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Fully vaccinate students or face worse disruption to education, union tells government

Stringent safety measures must be in place for the new academic year

COLLEGE and university students must be fully vaccinated if the sector is to avoid even more disruption, the University and College Union (UCU) said today.

Strict health and safety measures, including mandatory face masks and building modifications, need to be put in place across Britain if institutions are to prevent outbreaks, the union warned.

It reserved a “special warning” for the Westminster administration over what it called the “reckless” removal of Covid restrictions, and described its actions as “the biggest threat to students, staff and public safety.”

Rolling back restrictions as cases surge is a “recipe for disaster” for post-16 education, with universities particularly vulnerable as over a million students travel back to live and study in towns and cities away from home, it said.

In a detailed statement of “post-16 Education Recovery Principles,” delivered to each government, the union called for adequate funding for plans to deliver successful remote, blended and in-person learning.

The principles include an offer of full vaccination for students in universities and adult further education, and for all those over 16 when approved by the Joint Council on Vaccination and Immunisation, as well as mandatory wearing of masks, easy access to PCR tests and robust risk-assessments for the coming academic year.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “Students and staff endured totally avoidable chaos in the last academic year, and rightly want to put that behind them, but at present there is a real danger that the disruption could return as cases surge and restrictions are eased.

“Our biggest concern remains in England, however, where the government has taken a reckless approach to the removal of restrictions and guidance for education providers.

“A return to the level of disruption experienced last year would be unforgivable.”

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