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Covid-19: The children most likely to benefit from early childhood provision lost out the most

Blog Editor, IOE Digital6 July 2022

Photo by Alex Albert

Claire Cameron, Katie Hollingworth, Hanan Hauari, Margaret O’Brien, Lydia Whitaker, Sarah O’Toole.

The Covid-19 pandemic took a heavy toll on everyone, but on some people more than others. Young children were not at especial risk of infection but the measures to control the spread of Covid affected every aspect of their lives, as our Families in Tower Hamlets project has shown.

The ‘stay at home’ order on 23 March 2020 and accompanying closures of early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings such as nurseries and schools to most children led to only 5–10% of children who usually attended early childhood settings doing so. Provision was only open for children of critical workers or those classed as vulnerable.

We found that young children in our Tower Hamlets study had a more extreme lockdown experience than most – there were few ways to escape the monotony of being indoors – and that social inequalities magnified the disadvantages some children (more…)

Levelling up education and skills: a recipe for success?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital3 February 2022

Claire Crawford, Laura Outhwaite, Sam Sims and Gill Wyness.

It’s finally here: an answer to the question of what the government means by ‘levelling up’. On the education and skills front, it seems to involve some seriously ambitious targets: a massive increase in the percentage of children achieving the ‘expected’ level in reading, writing and maths at age 11 over the next eight years across all areas, with more than 50% rises needed to meet the target in most local authorities. Alongside these national targets, a set of 55 ‘Education Investment Areas’ – roughly the poorest performing third of local authorities in terms of primary and secondary school results – were identified, in which some new (and some re-announced) policies would be targeted.

It is good to have specific, measurable and stretching goals, but given the scale of ambition involved, there was very little detail of how we will actually get there – and no evidence of significant new resources to do it. Complex issues, like inequalities across the life course, require holistic solutions and joined up thinking across all aspects of the journey – things that simply cannot be delivered without appropriate funding. There was also little evidence of the embedding of new announcements within existing strategies – certainly in terms of the plans for educational technology, with the white paper championing the creation of a new online UK  (more…)

School History’s alternative futures: how should children make sense of the past?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital29 July 2021

derwiki / Pixabay

Arthur Chapman.

Parallel worlds are a staple in popular culture – in Dr Who, His Dark Materials, The Man in the High Castle, The Chronicles of Narnia and elsewhere. It is nevertheless surprising to find visions of what school history can be from what might almost be alternative worlds of assumptions appearing a mere week apart on gov.co.uk: Ofsted’s research review on History education, and a speech by Schools Minister Nick Gibb published last week.

As far as ideas about school history teaching and curriculum are concerned, the Schools Minister’s speech might almost have been written at any time since 2010. Arguments familiar from policy interventions  over the last decade are re-presented – drawing on E.D. Hirsch’s research from the 1970s (which concluded that deprived students’ reading comprehension appeared worse because they lacked the background knowledge of their middle (more…)

Who is included, who is excluded and what can we do to promote inclusion for all children?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital10 June 2021

Claire Cameron, Jo Van Herwegen, Mark Mon-Williams, Aase Villadsen.

“Covid 19 constitutes the greatest crisis that high-income countries have seen in many generations,” says UNICEF in its recent analysis. And children “are among those at greatest risk of seeing their living standards fall and their personal well-being decline”.

This, in turn, threatens to broaden the group of children at risk of exclusion – not just for misbehaviour, but because they have needs that are not being met. The danger is that, in the pandemic’s aftermath, we focus on ‘catch up’ learning for the relatively advantaged, and neglect the long-term health, wellbeing, and competency benefits of inclusive education for all students – especially those who are poor and ‘near poor’.

Now is the time to think how we can organise structures, services, and systems in every school so that all (more…)

Quick catch-up or recovery over time? a systems perspective on the pandemic, part 2

Blog Editor, IOE Digital11 March 2021

Melanie Ehren.

Education is going through a massive transformation globally with teachers gaining new digital skills, online teaching materials being developed and parents getting much more immersed in their children’s education. These transformations are, however, not benefitting all students equally, as discussed in Part 1 of this blog, with those from deprived backgrounds losing out on learning when schools were closed.

Across the world, policy-makers are thinking about how to build back better systems; in England, Sir Kevan Collins was recently appointed as the Education Recovery Commissioner, with the responsibility of overseeing a programme of catch-up but also proposing a strategy for long-term recovery.

Here are my three take-away messages for where to prioritize short-term catch up of learning loss, and how we (more…)

Quick catch-up or recovery over time? A systems perspective on the pandemic, part 1

Blog Editor, IOE Digital10 March 2021

Melanie Ehren.

