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May 19, 2020

Children from poorer families will be a week and a half behind classmates, according to research

Children from poorer families will be a week and a half behind classmates, according to research

According to findings from a new survey, when children return to class on 1 June, those from wealthier backgrounds will have benefitted from an extra week and a half of education, compared to children living in lockdown in poor family settings. The data was collected between 29 April and 12 May from 4,000 parents in England, and has indicated that children from more affluent backgrounds are spending 30% more time each day on learning than children in underprivileged households. It is understood that 12% of the most affluent students are receiving an hour or more of private lessons each day and wealthier households in general are twice as likely to have a private tutor.

“Children in lower-income households are spending significantly less time on both schoolwork and non-school learning activities than their better-off peers. Compared with children in the poorest fifth of families, those in the richest fifth are spending more than 75 minutes longer every day on work assigned by their school,” Lucy Kraftman, research economist at IFS and author of the report commented. “These differences will likely widen pre-existing gaps in test scores between children from different backgrounds,” she adds.

IZA World of Labor contributors Simon Burgess and Hans Sievertsen have researched the effect extra schooling has on skills. Whilst they cannot estimate precisely the impact of the Covid-19 interruption on learning as we are in a new world, they have looked at other studies to get an order of magnitude. “In a Swedish example, young men had differing numbers of days to prepare for important tests. These differences were conditionally random, allowing the authors to estimate a causal effect of schooling on skills. Even just ten days of extra schooling significantly raised scores on tests of the use of knowledge (“crystallized intelligence”) by 1% of a standard deviation (SD),” they write in their opinion piece.

The survey also indicates that despite the damage caused by time away from the classroom, only half of parents have said that they would be willing to send their child to school. It has become apparent that less affluent families are also more likely to keep their children at home. “We all want schools to reopen to more pupils, but it has to be safe for them first. We need to see the full scientific advice that the Government has based its strategy on, and to have a grown-up conversation in this country about the risks and rewards,” Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Layla Moran commented.


Read Simon Burgess and Hans Sievertsen’s opinion piece The long-term consequences of missing a term of school.

Read more Covid-19 content on IZA World of Labor. You can also find our recent opinion pieces on the pandemic and its effects here.