UNISON Northern Ireland

Education unions call on the Health Minister and Executive to prioritise vaccination for special school staff.

The Education Trade Union Group (ETUG) of the Northern Ireland Committee of the ICTU has written to the Minister of Health today (15 February) calling on him to prioritise special school staff for the Cov-19 vaccination.

The Chair of ETUG Maxine Murphy-Higgins  said:
“On the 1 February, the Ministers of Health and Education announced a decision to vaccinate some special school staff. This decision was received by some elements of the media, the public as well as some MLAs as a move which in the words of the Minister of Education would “ease the anxiety of parents and carers as well as staff working in special schools”. Unfortunately, after expectations being raised, staff in special schools now find that most will not receive the vaccine while no extra mitigation measures have been put in place to protect them”

“Staff within special school settings have difficulty implementing social distancing from their pupils and while some are provided with essential PPE as part of their day-to-day roles this is often compromised when supporting pupils with learning difficulties.”

The Vice-Chair of ETUG Alan Law said:
“The Education Trade Union Group are disappointed that special school principals have been placed in the difficult position of having to choose which staff within their schools received the vaccine. At the Education Committee last week, the Minister of Education stated that he supported providing the vaccine for all special school staff and that he had put a paper to the executive supporting this position.”

“Since then, there have been media reports of councils in England providing the vaccine for special school staff while the community and voluntary sector in Belfast have been provided with the vaccine.”

“The simple fact is that special school staff do not feel safe and have not been reassured that schools are safe.”

“The Education Trade Union Group are calling on the Department of Health and the Executive to prioritise all special school staff for vaccination against Covid-19.”