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Children studying for exams and those from disadvantaged families are the most likely to have suffered severe disruption to their learning and motivation during the pandemic, according to the largest published study of its impact on pupils in England.
The surveys and interviews of more than 60,000 students aged from six to 18 reveal huge disparities in the impact of lockdown and school closures, with very different profiles for learning loss and wellbeing among children spread across different households.
Children taking GCSE courses appeared most at risk of disruption, with nearly one in four pupils in years 10 and 11 saying they could not get help from family members with questions about their schoolwork, while 40% said they lacked a routine to help them study from home.
The research comes after academics estimated that the pandemic will cost about £350bn in lost earnings across the working life of today’s school pupils, adding to calls for the government to do more to help children catch up over the coming years.
James Turner, chief executive of the Sutton Trust, said the research showed there was “no question” that the pandemic was having a devastating impact.
“Many of the findings reinforce our own research showing the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on disadvantaged young people,” said Turner. “The road to recovery will not be straightforward and will require a sustained and multifaceted approach, focussed on those who have lost out the most.”
Pupils in years 10 and 11 had the most pessimistic view of their learning last year, with children in those year groups remaining the most anxious after the summer holidays.
“These scores hint at the pressures that exam uncertainty has caused,” the report’s authors noted.
The research uncovered some intriguing details that explain the disparities between groups. While 97% of children in disadvantaged households – largely those who had received free school meals – said they had a digital device such as a laptop or tablet at home, only two out of three said they they were able to use it to complete their schoolwork.
In non-disadvantaged households, 99% said they had digital devices at home, although more than one in five reported that they did not have sufficient access to complete their work.
Of the learning itself, many children reported they didn’t understand the schoolwork given to them during lockdown, but the effect was more pronounced for those from disadvantaged families.
Only 45% of children eligible for the pupil premium said they understood the school work they were given during lockdown, compared with 57% of their better-off peers also working remotely.
The study by the charity ImpactEd carried out a series of surveys of 62,000 pupils in schools across England, from May until November last year.
“Education throughout Covid-19 has been a challenging process but we hope this study and its findings assists schools. We are already seeing schools using the data to target resources towards those groups of pupils in their schools who need different types of support,” said Owen Carter, co-founder and managing director of ImpactEd.
On wellbeing, the research found there was little impact on pupils overall, with self-reported wellbeing slightly higher in May, June and July than prior to lockdown. But the impact varied: girls reported 10% higher anxiety than boys, and nearly twice as many girls as boys said they were worried about returning to school.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Covid hits exam-taking and poorer pupils worst, study finds | Education