Teachers could be given Covid vaccine sooner if they agree to cut summer holidays short

THE school summer holidays could be cut short to help kids catch up, ministers confirmed yesterday.

Some Whitehall insiders hope teaching unions who oppose the plan could be bought off if they are bumped up the vaccination list.

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Health Minister Edward Argar said the government is considering “a whole range of things” to help children claw back their lost classroom time.

This includes lengthening the school day and slicing a fortnight off the lengthy summer holidays.

Sir Kevan Collins, the new education catch-up tsar, said “all options” are on the table to help children claw back lost classroom time.

In his first interview since taking up the job, he told the BBC: “I don’t think it’s a time to rule things in or out.

“I do think in the short term however we are going to have to think hard about the learning time available for children.

“They’ve missed a lot of time and we are going to have to quickly get new opportunities for those children to catch up.”

'SINGLE BIGGEST PRIORITY'

He said ministers will need to “act quite quickly around things like summer and summer schools for example”.

He added: “I think we need to think about the extra hours not only for learning, but for children to be together, to play, to engage in competitive sport, for music, for drama.

“Because these are critical areas which have been missed in their development.”

The Sun understands that Schools Minister Nick Gibb is pushing for schools to open longer in the summer.

Boris Johnson did not rule out the radical proposals as he vowed to flesh out the catch up plans later this month.

Speaking on a visit to a Covid test manufacturer in Derby, he said helping kids catch up on lost schooling “is the single biggest priority now for the Government”.

He added: “We have got to work flat out now as a country, as a society to remedy the loss of learning kids have had.”

Whitehall insiders reckon some of the teaching unions will fight tooth and nail against working in the summer holidays.

But they think teachers would have more goodwill if they are prioritised in the second phase of Covid vaccinations.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is currently deciding on the pecking order after groups 1 to 9 – everyone aged 50 and over – have been jabbed.

It is expected to prioritise some key workers, like teachers, because they come into contact with more people at work.

One Westminster insider said: “If they don’t end up prioritising teachers for the vaccine then there will be no favour from the unions at all.”

Geoff Barton, of the head teachers’ union ASCL, has warned the government against trying to “force” through changes to the school year this summer.

While the NEU teachers union boss Dr Mary Boutsed demanded more cash for teachers.

She said: “Some pupils have lost out more on education than others, and the Government needs to address these disparities within schools and across the country.

“Funding schools to employ additional teachers as needed, including from among the supply teachers who have not been able to work during the lockdown, would help provide that additional support where and how it is needed."

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi told an event held by the Tortoise website last night that the JCVI is considering prioritising teachers for the jab.

He said: “We have asked them to consider whether we should prioritise teachers, police officers….who through their work come into contact with more people.

“The JCVI will advise us and we will follow that advice.”

 

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