Concerns have been raised around the safety of staff and pupils attending special schools in Northern Ireland after it emerged teachers will not be moved up the vaccination list.
Hopes were raised earlier this month that all staff in special schools, who work with some of the most vulnerable children in society, would be among the professions jumped up the queue to receive early vaccinations to allow the pupils to return safely. Several special schools have already moved to a two-day week to keep the number of those attending to a manageable level.
But despite suggestions from the Education Minister that all staff could be in line for early vaccinations, the proposal was rejected by the Department of Health.
Peter Weir said the Executive had been "reluctant" to hold a vote on the plan with only specific staff who care for clinically vulnerable children to be prioritised for vaccination.
Justin McCamphill, northern official with the NASUWT, said there was a pressing need for protection for those working with the most vulnerable.
"Staff in special schools are working in close contact with children on a day-to-day basis with no protection in relation to PPE and they are extremely anxious that they are exposing themselves to risk," he said.
He said these staff deserved to be treated in the same way as frontline health workers.