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Sheppey's Oasis Academy boss Steve Chalke says decision not to vaccinate teachers is a 'mistake'

Steve Chalke, the boss of the Oasis Academy which has schools in Medway and on the Isle of Sheppey, has hit out at the Government's decision not to vaccinate teachers.

He called the plan a "mistake" and accused advisors of "experimenting" with the health of school staff.

The Rev Steve Chalke at the Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy, Minster
The Rev Steve Chalke at the Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy, Minster

In a Tweet he complained that if the government wanted to reopen all schools on March 8 it should protect staff rather than "experiment with their health."

He added: "Even if we guess it will not be a problem, we should think belt and braces rather than risk being wrong again!"

Oasis runs the Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy secondary school on Sheppey and the Oasis Academy Skinner Street primary school in Gillingham. Mr Chalke's comments came after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) concluded that vaccinating in order of age – starting with people aged 40-49 – remained the quickest way to cut deaths.

Education unions said they were “disappointed” Government advisers had decided against giving priority to school and college staff in the next round of Covid-19 injections.

The JCVI considered whether teachers should be vaccinated next but concluded that age remains a major factor in serious illness and speed of the roll-out was of great importance.

Covid jabs
Covid jabs

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said he was “disappointed” by the outcome especially after ministers announced this week that all pupils in all year groups in England would return to class from March 8, despite repeated warnings from unions.

Mr Barton has asked the experts to reconsider.

He said: “This seems only right if it is asking all these staff to be in crowded environments where the vast majority of people have not been vaccinated, and where the absence from school of any teacher directly affects the quality of education.”

Professor Wei Shen Lim, who chairs the JCVI's Covid-19 task force, said one of the difficulties with looking at vaccination according to occupation was that jobs were "not very well recorded" in GP records.

But that didn't stop GPs in Sittingbourne controversially offering teachers in their area advance vaccinations when they had spare capacity. They emailed schools direct asking for the names of anyone who wanted a jab.

In a Tweet, Mr Chalke said:

"The decision not to vaccinate school staff is a mistake:

•We want schools to go first so we should protect these anchor staff, rather than experiment with their health.

•Even if we guess it will not be a problem, we should think belt & braces rather than risk being wrong again!"

Not everyone agreed with him.

A person called Whispering Smith replied: "Opportunity cost. Who do you take the vaccine away from to give to the teachers who weren't already in the high risk categories, and what would be the overall impact of that change in policy? Best case: rob Peter to pay Paul. Worst case: kill Peter to appease Paul."

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