Educating in a Lockdown

Contact the author: @yashaswi20_

It is often assumed that education is an equal experience for all students in the UK, with “free schools”, a national curriculum, educational policies (and much more) to support all pupils, regardless of their socioeconomic status and ethnicity. This discourse revolves around the idea that education and qualifications are the ultimate chance for social mobility which is often too optimistic and heightened by heuristic bias. This reflects a quick judgment based on our own lived experiences, encouraging a narrative that merit is achieved through hard work and when pupils underperform, it is solely due to bad work ethic and the values associated with their class and/or ethnicity.

This blame is far too simple as an explanation for this underperformance. Policies pushing for a relevant curriculum, raising aspirations and pupil premium are methods used to close the gap but

it is argued that a structural effort is required to address the root causes of educational inequalities.

Ultimately, there is a significant disparity in attainment, with wealthier children consistently outperforming the disadvantaged students. Inevitably, COVID-19-related disruptions have increased this polarisation.

Inequalities in education are not an outcome of COVID-19 itself, rather they have been heightened by it.

Despite only 6% of students being privately educated in the UK, they make up 55% of the students at Russell Group universities.

Furthermore, 34% of pupils eligible for free school meals achieved 5 A*- C GCSE’s, compared to 61% of students who were not on free school meals. In 2019, 26.5% of pupils in state-funded schools were disadvantaged and achieved lower marks than their better-off counterparts. These educational inequalities are among the highest in the UK out of all high-income countries, even before the pandemic. Ultimately, it is the underprivileged and minority students that fall victim to this.

“The class of 2020” is a phrase associated with a sense of misfortune, an “unlucky but resilient” cohort who began the much needed conversation around educational inequality. However, bringing intersectionality to this is imperative, the most detrimental impact has been to those of minority and disadvantaged backgrounds, who may already face issues such as language barriers, teacher representation, less parental support, food insecurity, incongruency with curriculum and much more.

This is then combined with issues such as the lack of resources for online learning like a computer or tablet, as well as internet connection. Students are often sharing their devices with siblings or are having to home-school younger siblings.