On 18 March 2020, the government closed schools in response to the spread of the coronavirus. Schools started to reopen gradually from 1 June. In this shutdown period, only vulnerable pupils and children of key workers were able to continue attending. A similar closure measure has been announced starting 6 January 2021. The Department for Education (DfE) found that 2.6 per cent of pupils were in school on 21 May. The vast majority of children were at home during the lockdown period and were receiving a mixture of parent-led learning and school provided resources and classes. The DfE did not require schools to teach online lessons and it was for each school to determine how best to deliver education. Research on remote education conducted in April 2020 by the Sutton Trust found that 23 per cent of pupils took part in live and recorded lessons online every day. Students from middle class homes were more likely to do so (30%) compared to working class pupils (16%). At private schools, 51 per cent of primary and 57 per cent of secondary students had accessed online lessons every day during the lockdown. A poll by YouGov found that 51 per cent of teachers had pupils who had dropped out of education altogether during the lockdown. The lockdown will have a very significant impact on the educational attainment gap. In 2019, 26.5 per cent (144,000) of pupils in state-funded secondary schools were disadvantaged. Of these pupils, just a quarter achieved English and Maths at grades 9-5, compared to half of non-disadvantaged pupils. The annual ‚’learning loss‚’ experienced by pupils each summer provides further support: summer holidays account for almost two thirds of the attainment gap between rich and poor children at age 14. Covid-19 poses a unique challenge to our schooling system.
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