Children's Commissioner demands clear plan on vaccinating teachers

‘Get schools open to save Britain’s ‘lost generation’: Children’s Commissioner demands clear plan on vaccinating teachers, testing pupils and reopening classes as youngsters ‘lose ability to play with friends in the playground’

  • Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield says teachers could get jabs in 2 days
  • She says teachers should receive vaccinations after the first on the priority list 
  • Headteachers call for rapid flow tests on pupils to ‘ensures schools stay open’
  • Boris Johnson is said to want preparations for reopening of schools ramped up 

The Children’s Commissioner today insisted teachers should receive Covid-19 vaccinations after the first on the priority list as calls grow for schools to reopen.

Anne Longfield said about 500,000 teachers and 500,000 support staff could all be given the jab ‘in a couple of days’ given recent data on UK vaccination capacity.

She added that this would only mean the under-70s would have to wait an extra 48 hours while teachers got their vaccinations in order to get schools reopened.

Mrs Longfield added that headteachers have told her it is vital to carry out rapid lateral flow tests on pupils to ‘help ensure schools stay open for good this time’.

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to have asked ministers to ramp up preparations for the reopening of schools after almost a year of disruption.

Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfieldwants teachers to be prioritised for Covid-19 jabs as most pupils across Britain continue to carry out their schoolwork at home

Prime Minister Boris Johnson demonstrates the two metre social distancing rule during a visit to St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Upminster, East London, in August last year

Writing in The Sun today, 60-year-old Mrs Longfield said: ‘There are about a million school employees, half of whom are teachers and the others support staff.

‘Given that we vaccinated nearly 600,000 people in one day at the weekend, there is the capacity to do this at pace.’

Pupils could be offered summer catch-up classes 

Children could be invited to take part in summer schools under plans to help them catch up on months of missed education.

Ministers are looking at whether to provide funding for catch-up classes over the summer holidays aimed at those children who have fallen furthest behind.

Most catch-up funding so far has gone to pay for one-to-one or small group tutoring. 

But Whitehall sources said officials were examining whether a model used by some Harris Academy schools to offer half-day classes last summer could be deployed more widely. The Harris Federation is a trust of 48 schools in London.

Any move to require teachers to work during the summer is likely to meet resistance from unions.

The proposal emerged as it was revealed that the Department for Education now expects all schools to close completely during half-term, with even most children of key workers asked to stay at home.  

She added: ‘We must get children back to school to prevent our kids becoming part of a lost generation.’ 

Schools are set to be shut until at least March 8 for all but vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers.

This date was last week pushed back by the Prime Minister from after February half-term – but there are fears schools could be closed until after Easter.

However Mrs Longfield said she wanted primaries to reopen by late February with unions and councils telling her it was ‘very doable to get younger pupils back’.

Given reasons for this, she claimed primary-age children are less able to work online and are less likely to be ill from the virus, and pointed to evidence that they are also less likely to transmit it.

Mrs Longfield wrote in the Sun: ‘Children who are aged three have spent a third of their life in lockdown and parents of very young children say they are very worried.

‘We have reports of little ones being tearful and clingy, and they are losing the ability to play with friends in the playground.’

In Scotland, parents will find out today if their children will be able to return to school by the middle of February, as Nicola Sturgeon gives the latest update on Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. 

It comes as Mr Johnson is said to be pushing for schools to be reopened by March 8 after Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty told him that the current wave of the pandemic peaked last week, according to the Daily Telegraph.

The Prime Minister has ordered preparations for the return of schools to be ramped up and is also expected to introduce a slew of new measures to help children catch up with their work.

The fresh optimism comes amid the continuing success of Britain’s vaccine drive, with plans for over-65s to be invited to book appointments for jabs from next week.

Around three million people aged between 65 and 69 will start to be sent letters, meaning that some areas may be able to offer vaccines to those below the age of 70 before February 15.

Oscar Mumby, 10, and Harriet Mumby, 8, are helped with their online schoolwork by their mother Jo Mumby in the West Sussex village of Cuckfield as schools continue to be closed

The news suggests that the UK is well on track to meet an even surpass its target of offering jabs to all over-70s by mid-February. 

New data shows the virus has fallen to pre-New Year levels in all regions of England and yesterday the UK recorded the fewest daily Covid-19 deaths since December, with officials posting just 406 more victims as the second wave continues to decline.

Department of Health figures also show cases are continuing to fall, hitting a seven-week low of 18,607 positive tests. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said almost nine in 10 of all those aged over 80 had been vaccinated, with over half of those in their 70s receiving a jab. 

Data up to January 31 shows 9,296,367 first doses of the vaccine have been given, a rise of 319,038 in 24 hours.

The latest figures show that an average of 407,402 first doses of vaccine are needed each day in order to meet the Government’s target of 15 million first doses by February 15. 

Meanwhile a door-to-door testing blitz of 80,000 people in England is aiming to find ‘every single case’ of the South Africa coronavirus variant in a bid to stop the spread of the more infectious strain.

Eleven cases of the variant identified over the past week were in people who had no links to travel, prompting concerns the mutation may be spreading in communities.

Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty (pictured at Downing Street last week) is said to have Boris Johnson that the current wave of the coronavirus had peaked last week

Mobile testing units and home testing kits will be deployed to areas where the variant has been discovered as the UK Government looks to prevent it getting a foothold.  

Public Health England is studying whether those who have already had the vaccine could need a booster shot ‘a bit like the annual flu vaccine’ to help protect them against Covid-19 mutations, such as the South Africa, Brazil and Kent variants.

The South African variant is thought to be as transmissible as the variant that was first identified in Kent but there is no evidence yet that it causes more severe disease.

Dr Susan Hopkins from Public Health England said three different vaccines trialled so far had shown effectiveness against the South African variant at a level higher than the minimum standard set by the World Health Organisation and the US Food and Drug Administration. 

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