2.5 Million ‘Generation COVID’ Children Had Zero Education in UK Lockdown: Report

October 27, 2020 Updated: October 27, 2020

Four in 10 pupils from UK state schools had full-time schooling during the national lockdown compared to almost twice as many from private schools, according to a new report—and around 2.5 million children had no formal education at all.

The initial findings (pdf) published on Monday by the London School of Economics (LSE) highlighted growing concerns that children and young people from “generation COVID” are missing out on both school and higher education following the outbreak of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

Concerns are particularly serious for disadvantaged children, the report said.

“Our research findings of substantial and continuing education loss add to growing evidence that disadvantaged students have fallen behind their more privileged peers due to differences in school provision, and the stark home learning divide in study space, computers, and internet connectivity and access to paid tutoring,” Andrew Eyles, a research economist at LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance (CEP), said in a statement (pdf).

The findings show “a sizeable divide” between those from the richest backgrounds and those from middle- and lower-income backgrounds.

“We are seeing large and sustained losses in education for school pupils and university students in the wake of the pandemic, with those from lower-income backgrounds particularly suffering,” said Lee Elliot Major, professor of social mobility at the University of Exeter and report co-author.

“The big danger for pupils is that they suffer permanent educational scarring—missing out on key grades that can shape future life prospects.”

The CEP findings come from a social mobility survey of around 10,000 people in September and October and an earlier, larger, household survey in April of around 100,000 people.

The survey showed that only around six in 10 school pupils were in education full time in early October, despite schools having reopened nationwide.

Parents also reported that a fifth of pupils were off school.

‘Chaos’

The findings come following Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield, in an opinion article in the Telegraph, saying that “chaos” was being created in schools by teachers being over cautious and, for example, sending whole year groups of children home in response to a single positive test.

The National Education Union is calling for a rota system for secondary schools to splice in-school education with periods of remote learning.

Commenting on the report findings, a spokesperson for the Department of Education said almost all schools had reopened and highlighted the government’s funding of a catch-up package.

“Over 99 percent of schools have been open every week since term began with the latest data showing over 7.3 million pupils attending to learn from brilliant teachers and spend time with friends,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

“Our £1 billion COVID catch-up package will tackle the impact of lost teaching time as a result of the pandemic, including a £650 million [$845.6 million] catch-up premium to help schools support all pupils and the £350 million [$455.7 million] National Tutoring Programme for disadvantaged students,” she added.

The CEP researchers said that further study is planned to assess the “longer-term economic and education scarring effects for the under-25s from COVID-19”.