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Audit shows school closures left poorer pupils struggling to cope

Crushing price of lockdown: Devastating audit shows how a year of restrictions has left poorer pupils struggling to cope, caused a care home CATASTROPHE and put our justice system on hold

  • Figure show disadvantaged children twice likely to struggle with homeschooling
  • One in five poorer pupils did not cope and many spent days doing no work at all 
  • All youngsters were found to be behind in their learning by at least a month 

The devastating impact of lockdowns on disadvantaged children is laid bare today in research showing they were twice as likely to struggle with home schooling.

In the week of the anniversary of the first Covid school closures, the figures show one in five poorer pupils did not cope and many spent some days doing no work at all.

A Daily Mail audit of studies during the pandemic shows children have lost at least six months of normal, in-person lessons, translating to an estimated £40,000 loss in lifetime earnings if they do not catch up.

All youngsters are behind in their learning by at least one month, with primary school pupils lagging in maths by an average of three months.

The damning picture of a year of squandered education sparked an impassioned intervention from former Ofsted chief inspector Michael Wilshaw.

In the week of the anniversary of the first Covid school closures, the figures show one in five poorer pupils did not cope and many spent some days doing no work at all. Picture: Stock

He told the Mail: ‘Youngsters realise that they’ve lost out. And they believe that they’ve been dealt a very bad hand by fate, and that they will not have the same opportunities as previous generations. That’s how they feel.

‘They are extremely worried and some are very angry and depressed by what’s happened.’

Sir Michael, who is volunteering at a London academy trust to help pupils recover from the pandemic, added: ‘It’s really incumbent on schools to make up for lost ground. Some will, and some won’t.

‘It’s really important that Ofsted checks that the catch-up money is being used well.’

The analysis comes after this newspaper revealed yesterday the huge impact of lockdowns on the nation’s health and economy.

Schools were ordered to close on Friday, March 20, last year. Three lockdowns were imposed over the following 12 months, meaning children had to try to learn at home.

Many schools were slow to lay on adequate online lessons and, at the start of the pandemic, more than a million youngsters did not even have a laptop or tablet.

A Daily Mail audit of studies during the pandemic shows children have lost at least six months of normal, in-person lessons, translating to an estimated £40,000 loss in lifetime earnings if they do not catch up. Picture: Stock

In response to the crisis, this newspaper launched a campaign to raise money for the Mail Force charity to ramp up the provision of refurbished and new laptops for struggling pupils. Businesses, philanthropists and generous readers donated more than £13million in cash and computers.

Despite these efforts, a survey of families in January and February found 18 per cent of those living in poverty struggled to cope with online learning. This compared with just 9 per cent of better-off children.

One snap poll found one in ten poor pupils had done no work that day – compared with just one in 20 better-off pupils. By this February half-term, a third of poor parents rated their experience of home schooling as ‘low’, compared with just a quarter of other parents.

Three in five deprived parents ‘sometimes’ or ‘often’ had trouble understanding home learning tasks, compared with only two in five other parents.

The study, involving 1,200 households across 75 primary schools, is called the Big Lockdown Learning Parent Survey, and is funded by the Education Endowment Foundation.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust and the EEF, said: ‘In the latest lockdown, schools were much better equipped to deliver online teaching. But poorer children still faced barriers to learning, including access to a device, an internet connection and a space to learn.

The study, involving 1,200 households across 75 primary schools, is called the Big Lockdown Learning Parent Survey, and is funded by the Education Endowment Foundation. Picture: Stock

‘Now that they are fully reopened, the immediate priority for schools is to assess their pupils’ academic needs and wellbeing, so they can target their resources to their pupils’ specific needs.’

Our audit of academic studies during the pandemic has also exposed the wider impact of Covid-19 on education.

Last month the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimated children lost at least half a year of normal, in-person schooling by the February half-term. It said the average child could lose £40,000 from their lifetime’s income unless they are helped to catch up.

Elsewhere, the Education Policy Institute found all children are at least one month behind in their learning because of the pandemic.

