Bedford councillors call for Covid-19 vaccine for teachers and school staff

Labour councillors in Bedford called for school staff and teachers to have priority access to the Covid-19 vaccine at a meeting of Bedford Borough Council.

Tuesday, 19th January 2021, 1:41 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th January 2021, 1:44 pm

At the meeting last Wednesday Labour councillors also extended thanks to all involved in keeping children in education during the pandemic and slammed the Governments ‘shambolic’ u-turns.

Responding to a question from Cllr Nesreen Akhtar (Queen’s Park Ward), about how schools had dealt with the uncertainty, Councillor James Valentine (Kempston West Ward), Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services and Education, criticised the delay in decision making that led to some schools reopening for just one day on Monday, January 4, only to close the following day as England went into full lockdown.

Cllr Valentine said: “As things have turned out, attendance of key worker children has been far higher than during the last lockdown to the point that head teachers and governors have concerns about keeping children safe.

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"But instead of allowing school leaders the discretion to prioritise entry, they have been told there are to be no restrictions whatsoever.

“The Secretary of State, Gavin Williamson combines monumental incompetence with waving a big stick to try and get his way.

"He has threatened teachers with Ofsted if parents aren’t happy with schools online learning offer, but he didn’t even consult Ofsted before making the threat.

“I wish to make a point about vaccination. The government constantly says that keeping schools open is a priority and I agree with them.

"But if we want to keep schools open, we should protect all the adults – that’s to say, teachers and school support staff – who work there, and make them a priority to receive the vaccine.”

Councillor Akhtar then asked about how effective communication from the Department for Education had been with local authorities and schools.

Councillor Valentine responded: “The communication from DfE to local authorities has been lamentable. I can give three examples of this: confusion about early years settings, confusion about lateral flow testing, and inadequate remote learning support, particularly provision of laptops and broadband.”

Councillor Akhtar said: “I wish to offer, and I’m sure the Council will agree with me, my heartfelt thanks to all the teachers, school support staff and council officers who are working so hard to keep schools thriving places for our children, and for all their efforts in developing remote learning.”

Bedford's Conservative group leader, Cllr Graeme Coombes said: "Keeping children, families and teachers safe is of paramount concern.

"The incredibly fast rise in COVID amongst families has been truly alarming. In a perfect world more notice about schools would have been welcome for both teachers and parents, but ultimately the Government has done the right thing in not reopening schools, except to children of critical workers.

"That decision, despite whinging from Labour, will save many lives. We further believe that teaching staff should have early access to the COVID vaccine, along with the police and other critical workers."