Victorian school staff designated as vaccination priority group

Victorian school staff designated as vaccination priority group

The Victorian Government has updated its COVID-19 vaccination policy, designating school and early childhood teachers and education support staff working with children with a disability as priority group 1B.

Earlier this month, Australian Education Union’s (AEU) federal president, Correna Haythorpe, said the nation risks further school closures unless all school staff are prioritised for the vaccination.

“The Federal Government must move urgently to prioritise teachers, principals and education support staff for the COVID-19 vaccination. This would help protect staff, students and families from the risks of contracting COVID-19 and mitigate the risk of further school closures”.

Victoria’s state’s Education Department has now advised schools and early childhood settings that vaccination priority access now includes teachers, support and administration employees in specialist schools working directly with students (within 1.5 metres for more than 15 minutes).

This includes teaching and support staff in schools and workers in early childhood education and care services, working directly with students (within 1.5 metres for more than 15 minutes) living with a specified underlying medical condition or significant disability.

AEU Victorian Branch President Meredith Peace described the move as “a significant step” towards the call for full inclusion of all education workers in a vaccine priority group.

“Education workers across early childhood, school and TAFE settings have worked through the pandemic, showing resilience, determination and professionalism,” Peace said.

“We are pleased that the Andrews Government has recognised the importance of vaccinating teachers and support staff working with children with a disability as a key component in protecting the Victorian community and vulnerable groups from the risk of COVID-19 infection.”

Peace said that while the updated policy doesn’t include all education staff across all sectors as the union has been calling for, it will significantly widen the pool of those who can get vaccinated.

“Unfortunately, there is still no decision to prioritise the vaccination of education workers from the Federal Government, despite their constant criticism of school closures,” she said.

“The AEU Victorian Branch will continue to advocate for all education staff, across all sectors, to be prioritised for vaccines. As I have said previously, unless education staff are able to have priority access to a vaccine, we continue to be at risk of more disruptions to the on-site education of our students.”

Meanwhile, the AEU is continuing its push for teachers and education support staff in all states and territories to receive priority access to COVID vaccines.

“As the Federal Government acknowledged at the height of the pandemic, teachers and support personnel working in schools and early childhood settings play a critical role in keeping society functioning," AEU federal president, Correna Haythorpe told The Educator.

“Yet they have not been given any priority under the proposed vaccination plan. People working in education settings are collectively exposed to millions of other people from across the community every day".

Haythorpe said the "demonstrated critical importance" that school staff have to society, the economy and the nation's future prospects, mean they should be treated as a priority group for receipt of the vaccine.

“With the movement of millions of students, teachers and parents on a daily basis, priority access to vaccination would reduce the risk of transmission and provide significant health, social and economic advantages for children, the education workforce and the broader community".