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘Schools have been open to vulnerable pupils throughout the pandemic, and getting all children back into the classroom – as they are now – has been the department’s number one priority. 

‘We have invested over £2billion into schemes to provide pupils with devices for remote education and ambitious catch-up plans –with funding targeted at disadvantaged children.’ 

STUDENTS WHO HAVE TO WORK 10 TIMES HARDER 

Chloe Woodhouse-Meehan says almost half of her school’s pupils had no access to a study device during the first lockdown.

The English teacher, who is also assistant head at The Bemrose School in Derby, said staff resorted to posting work booklets so children could carry on learning.

She said she had missed her pupils in their months away and worried what impact Covid would have on them. But the 36-year-old added: ‘I hate the phrases “the Covid generation’” or “the lost generation”. They’re not lost. They’ve just been slightly delayed on their journey but they’re going to get there. I’m really ridiculously proud of our students.

Chloe Woodhouse-Meehan (left) says almost half of her school’s pupils had no access to a study device during the first lockdown

‘They’re coming back in with smiles on their faces – even though they’ve got masks on you can tell they’re smiling. It is trying for them but they’re not letting it faze them. We’re delighted to have them back. They’ve come back motivated, resilient and it’s amazing how they’ve been in the face of adversity.’

Sarah Parveen, a 17-year-old A-level student at the school, said she felt she had to work ‘ten times harder’ while learning at home.

‘The first lockdown affected me mentally a lot. This recent lockdown I was really unmotivated, I thought I was falling behind. I thought there was no point. But I would speak to my teachers and they were very encouraging.’

‘SERIOUS IMPACT’ ON BABIES

COVID restrictions have had a ‘serious impact’ on 600,000 babies who have lived their entire life in lockdown, experts warn.

They have been exposed to higher levels of stress as more parents struggle with financial insecurity, bereavement and isolation. There is also an increased threat of domestic violence.

All can affect bonding and have a detrimental impact during a critical period in development, according to a coalition of almost 200 children’s charities. 

COVID restrictions have had a ‘serious impact’ on 600,000 babies who have lived their entire life in lockdown. Picture: Stock

In addition, families are missing out on vital care because NHS services, health visitor checks and support groups have all been disrupted, the First 1001 Days Movement says. 

The group accuses ministers of having a ‘baby blind-spot’ after pledging £1.7billion of catch-up funding for pupils but nothing for babies.

Sarah McMullen of the National Childbirth Trust said: ‘Babies and families have been forgotten about throughout this year of restrictions, stress and challenge. It’s absolutely vital funding is put in place to identify families most at risk and make sure support is available.’

Seven in ten parents say changes brought about by Covid are affecting their unborn baby, baby or young child.

JUSTICE PUT ON HOLD

The backlog in criminal courts is expected to take at least two years to clear – at a huge cost to justice.

There were almost 57,000 cases waiting to go ahead in crown courts in England and Wales at the end of February, a rise of 2,000 since the New Year. In March last year, the figure stood at 39,331.

There are now fears that potential convictions could fall through the cracks as victims and witnesses lose patience.

The backlog in criminal courts is expected to take at least two years to clear – at a huge cost to justice. Pictured: The Royal Courts of Justice

In total, there are more than half a million cases waiting to be heard in magistrates’ courts. 

The number reached its peak last summer – after courts closed during the first lockdown – when there were 570,000 cases waiting to go ahead.

The demand has led to some serious cases, involving sexual assaults and murders, being delayed to 2023. The Ministry of Justice plans to open 60 ‘Nightingale’ courts by the end of the month to help clear the backlog.

 CARE HOME CATASTROPHE 

Deaths in care homes increased by a fifth over the past year as coronavirus brutally exposed decades of underfunding in social care.

Almost one in four people who died from Covid-19 in the UK lived in a care home. Thousands more succumbed to isolation and loneliness caused by cruel visiting restrictions aimed at stopping the virus from spreading.

Vulnerable residents have borne the brunt of the pandemic and remained an afterthought during the ‘worst ever year’ for social care, charities have said.

