Child Reading

New analysis: poorest pupils face “double blow” to their education after missing the most learning during the lockdown and autumn term 

New analysis published today (Thursday 29th October) by the Education Policy Institute (EPI), supported by the Nuffield Foundation, finds that the most disadvantaged and vulnerable pupils in the UK are more likely to have missed the most learning time as a result of the disruption to schools. 

The research, released halfway through the new school term, is the first to compare data on school attendance across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland since the return of schools in August and September. Within the four UK countries, the analysis considers how attendance rates vary among different pupil groups and in different areas.

Rising Covid-19 infection rates across the country have created a number of challenges for schools since they reopened several weeks ago, with hundreds of thousands of pupils and staff being sent home following outbreaks of the virus.

The EPI analysis shows that in areas with the highest rates of the virus in the UK such as the North West of England, as many as 4 in 10 secondary pupils were unable to attend school during October. In contrast, other areas have seen almost all of their pupils attend school in person.

The research also suggests that in the first half of the autumn term the most deprived areas in the UK were more likely to have seen lower pupil attendance levels.

It finds a clear link in Scotland between pupils with higher levels of deprivation and low school attendance levels, along with indications in other parts of the UK that poorer pupils were also more likely to miss out on formal schooling during the first term back.

This follows evidence from the lockdown period in the spring, which showed that the amount of home learning taking place during the height of the pandemic was far greater among pupils from high income families than those from low income families.

Following this second wave of disruption to pupils’ learning, the Education Policy Institute urges the government to target more of its school catch up funding at disadvantaged pupils who have fallen further behind, rather than offer the same level of support across-the-board.

Sector Response 

Luke Sibieta 100x100Commenting on the analysis, Luke Sibieta, author and Research Fellow at the Education Policy Institute (EPI) said:

“This research shows that so far in the autumn term, Scotland has been the most successful with getting pupils back into the classroom, with far higher school attendance rates than England and Wales over the last two months.

“Before October half term, more than 9 out of every 10 pupils in Scotland still attended school. While some of this reflects lower infection rates, even in those areas that had similar rates of infection to other parts of the UK, Scotland still managed to achieve higher school attendance rates.”

“While school attendance figures vary considerably, emerging evidence suggests that it is the most disadvantaged and vulnerable pupils across the UK who are missing the most formal schooling following the reopening of schools. Other UK governments should urgently follow Scotland’s lead and publish attendance rates by local authority and for the poorest pupils, so that we can track attendance rates into the winter and identify those pupils in need of extra support.”

David Laws 100x100David Laws, Executive Chairman of the Education Policy Institute (EPI), said:

“The most disadvantaged children in the UK are facing a double blow to their education, after having lost the most learning time during the lockdown period in the spring and now during the autumn term of the new school year.”

“Government support for these pupils currently falls short of what is required. In England, the £650 million to help pupils catch up with lost learning time allocates the same amount of funding to a pupil in an affluent area as it does to a pupil in a poorer area. Funding also currently fails to take into consideration the rate of infection in an area and the level of disruption faced by schools.

“It is unclear why the government has not directed a greater proportion of funding to those pupils most in need of support. There is a compelling case for a more targeted approach to support poorer pupils who are disproportionately missing out on learning time, in order to prevent a significant widening of the attainment gap”.  

Kate Green MP 100x100Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:

“Labour has repeatedly called on the Government to put measures in place to close the attainment gap but they have failed to do so.

“The Government must urgently get a grip of the situation and ensure that any child who has fallen behind will get the support they need to catch up including proper access to digital devices and broadband.

“No child should be left behind because of this crisis or government incompetence.”

Avis Gilmore, Deputy General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: 

“It is clear from this latest analysis that Gavin Williamson has much to do if he is to make good on his promise to support every child through lockdown and beyond, as well as vulnerable pupils and those with SEND.

“Recent weeks have seen high numbers of pupils and staff having to isolate as a result of Covid cases in their school. In spite of the National Education Union calling on Government for several weeks to prepare for this outcome, no substantial plan B for remote learning was forthcoming. What little advice there was finally appeared on the bank holiday weekend in late August, which points to Government incompetence at best and irresponsibility at worse.

