Failed vaccine roll out leaves schools, communities unsafe

Teachers, Educators and Education Support Staff struggling to get access to vaccination has left schools and early learning centres unsafe, and society without a clear path out of the Covid-19 mess, three major education unions said today. 

In a letter released today the unions called for the Minister, Greg Hunt, to prioritise access to vaccination for teachers, educators and support staff in schools and early learning centres to keep these frontline essential workers and those they educate safe. 

In calling for priority vaccinations – staff in schools and early learning centres are not in any priority category at the moment – the unions argue priority access to vaccinations for staff would minimise the impact of future Covid-19 outbreaks on millions of families and children who rely on schools and early learning services. 

The unions - United Workers Union, the Australian Education Union and the Independent Education Union - represent thousands of early childhood educators, teachers and education support staff across Australia. 

Helen Gibbons, Early Childhood Education and Care Director of United Workers Union, said today. 

“We are calling on the Federal Government to rectify what has always been an appalling situation and lift early educators up the queue so that they can get the jab as soon as possible. 

“Early learning services remained open throughout the pandemic, supporting families, children and essential workers. You can’t socially distance with young children. The pandemic is travelling through our communities and educators are on the frontline unprotected. 

“If that’s not the definition of requiring high-priority access to vaccines, I don’t know what is.” 

Correna Haythorpe, the Federal President of the Australian Education Union, said. 

“It has been infuriating that teachers and education support staff have been given no priority in the vaccination queue. 

“As we understand more about the Delta variant, it becomes clear just how serious the health risks are to students and the education workforce. 

“Schools pride themselves as being safe places for students, teachers and support staff and it’s simply not good enough that teachers and education support staff are not given priority vaccinations.” 

Christine Cooper, Acting Federal Secretary of the Independent Education Union of Australia, said: 

“Teachers and education support staff have exposure to an extensive proportion of the community. 

“They have at all times met the challenges of this pandemic with professionalism and commitment to their students and communities. They too, deserve to feel safe and protected.” 

“Instead of getting schools on a ‘return-to-normal’ path, we have teachers and support staff experiencing long waits for the vaccine. The way forward for schools and for society is to ensure that all teachers and education support staff have priority access to vaccination. This will safeguard schools and centres as the safe environment needed for the essential uninterrupted delivery of quality education.” 

Media Contacts 

United Workers Union: 1300 898 633, [email protected] 

Australian Education Union: Alys Gagnon, 0438 379 977, [email protected] 

Independent Education Union of Australia: Simon Schmidt, 0466 144 360, [email protected] 


Joint letter to Minister Hunt:

12 July 2021 

Hon Greg Hunt
Minister for Health
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600 

[email protected].au 

Dear Minister Hunt 

RE: Priority access for teachers and educators as front line workers 

United Workers Union (UWU), The Australian Education Union (AEU) and the Independent Education Union (IEU) seek that educators, teachers and education support staff across early learning and school settings are provided higher priority access to COVID 19 vaccinations in recognition of their critical role providing an essential community service. 

We note that recent outbreaks resulting in lockdowns have again revealed the critical role schools and early learning services play in supporting children and families. We recognise that in all recent lockdowns except the Northern Territory, early learning services were required to remain open as a front-line essential service and that schools in greater Sydney have been required to return to online learning. Teachers, educators and education support staff are feeling overwhelming stress and anxiety as a result of safety concerns and increased workloads to manage impacts of lockdowns and remote learning. 

Millions of families and children rely on schools and early learning services each and every day. The fastest way to minimise the impact of any future COVID outbreaks on the community is to ensure that schools and early learning services can remain open with fully vaccinated staff. 

Schools and early learning services provide a critical societal function and ensuring the health and safety of the teachers, educators and support staff is vital to ensuring this work can continue. In addition, ensuring staff are fully vaccinated is also the most effective way to minimise the risk of infection amongst children, especially with new variants emerging. 

We call on you to confirm higher priority of access of COVID 19 vaccinations to all teachers, educators and education support staff as frontline workers, following the current priorities of aged care, healthcare, disability care, border and quarantine and other vulnerable worker populations. 

We seek an urgent meeting to discuss this matter. Please contact Laura Stevens [email protected] 0431 380 471 to find a suitable time. 

Yours sincerely, 

Helen Gibbons 

Director – Early Childhood Education United Workers Union [email protected] 

Correna Haythorpe Federal President Australian Education Union [email protected] 

Christine Cooper 

13 July 2021

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