The lockdown is widening the gap between rich and poor pupils

Robert McCallion Blogs

Lucy Kellaway is a British journalist who wrote for over 15 years for the Financial Times.  She then trained to be a teacher and is co-founder of the charity Now Teach.

She has an article in this week’s edition of The Spectator, in which she argues compellingly that the impact of the closure of schools is having a massive effect on children’s’ education and increasing the gap in educational outcomes between rich and poor pupils massively.

Key points she makes include:

  • The health danger to the few students who have returned to school is miniscule.
  • Lucy is not yet teaching at the school but still running on-line lessons.  Of the 25 students in one of her classes, eight will listen carefully, eight will do the work more sloppily and the rest will not do it at all.  She is convinced that none of the last group have done any work since lockdown began.
  • The Education Endowment Foundation assesses the damage inflicted on Educational Inequality by closing schools has undone the work of a decade.

Last Friday I also attended an on-line lecture by members of the Economics faculty of Cambridge University.  One of these was delivered by Professor Anna Vignoles on the Inequalities in Education Achievement during the COVID 19 experience.

Key messages included:

  • Large gaps in education achievement by socio-economic background emerge at an early age and widen as children progress through school.
  • Early investment reaps significant benefits since children who do fall behind find it difficult to catch up later.
  • Although this research is based on UK data, inequalities in education are similar in other countries.
  • Research on the impact of COVID19 show a very significant fall in average test scores.  However, perhaps of even greater concern, inequalities by socio-economic background are likely to widen by one third.

I have become increasingly worried about the impact of the UK government’s policies on children’s education.

All this seems to me to show that we must redouble our efforts to reopen schools as soon as possible.

Chris Goodwin