“The EPI’s analysis shows, unsurprisingly, that higher income families are better positioned to make home learning work. The Government was keen to appear as heroes of disadvantaged pupils during the summer, but the evidence to the contrary has been mounting. Setting aside the disgraceful decision not to proceed with free school meals during autumn term, we also saw last week the rationing of laptops for those who need them while at the same time imposing a legal duty on schools to provide remote learning. This doubles the difficulties faced by disadvantaged children and young people when trying to access learning.

“This in turn raises further concerns about the viability of exams in 2021. It is clear from this report that the differing impacts of Covid on students across the country will mean that the current plan, of exams on the full content in most subjects, will not take place on a level playing field. With every announcement of worsening case counts around the country, not to mention each new case of an outbreak in a school, the chances of every student getting a fair grade fade ever further away. We need much more than a three-week delay, and that is why we are calling on Gavin Williamson to rethink his totally inadequate plan which right now is letting everyone down, staff and students alike.”

KEY FINDINGS

School attendance in the autumn term: how do UK nations compare?

  • School attendance was far higher in Scotland and Northern Ireland at the very beginning of the autumn term. Attendance in the first week that all pupils returned was 94% in Scotland and 95% in Northern Ireland, compared to 87% in England and 85% in Wales. This could be due to Scotland and Northern Ireland having more time to prepare for reopening, given their schools were not widely open in June and July. They also opened at a time when national infection rates were far lower.
  • Scotland and Northern Ireland were still ahead with pupil attendance by October: recent data from Scotland shows over 90% of pupils attended school, while in Northern Ireland 93% were attending before the two-week closures to schools. In England, 87% of schools were open before half-term, while 85% were in Wales.
  • In all countries, attendance was far higher in primary than in secondary schools, reflecting ONS evidence on higher infection rates for older children.

In some local areas over a third of pupils were unable to attend school during the autumn term

  • At a local authority level, England has significant variation in pupil attendance, with attendance levels in secondary schools as low as 61% in Knowsley. Other areas with high infection rates also saw very low levels of secondary school attendance in October, such as Liverpool (67%) and Rochdale (70%).
  • However, there were also a number of areas with lower virus rates that have very low secondary school attendance rates, including Calderdale (64%), Kingston-upon-Thames (68%) and Bracknell Forest (72%). The DfE should publish more data on local school attendance rates and do so on a regular basis, to allow for scrutiny of the factors affecting school attendance across the country.
  • In contrast to these low levels, attendance in secondary schools in October was as high as 94% in Kensington and Chelsea, West Berkshire, and Bath and North East Somerset. 
  • Comparing Scotland with Wales, attendance levels in Scotland range from 81% in the Outer Hebrides and 87% in Glasgow to 95% in Aberdeenshire, Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands. In Wales, they vary from 81% in Merthyr Tydfil and Denbighshire, to 93% in Ceredigion and 94% in Monmouthshire.
  • Significantly, in areas in Scotland and Wales with similar infection rates, school attendance is higher in the former. This suggests there is much to be learned from Scotland’s overall approach to school attendance.

There is strong evidence of a link between higher levels of pupil disadvantage and lower levels of school attendance

  • In Scotland there is a strong relationship between pupil disadvantage and school attendance levels: attendance rates in October are lowest among the 20% most deprived pupils in Scotland (89% school attendance) and highest among the 20% least deprived (95% school attendance).
  • This is a major source of concern given that evidence suggests disadvantaged pupils in other parts of the UK are likely to have received less formal schooling during the autumn term, while poorer pupils in all parts of the UK are likely to have lost more learning time during the lockdown in spring.
  • This also follows recent EPI research which shows that even before the pandemic impacted the education system, the gap in school attainment between disadvantaged pupils and their more affluent peers had stopped narrowing.
  • The decision by the Scottish Government to publish detailed information on levels and differences in school attendance is commendable, as it improves understanding of the effects of the pandemic on pupils’ education. Other UK nations should urgently publish this data.

Some of the most vulnerable pupils, including those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), have also seen low attendance rates across the UK

  • Special schools – those for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) – have seen the lowest rates of attendance during the autumn term across the UK. Special schools had attendance rates of 91% in Scotland, 88% in Northern Ireland and just 78% in England.
  • These attendance rates may reflect the difficulties for some families in returning their children to formal schooling during the pandemic, in light of their more complex needs.
  • Low attendance rates also highlight the importance of providing extra support for SEND pupils: EPI research has shown that all UK nations failed to adequately support children with SEND during the pandemic, with provision and support sporadic and highly dependent on a pupil’s local authority.

You may also be interested in these articles:

Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page