Teachers: the key workers left behind in the Covid-19 government vaccine roll-out

  • Many teachers in Greater Manchester feel they should be prioritised earlier in the vaccine rollout 

  • Changing definitions of ‘high risk’ mean more teachers are going back into classrooms  

  • Classroom sizes mean 30+ bubbles could be mixing at any one time, say teachers

School teachers and staff are concerned over safety in schools and believe they should be higher on the government’s vaccination priority list. 

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is being rolled out in phases, the first targeting care home residents and those aged 50 and over in order of the highest age groups.

The second phase includes first responders, the military, teachers, transport workers and public servants. 

The latest figures released earlier this week revealed the rate of infection among students and staff in schools ‘mirrors’ the rate outside of schools. 

Derbyshire teacher Charlotte Appleyard launched a petition for teachers, school and childcare staff to be prioritised, which gained more than 460,000 signatures.  

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson was asked about the issue of protecting school workers and responded that those most at risk of hospitalisation needed to be prioritized in the first round. He did, however, insist that teachers were next in line to receive it. 

Placement art teacher Hope Keltie finds that a major challenge of children working from home is that many students do not have the proper supplies needed for the curriculum. 

“It just feels pointless,” she said.

Placement art teacher Hope Keltie
Placement art teacher Hope Keltie

Although Ms Keltie agrees that at-risk people should be vaccinated in the first phase of the rollout, she believes teachers should also receive priority and that people aged over 50 should come after teaching staff in the vaccination queue.

She said: “That’s logical isn’t it? Give the vaccine to those that are spreading it the most.

“Because I could give it to a student who then goes home and gives is to their 50-year-old parent. 

“Once again they’re doing everything wrong but at least they’re doing something.” 

Teacher Sarah Craggs, from Ainsworth, believes teachers should be vaccinated at the same time as doctors, nurses and other key frontline workers. 

“They’re using us as glorified babysitters so that the economy keeps going,” she said. 

Sarah agrees that people who are critically vulnerable should be vaccinated first, but also believes teachers should be prioritised earlier.  

She said: “We have to be in a classroom with varying numbers of children, so you’re technically mixing with so many different bubbles in a close confined area, with some schools not having any PPE.” 

Leanne Taylor, an asthmatic teacher from Salford classified as at moderate risk, expressed concern over the effectiveness of the safety measures in schools.  

“Schools will never reduce the spread of the virus wherever there are children in them, because children are children and are not hygienic and do not understand what they need to do to keep safe in regard to the virus,” she said. 

Some teachers such as Maryam Choudhary, who teaches in Oldham, have come to expect a lack of concern from the government. 

She said: “As far as only being vaccinated in the second wave, do I agree with it? No. Does it surprise me? No.”