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1 June 2020

Poll: Pandemic has led to achievement “gulf” between poorer students and their peers

Disparities in home lives and internet access are contributing to educational inequality, according to a survey of UK teachers.

By Rohan Banerjee

A survey of UK teachers has found the vast majority – 79 per cent  believe that the education of poorer students is suffering the most from lockdown measures against the coronavirus pandemic.

UK schools have been forced into part-closures since the nationwide lockdown came into effect on 23 March, with only very small classes still taking place for the children of key workers, such as healthcare or supermarket staff, in this time. In most cases, though, classes have been delivered online.

According to a recent study conducted by the Times Education Supplement (TES), which collated the views of more than 16,000 people working in the education sector, many students from poorer backgrounds have struggled to adjust to learning from home. Thirty-one per cent of respondents said that the situation was creating an academic attainment “gulf” between poorer pupils and their peers.

Responding to the survey, teachers cited cramped living conditions, a lack of parental support, or access to digital equipment as some of the reasons students are struggling. “Hungry children don’t concentrate well and children who are looking after younger siblings don’t have the chance to do their work, one teacher told the TES.

Another added: “We are finding that our disadvantaged children are less likely to complete work set, and parents are often struggling to help them.”

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The government wants schools to begin a phased return to pre-pandemic operations this week, with primary school pupils the first to be welcomed back through the doors. Secondary school students, specifically those in the sixth form or at further education colleges doing their A-Levels, are expected to return on a part-time basis from next week.

Despite the government’s encouragement for children to return to the classroom, a study by the National Foundation for Educational Research found that nearly half – 46 per cent – of UK parents still intended to keep their children at home, reasoning that the virus was not yet sufficiently under control to return to normal.