Friday, 19th March, 2021

[Day 368]

Today was a bit gloomy but not excessively cold and we collected our newspapers and got to the park in plenty of time. There we met with our University of Birmingham friend who I was especially pleased to see as I had managed to locate a couple of papers I had written that examined the relationship between GEC O-levels and A-levels and the final degree results. The analysis used a statistical technique called ANOVA (Analysis of Variance) and it is excellent at solving the problems where you lots of categories of input (e.g. score from a number of GCE’s put into bands) and corresponding output (class of degree) and you trying to establish the statistical relationship between them.The papers were not written with a view to publication and hence had no references, literature reviews and the like – they were just straight analysis of the records of our students that were susceptible to a statistical treatment but they both came as very useful documents in policy terms when we were resubmitting our degree courses or attempting to prove that we were ‘adding value’. Anyway, my friend is going to cast his statistical eye over them nd it will be interesting to see what he makes of them both.

Today is rather a strange anniversary for me as it is 48 years according to the date when I was run over by a Hillman Imp (whose driver claims to have fainted at the wheel) when I had just finished a lecture at Leicester Polytechnic and was on my way to another class. I will spare you all of the gory details except I was hit first and thrown out of the way, both legs being smashed up in the process. My two students were carried on the body of the Hillman Impthrough some iron railings outside a residential home. My legs were put into a temporary plaster but the tendons to all of the muscles were severed – but it was the middle of an ancillaries dispute so there was no bed for me in the hospital either that day or the following day (I was told to take aspirins for the pain) The third day afterwards they did take me into hospital and when I came round from the operation I remember peering timorously underneath the sheet to see how many legs I had left. As it was, the answer was two but as they had told me that they had no idea what they were going to do until they got me onto the operating table and so there was a possibility I would end up legless. Enough of all of this – but 19th March as well as being the feast of St. Joseph is a date which I find it hard to forget.

Tonight was also the night when we decided to have a celebratory meal for the birthday of our daughter-in-law (last Sunday) and our son (next Thursday) so tonight’s meal was an occasion approximately in the middle. As we are still in lockdown and cannot go out for a collective meal, we treated ourselves to a fish-and-chip supper delivered to the house and we had quite a jolly occasion of it all, considering the circumstances.

We have now vaccinated some 26.2 million of the population and record number in one day of 660,000 (nearly two thirds of a million in one day) Also, the record tonight seems to indicate that we have vaccinated some 49.9% of the population – and I wonder off the government will ‘explode’ with the good news once we actually hit the 50% proportion. At the same time, the situation in Germany seems to be going from bad to worse and is definitely at the start of a third wave of the pandemic. The Germans freely admit that they do not have enough vaccine to give more of their own population the vaccine that they need so the ‘politics of vaccination’ may start to rear its ugly head. The situation in Europe is now sufficiently serious for experts here in the UK to wonder whether despite the success of our vaccination programme, a third wave in the rest of Europe might seep into the UK in the summer/utumn and we are certainly not out of the woods just yet.

There is quite some concern in official circles that the virus seems to ‘target’ the UK’s poorest and most deprived communities, and once entrenched the virus seems difficult to shift. Rotherham is one of those towns that has struggled to get infection rates down. Even when they do fall, they do so slowly, and cases remain stubbornly over 100 cases per 100,000 people – while the average area in England has 45. So it is become more and more evident that COVID-19 is almost ‘seeking out’ and then intensifying existing social and economic inequalities. The problem for these communities is that poverty strikes at the economic base, the educational system, the local health resources and these inequalities only seem to reinforce each other. The policy implications are clear (but unpalatable for a Conservative government)