While the pandemic has been disruptive to all learners, it has been more so for lower-income students. They have been particularly hard hit because of a lack of home support for online learning, limited access to good wifi or a laptop and a lack of quiet space to learn at home.

Initial studies indicate that students from deprived backgrounds have learned less compared to their more affluent peers, and their ‘lost learning’ amounts to the time schools were closed. A study by Engzell et al (2020) for example compared the result of school tests in the Netherlands before and after lockdown in spring 2020 with results from the previous three years, and found that losses are up to 55% larger among students from less-educated homes. The pandemic has brought the already existing inequalities into sharper focus and increased concern about the widening gap.

PIRO4D / Pixabay

Across the world, governments are announcing proposals to try and eliminate further unfair disparities and (more…)

Housing wealth, not bursaries, explains much of private school participation for those without high income

Blog Editor, IOE Digital8 February 2021

Jake Anders and Golo Henseke.

Although less than a tenth of children in Britain attend private schools, who goes matters to all of us. This is because of the considerable labour market advantages that have persistently been associated with attending a private school, including recruitment into the upper echelons of power in British business, politics, administration and media. As a result, in recent work published in Education Economics we looked into who send their children to private schools. In brief, despite all the talk about bursaries, public benefits and attempts at widening participation, who goes to private school remains as closely tied to family income and wealth as it did at the end of the 1990s. This casts doubt on accounts of real progress in opening up the sector to a more diverse student body.

In the paper we demonstrate quite how concentrated private school attendance is among the highest levels of household income (see image). The proportion of children attending private school is close to zero across the vast majority of the income distribution, and doesn’t rise above 10% of the cohort except among those with the top 5% of incomes. Only half of those in the top 1% send their kids to private school.

Income concentration of private school participation, 1997-2018.

On one level this is unsurprising. Sending your child to a private school costs a lot of money: in 2018 average annual fees were £14,280 for day schools and £33,684 for boarding schools. Not many people have (more…)

Political engagement shouldn’t be a question of class. A new project is examining the gap and what to do about it

Blog Editor, IOE Digital4 June 2020

Jan Germen Janmaat.

Social mobility is a widely shared ideal in practically all western countries: your family background should not matter for your education, your professional career and for where you end up in life. Consequently, social mobility has been a key concern of social scientists for decades – an interest reignited by the way the Covid crisis is fuelling inequalities in health, education, and the labour market.

Far fewer academics have been interested in the influence of family background on political engagement – i.e. interest in politics and the desire to participate in it. This is surprising as a lack of inter-generational ‘political’ mobility is likely to be as detrimental to social cohesion as a rigid class society. Democratically-elected governments are more incentivised to serve the interests of those who vote than those who are politically disengaged.  Since middle class people have higher levels of political engagement, this may contribute to a vicious circle in which people from disadvantaged backgrounds withdraw their support for democracy altogether. In other words, the passing down of disengagement across generatations may lead to a permanent and alienated ‘political’ underclass.

This is why the Nuffield Foundation has funded our project, entitled “Post-16 Educational Trajectories and Social Inequalities in Political Engagement” (April 2020 to September 2021), which aims to investigate: (more…)

When students’ attainment is mismatched with their university course, life chances are affected

Blog Editor, IOE Digital9 December 2019

Gill Wyness and Lindsey Macmillan.

Higher education has long been thought of as a tool to equalise opportunities, with governments around the world spending billions per year on encouraging disadvantaged students into university through financial aid and other widening participation strategies.

Indeed, the Office for Students has recently set ambitious new targets to encourage universities to widen access. But is simply getting poor students into university enough? Our research, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, suggests that we need to pay much more attention to the types of universities and subjects that disadvantaged students enrol in, if we really want to improve their life chances.

(more…)

How much does private schooling raise your pay, and does it make you give more to the community?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital4 November 2019

Francis Green

Private schools find themselves in the news lately, more than they usually are. Boris Johnson became the fifth Old Etonian prime minister since the war, and immediately appointed a cabinet in which nearly two-thirds were privately educated, re-affirming once again what the Sutton Trust and the government’s Social Mobility Commission have been revealing about the political influence of the privately educated. At the same time, for the first time in many decades the possibility of radical private school reform has entered the political agenda. 

Formal evidence on what private schools do can help people evaluate views about Britain’s private school system and whether there is a need for reform. There are two important findings from our latest research which looks at a cohort born in 1990 and (more…)