Last night Age UK said the disaster in the sector provides an ‘object lesson in what happens when you consistently neglect a crucial service that millions rely on every day’.

This time last year health chiefs made the ‘egregious error’ of discharging thousands of patients from hospitals into care homes in a scramble to make space for intensive care beds.

Many were not tested for the virus. This had tragic consequences, seeding the virus among residents. There were more than 400 Covid-19 care home deaths a day at the peak.

Deaths in care homes increased by a fifth over the past year as coronavirus brutally exposed decades of underfunding in social care. Picture: Stock

Over the summer, as some social restrictions were lifted, care homes remained closed to visitors.

This led to shocking deteriorations in the mental and physical health of care home residents, who rely on family visits to maintain their basic skills.

The Mail succesfully campaigned for care homes to reopen to visitors, but action came too late for thousands who died without being able to hug their loved ones goodbye.

Caroline Abrahams of Age UK has called on the Government to ‘atone’ for its mistakes and bring forward plans to reform and refinance social care.

THE ARTS LEFT IN LIMBO 

Further restrictions would be a disaster for theatres and live music, say experts.

A year of lockdown has already cost those sectors around £1billion each in lost ticket sales, according to Mail estimates based on pre-Covid figures.

Caroline Norbury, chief executive of the Creative Industries Federation, said the pandemic has had a ‘devastating impact’ on those reliant on audiences.

She added: ‘Without additional support in place, any further restrictions have the potential to exacerbate this even further.

‘We are calling for a Government-backed insurance scheme for live events, as well as other measures to enable our sector to get through this uncertain time.’

In 2018, theatre generated ticket revenues of £1.28billion – and in 2019 live music brought in around £1.3billion.

Cinemas have lost an estimated £2billion in ticket revenue plus income from food and drink. Picture: Stock

Now the performing arts world is awaiting the results of the Government’s pilot events next month and in May to trial the idea of crowds with no social distancing.

Elsewhere, a recent survey by Art Fund – the national charity for art – found six in ten museums and galleries are worried about their survival. 

During 2018, museums generated more than £1.1billion for the economy.

Meanwhile, cinemas have lost an estimated £2billion in ticket revenue plus income from food and drink, screen advertising and private hire since March 2020, according to Phil Clapp, chief executive of UK Cinema Association.

However, thanks to the Government’s support from the furlough scheme, the business rates ‘holiday’ and VAT discount available to UK cinemas, he expects the ‘overwhelming majority’ of cinemas will be able to reopen once allowed in May.

TOURISM AND AIRLINES HIT 

The economy has lost up to £13million an hour since the pandemic began due to the collapse in domestic and foreign tourism, research reveals.

In January, business for travel agents and tour operators was down by 89 per cent compared with February 2020, according to industry group ABTA. It could take until the mid-2020s for the sector to recover fully.

The UK’s tourism agency VisitBritain estimates £285million was lost on average every day – £11.8million an hour – from the start of the first lockdown to the end of last year. ABTA said the economy had taken a further £13.7billion hit – £1.6million an hour – due to foreign holiday bookings plummeting.

The economy has lost up to £13million an hour since the pandemic began due to the collapse in domestic and foreign tourism. Picture: Stock

It estimates more than 164,000 travel-related jobs have been shed over the pandemic. Airports and airlines have been hit hard, with at least 100,000 aviation-dependent jobs believed to have been lost.

Figures compiled by the International Air Transport Association show the UK sector’s contribution to gross domestic product plunged 66 per cent last year, second only to Spain, where it fell 73.5 per cent. UK airlines also saw the biggest fall in traveller numbers – 193.6million – and the largest drop in passenger revenues – £25.5billion.

IATA estimates 858,500 British jobs that rely on aviation and international travel remain at risk. The Airport Operators Association fears some airports may not fully recover until 2025, while airlines are not expecting profits again until 2022 or 2023.

Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye added that ‘British exporters lost £15billion in 2020 – all because the passenger planes that carry their goods from Heathrow to customers around the world sat idle’.

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