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NI Special School Staff To Get #VaccinePriority

February 3, 2021

Some staff working in special schools in Northern Ireland will be prioritised for vaccination against Covid-19.

The move comes after an agreement between the Departments of Health and Education.

The proposal from Education Minister Peter Weir had previously been discussed by the executive.

BBC News NI understands that staff involved in giving direct care to children with the most complex needs in special schools will be prioritised.

However, it is not yet clear on what date they will begin being vaccinated.

It is also not clear if all staff in special schools will be prioritised, or just some staff.

In England, there have also been calls for teachers to be vaccinated against Covid-19 once the most vulnerable have received their doses.

In Northern Ireland, the agreement between the Departments of Health and Education is only with regard to those working in special schools.

Special schools have remained open for all pupils since the start of January, while most pupils in pre-schools, primary and post-primary schools are learning remotely.

Weekly Covid-19 testing for staff and pupils in special schools is also due to begin in February.

“Staff working in special schools are supporting children and young people who have the most complex healthcare needs and require support from across the health and education sectors,” Health Minister Robin Swann said.

“It is with this in mind that we have made the decision to offer the vaccine to those staff involved in the direct care of these children and young people.”

The departments of health and education will now work to identify staff in special schools who should be offered the vaccination first.

Staff who are in close contact with multiple children and young people for prolonged periods, and those who offer personal and intimate care are those likely to be prioritised for vaccination.

Education Minister Peter Weir said he hope the move would “help to ease the anxiety of parents and carers as well as staff working in special schools”.

Sinn Féin assembly member Colm Gildernew said the ministers and departments “now need to work along with the Education Authority, school staff and their representatives to take this forward so these important workers can be vaccinated as soon as possible”.

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