For many school leaders, schools, and their communities, the government’s announcement of a staggered term start in the New Year, and mass testing, was yet another final straw in a year of far too many final straws, Dr Joe Pajak writes.

First published in December 2020.

Mass testing – The schools rebellion

The government announcement of the “last-minute plans for a staggered term start and mass testing, is the final straw, in a year of too many final straws, says Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).

In his TES blog, Geoff Barton warns that school mass testing plans are undeliverable... It is beyond belief that mass testing plans were landed on leaders in such a cack-handed manner.”

In a tweet this afternoon, Geoff Barton wrote, The proposed mass testing scheme is undeliverable in the timescale set out. The message includes a joint statement this afternoon on the mass testing proposals with NAHT, NEU, NASUWT, the Association of Colleges, the Sixth Form Colleges Association, and the Church of England Education Office.

In their joint statement, the signatories indicate that, “given the lack of detailed guidance or a coherent plan, we do not believe schools or colleges will be able to begin working on this before the start of next term.

The statement also makes it clear that “all these organisations are supportive of the concept of the use lateral flow tests in schools and colleges. However, due to the chaotic and rushed nature of this announcement, the lack of proper guidance, and an absence of appropriate support, our collective view is that the government’s plan in its current form will be inoperable for most schools and colleges.”

One is left wondering whether the government has not, yet again, ignored all the sage advice, here and abroad, regarding the possible transmission of the Covid-19 virus in education settings, and the potentially devastating impact on local communities.  

Today’s data in focus

Today’s data indicates the sad fact that a further 489 people have lost their lives in the last 24 hours in the UK,   while the number of deaths in the last 14 days is at 5,941.

Note: The data for deaths attributed to Covid-19, each following a reported positive test result for Covid-19 within 28 days of their death.

Today’s Government data indicate that there have been 286,738 new cases reported in the past 14 days, around 30% more than the 14-day figures reported a week ago   on 11 December.

Today’s trendline chart, and headline UK Covid-19 data, are provided below:

UK Covid-19 headline data, reported on 18 December 2020:

  • 28,507 further positive tests (see note below)
  • 489 further deaths in the last 24 hours
  • 1,726 further hospital admissions (reported as of 13/12)
  • 18,469 hospital in-patients in total (reported as of 16/12)
  • 1,340 patients on ventilation beds (reported as of 16/12)

323 days after the first case was reported in the UK, 1,977,167 cases have been reported, together with 66,541 deaths. However, these data include only those who have died within 28 days of testing positive; other measures suggest the number of deaths is higher: 76,287 being reported as “the total number of deaths of people whose death certificate mentioned Covid-19 as one of the causes, registered up to Friday, 4 December 2020.”🔷

Data source:

Further reading:

Dr Joe Pajak, Professional experience applied scientific research and development, then director of a national children’s charity, trustee of a disability charity, and governor of NHS foundation trust hospitals.

[This piece was first published in PMP Magazine on 18 December 2020. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]