Our submission to the Education Committee inquiry into COVID-19
Our submission to the inquiry into COVID-19's impact on education and children's services sets out what must be done to overcome challenges from the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic is not hurting each member of society equally. The virus is already more widespread in the areas of the country with the highest rates of poverty and ethnic diversity, and the economic downturn is making it increasingly likely that even more people will slip into poverty.
These consequences will significantly affect children and their learning. Learning lost during school closures will have a lasting impact on especially disadvantaged pupils.
Successive governments have rightly invested to close the attainment gap. Now more than ever it will require monumental efforts across government, business and the education sector to ensure that progress is not lost.
SUPPORT SCHOOLS WHILE THEY'RE CLOSED TO MOST PUPILS
Give disadvantaged children access to devices and internet to learn from home
Learning conditions at home are not equal. To offset this, we urge the Government to extend the technology support scheme to children of all ages from low-income families.
Ensure grades are awarded as fairly as possible
Evidence shows that high-attaining A-level students from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to be underpredicted compared to their better-off peers. Ofqual should keep a close eye on the distribution of grades as submitted by schools and exam boards.
Acknowledge improving schools in grade awards
Ofqual should explore how they can provide flexibility to schools that are able to justify why they have awarded more generous grades in some subjects this year compared to previous years.
Provide intensive catch-up for children from disadvantaged backgrounds
Research suggests students who attend a summer school on average make two months’ additional progress compared to similar students who do not attend a summer school.
If gatherings are allowed later in the year, the Government should consider through summer schools. Alternatively, catch-up provisions should be offered after school once they reopen.
SUPPORT SCHOOLS TO REBOUND
Continue and enhance efforts to recruit and retain new teachers
Teachers and school leaders will play a central role in the recovery of our country. The Government must continue to prioritise plans to attract more people to the teaching profession and help them stay. This includes progressing starting salary increases, extending financial incentives to work in disadvantaged areas and an earlier full rollout of the Early Career Framework.
Invest in school leaders
School leaders should be supported to thrive as they help their schools and pupils to rebound. They should be offered coaching from experienced school leaders and given access to peer-to-peer networks.
Weight school funding increases towards schools serving disadvantaged pupils
Funding allocations should reflect the disproportionate impact on disadvantaged pupils. The pupil premium should continue to be allocated for six years after a child has a period of receiving free school meals, including those children who are becoming eligible during COVID-19.
Commission research on the impact of school closures
The government should commission ongoing research to understand the pandemic’s impact on children’s learning. In particular, the research should consider how this differs across families by demographics to help the sector understand how learning losses can be mitigated and accelerate the closure of the attainment gap.