'Please just give us the COVID-19 vaccine,' pleads headteacher as schools reopen

Stevenage Giles Nursery and Infants' School sign

Rouane Mendel, headteacher of The Giles Nursery and Infants' School in Stevenage, is desperate for staff to be vaccinated - Credit: Archant

Adults working in schools are deeply concerned about the COVID-19 risks that now come with the job, admits a headteacher clamouring for staff to be given the COVID-19 vaccine as schools fully re-open today for the first time since December.

Rouane Mendel, the headteacher of The Giles Nursery and Infants' School in Stevenage, said: "We want schools to be safe for both staff and pupils. Schools have just reopened and this time we want them to stay open. This is what parents and pupils need."

Throughout lockdown, Stevenage primaries have provided education in school for 2, 522 vulnerable pupils and children of critical workers. Mrs Mendel says the town's schools have all seen a significant increase in pupils testing positive for COVID-19 since Christmas.

"Primary pupils are the fastest-growing infected group and the children are presenting asymptomatically and passing the disease on," she said.

"Staff working in schools are worried. We follow all the guidelines with absolute scrupulousness, but you can't socially distance from young children.


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"Four weeks ago, four of my staff contracted the disease from a single child. All have been very ill."

All 32 Stevenage primary school heads last week signed an open letter rebuking ex-Ofsted chief Michael Wilshaw's assertion on BBC Newsnight that medical staff have sacrificed their lives and "we need a similar commitment from the teaching profession".

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Mrs Mendel said: "Surely such recognition that teachers are putting themselves at significant risk means those working with pupils in schools should have been vaccinated before schools re-opened.

"We want safety for staff and stability for pupils, rather than the endless closure of bubbles as infections with the new variant continue to escalate.

"We ask the vaccination planners to distinguish between school sectors. Primary children can't wear masks and the younger children aren't able to socially distance. Staff need to comfort children, read one to one, administer first aid and work with those with special educational needs.

"Teachers should not be expected to sacrifice their lives. Please just give us the vaccine."

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