 2021, the priority of the NASUWT has been the safety of our members
Author: Dr Patrick Roach
Dr Patrick Roach became General Secretary of the NASUWT in 2020, following ten years as Deputy General Secretary and having worked for the Union since 1998.
From calling for PPE, the continued closure of schools, and other measures to keep teachers safe, we have been determined to support our members in every way possible as they face uncertain, worrying and stressful situations.
With a more hopeful future on the horizon due to the mass vaccination programme that is already under way, our dedication to our members has not waned. In fact, we now undertake one of our most important fights: to get every teacher vaccinated as a matter of urgency. That's why we have launched our Vaccinate 2 Educate campaign.
It is right that health and social care staff are prioritised, but the NASUWT is adamant that teachers must also be identified as a priority group for the vaccine. Our belief is that such a move is essential to help protect teachers and pupils, which will in turn allow the country to have some semblance of normality if all children can return to schools and colleges.
Having children back in school will minimise the disruption to their education and ensure teachers can return to the job they love: being in the classroom with pupils, supporting them as they learn, grow and develop.
If 2020 was the year of social distancing, self-isolating and support bubbles, it was also a year plagued with disinformation and discord, particularly online. We know this can leave some people feeling unsure about what decisions to take, including whether to have the vaccine. Having reviewed the evidence and the credible information available, we feel there is very little reason to be opposed to the vaccine and we are urging our members to be immunised as soon as they are offered the chance.
Of course the question underpinning this is why is it so crucial that as many teachers as possible get vaccinated as a priority. Our regular member engagement has demonstrated what we already know: that teachers and education staff are unable to practise social distancing from their pupils and few are provided with essential PPE as part of their day-to-day roles. Many schools continue to operate with very high numbers of children and young people on-site and alternative provision continues to operate as normal.
With provision for younger age children and for children with special and additional learning needs, it is clear that there are additional risks present which are comparable to those that exist in the provision of health and social care.
The NASUWT is also supporting the Labour Movement and the TUC’s Let’s Vaccinate Britain campaign. This drive towards achieving a rapid rollout of the vaccine, with encouragement for everyone across the country to get vaccinated, recognises that the sooner we, as a nation, are immunised, the sooner we can begin to recover.
We know that the last 12 months have been demanding and tiring. We know that teachers have been put under significant levels of pressure and they have done everything that has been asked of them and more. That’s why the NASUWT has every faith that teachers will come together at this difficult, but also hopeful, time and get vaccinated when the opportunity arises.
As we drive forward with this campaign and we are confident that we will secure the right for teachers to be prioritised alongside health and social care staff, school employers will understandably expect teachers to get vaccinated. As a union, we fully support that: after all, this is the best way possible for schools to become safer environments.
We will continue to keep the pressure on governments to ensure teachers are prioritised for the vaccine. You can support the campaign using our tools to lobby your MP, share graphics on social media and more by visiting our dedicated Vaccinate 2 Educate web page.