A SENIOR Conservative MP has called for teachers and support staff to receive the Covid-19 vaccine as "an absolute priority".

Robert Halfon, chair of the Education Select Committee, said vaccinating teachers will make schools safe and help to reduce the problem of "education poverty".

He said: “What I want to see is, especially now that we’ve got the Oxford vaccine, is that teachers and support staff are made an absolute priority for vaccinations because if we can make sure that they’re vaccinated and they’re safe, it’s less likely that schools will have to close.

“This two weeks has to mean two weeks – schools can’t just be a revolving door that never stands still, open one day, shut the next, because it’s very damaging to the life chances of these pupils.”

“If we can roll testing out and two weeks really means two weeks, then perhaps I can understand the decision that has been made, but we can’t continue to damage the life chances of children.

“We know that remote learning, whatever the efforts of teachers and schools, is sometimes quite patchy.

“We know that millions of children had barely any learning in the last lockdown and there is no substitute, no substitute at all for being at school.”

Mr Halfon has also expressed concerns of an "epidemic of educational poverty" caused by schools being closed.

He added: “I do worry very much about children not being in school.

"I understand we have to balance the risks of coronavirus, absolutely, and do everything possible to keep staff and children safe, but I also worry about the impact of lost learning on the children.”

Mr Halfon said he is worried about children’s mental health, and safeguarding for those who may be exposed to county line gangs or online harms at home, as well as the impact on parents, particularly those who may lose income from staying at home with their children.

“This is very, very, very difficult all around and I think the impact on educational learning and mental health is perhaps the two most important things because these are things that are very difficult to deal with.

“We want to deal with coronavirus but we don’t want an epidemic of educational poverty and mental health crises amongst young people in our country.”