Educators have been left “bewildered” by plans for a staggered return and mass-testing in schools in January, the general secretary of the HMC has said.

Dr Simon Hyde, who has written to education secretary Gavin Williamson calling the current plans “not deliverable”, said that although mass testing could be beneficial, it had to be delivered in a manageable way.

He said in a statement:

"The chaotic and rushed nature of the Government’s announcement on the staggered return to secondary schools in January has left many educators bewildered. Whilst mass testing has the potential to be of enormous benefit to our schools and communities, it must be delivered in such a way as to be manageable and build public confidence.

"Time, thought and proper resourcing are fundamental to rolling out mass testing. It is not just about getting tests to schools, but the process of implementation and preparations to deal with the consequences. Schools stand ready to play a part, but they need to be consulted and reassured that plans will work. For too many, there is a lack of confidence in a government department that has let schools down too frequently.

"School leaders have showed remarkable capacity, resilience and forbearance since the start of the pandemic. Miracles have been achieved, but even miracle-workers deserve a break.

"For these reasons HMC stands with the other school unions in advising our members that the current plan is not deliverable. Independent school heads and their state colleagues have done everything possible to keep children educated, but they cannot turn their schools into emergency clinics in a few working days.  

"It is time for the Secretary of State to understand that the aspirations of central government need much more thorough planning and engagement if they are to be successful. HMC remains willing to help make that happen."

Dr Hyde's comments chime with those of other heads' leaders across the education world.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, has said it was "not possible to recruit and train all the people needed to carry out tests...and it is extremely regrettable that the government has given the public an expectation that this will happen".

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders' union the NAHT, said schools would "struggle to have testing ready for the start of term" if further details were not released until after Christmas.