13 September 2021

Heads receive ‘threatening’ letters from groups opposed to Covid jabs in schools

13 September 2021

Headteachers are receiving letters from pressure groups “threatening” legal action if schools take part in any Covid-19 vaccination programmes.

The Government must make it clear to parents that school and college leaders will not be making the decisions on consent around jabs for pupils, education unions have urged.

It comes as the UK’s four chief medical officers (CMOs) have said children aged 12 to 15 should be offered a first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

It is expected the vaccinations will be given through schools as soon as possible once the advice has been considered by the Government.

It is very important that the Government is really clear that our members are not going to be in any way making decisions about consent

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “Many of our members have been receiving letters from various pressure groups threatening schools and colleges with legal action if they take part in any Covid-19 vaccination programme.

“This is extremely unhelpful and we would ask those involved in this correspondence to stop attempting to exert pressure on schools and colleges.

“The question of whether or not to offer vaccinations to this age group has clearly been thoroughly considered and the decision on whether or not to accept this offer is a matter for families.”

He told the PA news agency: “It is very important that the Government is really clear that our members are not going to be in any way making decisions about consent and all of that kind of stuff.”

The recommendation from the UK’s four CMOs comes despite the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) deciding not to recommend mass vaccination of 12 to 15-year-olds.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, has called on the Government to confirm that questions about consent for pupils offered a jab will be solely handled by medical teams.

He said: “Now that a decision has been made, it is essential that the Government immediately confirms that the process surrounding vaccinations will be run and overseen entirely by the appropriate medical teams.

“Where parents have questions, including about important matters such as consent, these must be handled by those same medical teams.

“There must be no delay in confirming this otherwise school leaders will be put in an impossible position of facing questions to which they simply do not have the answers.”

This is not the time for yet more incoherent guidance from Government

Mr Whiteman added: “School leaders are being put in an invidious position, stuck between parents, pupils and pressure groups, all while simply working to carry out their national duty.

Schools must be allowed to focus on their core task of providing education to pupils. We would expect detailed guidance to be published by government clarifying all this without delay.”

Last week, schools minister Nick Gibb said it was their plan to give children Covid-19 vaccinations in schools if the Government decided to offer jabs to 12 to 15-year-olds.

Mr Gibb told MPs that parental consent will “always be sought” before children are vaccinated in school, but he said that in “rare” circumstances teenagers can consent to receiving the jab themselves.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said: “While we recognise that a decision on vaccinating children needed careful evidential judgement, it would have been better if a decision could have been made earlier during the summer holidays.

“It will now be well into the autumn before the impact of the vaccination programme will be felt. Schools must be given timely and clear guidance for the next steps.”

She added: “It is incumbent on the Department for Education (DfE) to make clear and usable procedures for the necessary parental consent. This is not the time for yet more incoherent guidance from Government.”

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