Devastated sister of Burnley College tutor who died of Covid-19 supports campaign calling for vaccine for teachers

The devastated sister of Burnley College tutor Donna Coleman, who died of Covid-19 at the age of 42, is backing a campaign calling for teachers to be given a vaccine to protect them from the virus.

Donna returned to work when the college re-opened in September, even though she had expressed concerns to her family that she was worried about the virus.

Donna's sister, Vicki Coleman, said: "Donna went back to work because she loved her job but she paid the ultimate price for that and we as a family are still struggling to come to terms with her death."

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Vicki is lending her support to the call by national newspaper the Daily Mirror for an urgent vaccine for teachers, tutors and support staff working with children and young people.

Donna Coleman, a tutor at Burnley College,died of Covid-19 aged 42. Her sister is now backing a campaign calling for all teachers to be vaccinated

Vicki added: "“I strongly believe that schools and colleges should have closed earlier.

"We need teachers to be vaccinated as soon as possible."

Donna had spent the last four years working at the college as a programme leader and tutor in employability skills for vulnerable young people and adults.

She had no underlying health issues and was never ill or had time off sick. In fact Donna had only been in hospital once in her life and that was as a child to have her tonsils out and her tragic death prompted her family to appeal to people to take the lockdown seriously and realise that this virus is real.

Donna with Amalee, her late friend's daughter who she was like a second mum to

A fund, set up in honour of the dedicated tutor, has raised the grand total of £10,500.

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The money raised in Donna's memory will be put into a trust fund for six-year-old Amalee who is the daughter of one of Donna's closest friends who died aged just 37 five years ago. Donna promised her friend she would continue to be part of Amalee's life and keep her mum's memories alive.

True to her word Donna honoured her pledge and was like a second mum to Amalee.

Donna was diagnosed with Covid-19 just before Christmas. And although she appeared to be recovering from the virus she took a turn for the worst and was rushed to the Royal Blackburn Hospital where she died.

Popular and well liked by staff and students at the college where she was described as a 'huge presence' dozens of tributes were paid to Donna by former students and their families who she had helped.

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Hundreds of mourners lined the streets to pay their last respects to Donna at her funeral and Vicki has thanked everyone for their support and also messages of sympathy and support.

She said: ""It feels very surreal, like I am watching all this happen to someone else."

A statement released from Burnley Colege today said: "Within college we continue to work closely with every individual member of staff to ensure measures are in place to allow them to continue their vital roles safely – whether that is working remotely or in college.

"The safety and wellbeing of our learners and staff is of paramount importance to us and we understand what a worrying time this is for everyone.

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"As a college we have specially-trained staff carrying out lateral flow testing on a daily basis for everyone within the college building; we monitor and adhere strictly to all Public Health England advice and guidance and we are receiving expert advice from a Health and Safety specialist to ensure we not only meet national guidelines in relation to Covid-19, but exceed them.

"Our senior managers hold weekly forums in which staff can air any current concerns they may have in relation to Covid-19 and, as a college, we take all these worries seriously and act accordingly.

"Each and every member of staff plays a crucial role in the life of Burnley College and we thank them all for the commitment, kindness and compassion they have shown over the past year.

"Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to Donna’s family and her many friends at this sad time. The outpouring of love shown by all who knew her truly reflects what a remarkable woman she was and the legacy of love she has left.

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"We will always remember Donna within the Burnley College family for her infectious smile; her dedication to ensuring the very best outcomes for her learners and her passion for training and development.

"Donna was a true force of nature and we consider ourselves lucky to have had the opportunity to work with her and to call her our friend.

"Her loss is felt deeply at college and also within the business community with whom she worked tirelessly to ensure employers could access a skilled and enthusiastic workforce."

The Prime Minister has said that teachers are not at greater risk and the Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty has even said 'teachers are not at any greater risk of dying than other professional groups of their age.'

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The data has not been reported since June, when the Office for National Statistics data showed 90 teachers and support staff had died between March 9th and May 25th. During much of this period, most schools were only open to the children of keyworkers.

Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, says the figures raise 'very serious questions'about the handling of coronavirus in schools and colleges.

The Office for National Statistics said it will give new data this week that will include teaching staff.