TEACHERS should be a priority group for receiving the coronavirus vaccine, a union has said.

The NASUWT teaching union has written to Education Secretary John Swinney urging the Scottish Government to fast-track teacher vaccinations in order to safely reopen schools for all pupils.

But First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has again insisted it would be “unethical” to prioritise teachers – or any other profession – before the most vulnerable are vaccinated.

Earlier this week she said she wants school staff to be “vaccinated as quickly as possible”, but not at the expense of those deemed clinically most at risk from the virus.

Schools will remain closed for the majority of pupils until at least the start of February, with in-person teaching replaced by online learning.

Children who are most vulnerable and whose parents are classed as key workers will still be able to attend schools.

NASUWT general secretary Patrick Roach said: “It is right that health and social care staff are prioritised, but the NASUWT also believes that teachers must also be identified as a priority group for the vaccine.

“Through the autumn term, we have seen a bad situation getting worse by the day. Now, at the start of 2021, the position is as bad if not worse than it was in March.

“The impact on this generation of children and young people should not be underestimated and it is our view that everything that can be done should be done to ensure the safe and sustainable resumption of school and college-based education for all pupils as quickly as possible.

“We have seen too much disruption to children’s education. Whilst teachers are doing everything that is being asked of them, they also deserve the same levels of protection in the face of this highly deadly and highly contagious virus.”

Asked about teachers being prioritised for the vaccine at Friday’s coronavirus briefing, Sturgeon said the Scottish Government will be sticking to the priority list set out by the UK-wide Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

She said: “Ultimately this prioritisation list takes in about 2.7 million people in Scotland – about half the population, everybody over the age of 50 and everybody under 50 with underlying health conditions.

“It starts with care home residents, over 80s, NHS and care staff, and then works down the age spectrum and basically these are the people that are most clinically at risk of getting ill and dying if they get this virus.

“It would be unethical to divert doses of the vaccine from those most clinically at risk into any other group at the moment.

“It would not be ethical to take a vaccine from somebody who was at a very high clinical risk of dying or becoming very ill to somebody else who is much healthier and at less risk whatever profession they happen to be in.”

It comes as the EIS called for face-to-face college classes to be suspended until February over worries about risks to staff health.

READ MORE: Union calls for face-to-face college teaching to be suspended until February

The union said that some colleges, which it does not name, plan to return to in-person teaching from next week.

The union claims this could be in breach of Scottish Government guidance issued by education minister Richard Lochhead, which urged colleges to keep numbers attending “to an absolute minimum”.

Nicola Sturgeon announced this week that mainland Scotland would be put into lockdown until February 1, including the closure of schools to the majority of pupils and a legally enforceable stay-at-home order.

“The EIS calls on all colleges and universities to suspend all face-to-face teaching during this national lockdown and rely on online teaching and learning,” Flanagan said.

“There is no reason for lecturers to attend their workplaces; they are not designated as key workers and they should be working from home as per the Government’s advice.”

He added that the union “will consider all options in order to safeguard the health and safety of our members”.