12 January, 2021
On Sunday 10 January, OAT’s CEO Nick Hudson joined with the Group CEO of Cognita (the independent schools’ group), the CEO of AET and the chair of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), in writing to the prime minister Boris Johnson and cabinet ministers Gavin Williamson, Matthew Hancock and Nadhim Zahawi, recommending that local hubs should be set up in schools to help with the vaccination programme of staff, students and other education workers. Read the full transcript of the letter below or click here to download a PDF.
Dear Prime Minister
As the Government works hard to bring Covid under control, we believe it is vital that alongside the current vaccination programme for the most at risk, the other greatest urgency is to get schools open again. Vital for the future of our children and young people.
This Lockdown is regarded as the most challenging so far for millions of families as they juggle home schooling and working from home, combined with the enormous mental strain on parents and children alike in trying to stay safe from the highly transmissible strain of the virus. We share your concerns that this does not turn into a mental epidemic as well as a physical one.
The single initiative that could help families cope better with the Lockdown, preserve our children’s learning and mental health and help to encourage the economy to restart would be to ensure that schools can open safely after the February half term.
Since the joint letter to the Secretary of State for Education from Cognita and the Independent Schools Council on 7 January, leaders from across the state and independent education sector have been working together to create an implementation plan that would enable the Government to vaccinate all teachers and childcare workers before mid-February. We believe that this would meet the Government’s objectives and be widely popular in the country – warmly welcomed by people of all ages and political persuasions, as reflected in the petition that will be debated in Parliament Monday evening. We also think this initiative would be welcomed by the teaching unions and the teaching establishment.
Our plan is to establish local “hub” schools dedicated to administering the vaccine to teachers, childcare workers and school support staff, starting with workers in nurseries and special schools so that these establishments can remain open over the coming weeks. We have many schools that would be ideal “hubs” for managing the vaccination process. Such schools have refrigeration, facilities and space to enable the safe flow of people and safe storage of vaccines. Moreover, we have a large force of medically trained members of staff with the ability to administer the plan in line with Government compliance – a highly effective parallel implementation force that may have been overlooked, but is highly capable, expert and available for mobilisation at very short notice.
We are confident that our plan would achieve national reach within a very short timescale. In addition, it would draw upon the inherent goodwill that exists within the parent communities in our schools, with parent volunteering efforts unleashing a wave of popular enthusiasm for the delivery of this programme.
We are committed to helping the country beat Covid and return to as close to a normal society as possible in the shortest space of time. This would not incur cost to Government – our only requirement would be access to the vaccine in sufficient quantities. We recognise that there are details that would need to be worked through, but we would welcome the opportunity to start a discussion with you on how we can turn this initiative into an actionable plan and play our part in re-opening the country’s schools safely – for the benefit of our children and wider communities.
Group CEO, Cognita
Chair, The Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference
CEO, Ormiston Academies Trust
Group CEO, Academies Enterprise Trust