Wealthy children will have received seven days’ worth of additional home learning by the time primary schools begin reopening next month, according to a new report, as Michael Gove warned that poorer students were being left behind.
Amid an ongoing row over plans for key year groups to return to the classroom from June1, research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that children from better-off households are spending an additional 75 minutes per day on education.
If the Government is forced to abandon the plans, the gap between the most affluent and poorest students will double to three schools weeks by the time they eventually return in September, the study adds.
The IFS warns that the trend risks widening the gulf in educational outcomes and will likely be reflected in pupils’ test scores when exams are reinstated next year.
It comes after Mr Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, on Sunday highlighted the impact that school closures were having on disadvantaged pupils as he called on teaching unions and councils to drop their opposition to primary schools returning from June 1.
Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Gove said: “Over the course of the last decade we’ve made significant strides in closing the gap between the richest and the poorest in our schools. This lockdown has put that backwards.
“If you really care about children you will want them to be in school, you will want them to be learning, you’ll want them to have new opportunities, so you know, look to your responsibilities.”
In an earlier interview with Sky News, Mr Gove added that the longer children were away from school, the “the more the divide between those children who are in privileged circumstances and those children who are in less privileged circumstances grows.”
According to the IFS, the problem is being exacerbated due to wealthier pupils having access to additional teaching resources, with children from the top 20 percent of households twice as likely to be getting private tuition.
The report finds that they have better access to technology, such as computers and tablets, as well as more space to study.
A survey of 4,000 parents commissioned as part of the report found that high-income families are also more likely to report receiving more interactive resources from their children’s schools to support home learning.
According to the poll, nearly two in three secondary pupils in state schools from the richest households are offered some form of active help, compared with 47 percent from the poorest fifth of families.
Meanwhile, there is a greater reluctance among parents from poorer households to send their children back to school during the pandemic.
Alison Andrew, senior research economist at IFS and co-author of the report, said: “This risks leaving the children least able to cope with home learning remaining at home, even as their better-off classmates return to school.”
Lucy Kraftman, a fellow research economist, added: “These differences will likely widen pre-existing gaps in test scores between children from different backgrounds.”
Commenting on the findings last night, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said teachers and school staff were well aware of the additional struggles that children from disadvantaged backgrounds have to contend with.
He added: “Internet access is not the norm, space to learn is not available and many deal with high stress levels due to the daily struggle of worrying about money for basics such as food, clothing and heating.
“Schools are doing all they can to support these children during lockdown by sending out care packs and learning packs.
“Ministers must tackle child poverty through the coronavirus economic recovery plan. While this period of lockdown will end, the educational disadvantage that exists as a result of poverty will not. Schools cannot tackle this on their own.”