Special needs teachers and staff should get vaccination priority says Lowry

New school in Celbridge for children with special needs

Special Needs teachers and staff carry out specialised essential work but are not deemed under the Vaccine Rollout to be Essential Workers

Special Needs teachers and staff carry out specialised essential work but are not deemed under the Vaccine Rollout to be Essential Workers

Deputy Michael Lowry has contacted the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, to again emphasise that teachers and staff at Special Needs Schools have a unique need to be prioritised for Covid vaccination.

‘Special Needs teachers and staff carry out specialised essential work but are not deemed under the Vaccine Rollout to be Essential Workers. This must be addressed as a matter of urgency for the teachers, staff, pupils and families of children and young adults with Special Needs’. Special Needs schools will be put at risk of closure if staff members are not protected. They cannot be moved in a generalised age group’ says Deputy Lowry.

He has stressed to the Minister that it is widely acknowledged that staff at Special schools and in special needs settings provide a different type of education than in other school settings. ‘In a special School there is continuous care and contact with students. This can range from hand-over hand writing, assistance in sensory play, help with assistive technologies, OT programmes, holding hands to support students, along with daily intimate care. A number of Special Needs students need one-to -one support throughout their day. In special education there is an extra level of care provided that enables students to access their education and teachers and staff gladly provide for this’ he stated.



Independent Tipperary TD, Deputy Michael Lowry

‘Teachers and staff are delighted to be back in their classrooms meeting the needs of their students. Yet it must be acknowledged that social distancing in this setting is not practical. No member of staff has or would protect themselves before attending to a child in difficulty or distress, as this is the nature of the job they do.

‘While all staff wear masks and practice hand hygiene and follow all recommended measures, bar the situation with Social Distancing, they are working with young adults up to and including the age of 18 that for a variety of reasons do not wear masks either continuously or at all. This raises serious concern and, in some cases, significant stress over the sacrifices staff make to their own personal safety in order to provide the necessary care to their students.

‘It is due to these circumstances and the specialised education and care that the Department has already recognised, that the position of Special Education staff in the Vaccine Rollout programme must be seriously reconsidered.

‘According to the proposed rollout Special educators are not considered in the same or similar category to those in residential care where the potential vulnerability of some who may not be able to adequately protect their own interests. Busy classroom settings are no different to settings where people live in crowded accommodation or where staff contact is with ‘Disadvantaged sociodemographic groups more likely to experience a higher burden of infection’.

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