Inequality and the Covid Crisis in the UK

The Covid Crisis in the UK increased inequalities in several different ways such as:

  • School closures disrupted the education of poorer students more than students from wealthier backgrounds.
  • Lockdowns and social distancing meant less work for the less well educated and those in lower paid jobs compared to those in more middle class jobs.
  • and in the longer term missed schooling and less work experience could mean the disadvantaged fall even further behind in years to come.

This is according to a recent report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies released in December 2021, which is VERY RELEVANT for any student studying the Education Module as much of the increasing inequalities referred to are due to school closures.

It’s worth noting that from a policy perspective, the report sees Covid catch up policies as ‘papering over the cracks’ of the widening inequalities caused by the Pandemic, the government isn’t doing enough in the short term, and almost nothing for the longer term implications.

NB this topic – policies and educational inequality is also on the advanced release information from the AQA for the 2022 Sociology exams!

This post summarises some of the key points of this study.

School closures and increasing inequality during Covid

Schools closed for two periods during the Pandemic – for 10 weeks in the Spring of 2020 and then for 9 weeks in the Winter of 2022.

School closures removed the ‘equalising’ affect of schools – by removing for a total of 19 weeks (half a school year) standardised curriculums and learning environments and replacing them with heterogeneous (different) home environments.

This meant that those students from lower income households studied less at home once home education was introduced – basically because lower class parents have less cultural capital and are less able to support home learning than middle class parents…

Once schools re-opened, schools in poorer areas were less likely to offer support for students who were off school and isolating at home (remember there was still a lot of disruption through absences even after schools reopened:

University/ Apprenticeships and Declining job Opportunities

The report notes that University learning suffered minimal disruption – online learning is well established there and the switch to ‘lockdown mode’ was relatively easy.

However, there was massive disruption to apprenticeships, most of which require people to be at work – new apprenticeships during the Pandemic fell by around 30% overall.

Something else to keep in mind is that because it is mainly lower class jobs that have suffered during the Pandemic (middle class jobs kept going through furlough and homework) there is now MORE COMPETITION for lower class jobs than before the Pandemic – meaning a further reduction in opportunities for the lower classes….

The Affect of the Pandemic on Education and Inequalities: Final Thoughts

It seems that disruption to education, apprenticeships and the job market has increased inequality because the disruption was greater for the lower classes.

And it feels unlikely that the government is going to put in place policies with sufficient funding to close these increased gaps.

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