With the Education Policy Institute already suggesting that it could take over 500 years to close the academic achievement gap within the UK, the COVID-19 outbreak may have catastrophic effects for disadvantaged groups.
A survey carried out by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), with over 4,000 participants, discovered that 64 percent of state educated secondary school students from privileged households had access to continuous support. Shockingly, only 47 percent of those from the most deprived families could say the same.
As of 2019, 7 percent of households in the UK did not have access to the internet
With a lot of school learning taking place online, families are left heavily reliant on their electronic devices and access to the internet. However, as of 2019, 7 percent of households in the UK did not have access to the internet.
Many of these digitally impoverished households contain children; for these families, receiving a proper education during the current outbreak is simply a myth.
Discrepancies in home schooling, for students in the UK from different social classes, is heavily influenced by the resources available at each school.
Epsom College, an independent school, has been holding “virtual school”. Following a similar structure to regular school, it ensures that students do not fall behind in their studies.
For many families, home schooling is difficult due to having to juggle work duties alongside teaching/ assisting one or more children for hours upon end
Independent schools can provide this amazing service to families as they still receive fees from parents, thereby remaining unrestricted by financial constraints.
Many state schools, unfortunately, will not have the funds to meet this standard of online teaching. Larger class sizes mean that teachers are unable to provide as much support to each individual as an independent school can.
For many families, home schooling is difficult due to having to juggle work duties alongside teaching/assisting one or more children for hours upon end.
Those who work long hours/are key workers, such as NHS staff and shop assistants, many of whom are also working class, will struggle the most in balancing work, rest and their children’s education.
Although key worker households can still send their children to school, many will not due to fears of their children catching the virus. This factor is, therefore, also a valid contributor to the discrepancies in home schooling across the UK.
Another reason for the inequality between different social classes and their access to continuous support is household income.
With a staggering 2 million people being made redundant, it can be assumed, based on statistics (2018), that at least 500,000 households with dependent children will be affected
In 2019, over a quarter of secondary school children had a private tutor. Providing this kind of support is often costly to parents, thus such services are usually exclusively accessible to children from middle and upper class backgrounds.
Working class families may also hire a tutor, but this could require parents making personal sacrifices and subjecting themselves to longer working hours in order to provide this premium service to their children.
The outbreak has triggered mass unemployment within the UK. With a staggering 2 million people being made redundant, it can be assumed, based on statistics (2018), that at least 500,000 households with dependent children will be affected.
Post-quarantine, I would assume that attainment within this region will only decline: unemployment will reduce the number of children who have access to tutoring services and academic resources (such as textbooks and laptops).
Additionally, many students may be discouraged to apply for more competitive university degrees, such as Medicine and Law, due to the costs associated with entry exams and admissions test preparation.
It is clear that the COVID-19 outbreak has negatively impacted the working class by inhibiting access to academic resources, as well as limiting the amount of time parents have to assist with their children’s learning.
In the future, the academic attainment gap will most certainly widen. This paints a very bleak future for the least privileged areas of the UK, particularly areas such as the North East of England.
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