16-24 year olds hit hardest by Coronavirus Pandemic

How has coronavirus affected the young?

The government’s response to the Coronavirus Pandemic primarily focused on protecting the very old, who have the highest chance of dying with (although not necessarily from) Covid-19 if they catch it.

However, the drastic lock down strategy introduced back in March 2020, which closed all schools in England and Wales as well as many work places for several months has left children ad young adults ‘scarred for life’ according to many experts within SAGE (The Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies), as summarised in this Guardian article.

Children have been negatively impacted through their schools being closed for 4 months, with some being hit further by local lockdowns more recently in September and October.

While schools did put in place online learning programmes, the quality of these varied from school to school and many children have been left 6 months behind with their learning, having now to catch up.

Then there’s the damage done to children’s social development – with their not being able to go out for 4 months and socialise face to face, and the added stress and uncertainty of just being subject to the ‘covid-climate’ in Britain (it hasn’t exactly been a fun or easy going year has it?!?).

If there’s any truth in Sue Palmer’s theory about toxic childhood, keeping children indoors for extended periods most definitely wouldn’t have done their mental health any good, which is something the SAGE experts are particularly concerned about!

While it might seem that 16 and 18 year olds who sat exams in 2020 got of relatively lightly because of their school predicted grades being inflated, let’s not forget that this would have been stressful and unpleasant for many of them, and we’ve now also got about 10% of these students enrolled on A-level programmes or degrees their probably not qualified to do because of their inflated grades, so there’s probably going to be higher failure rates and drop-out rates to come later this year.

Where young adults are concerned (18-24s) this age group has been most affected by the increase in unemployment in the wake of the Pandemic:

(The graphic shows 16-24s, but there aren’t that many under 18s in employment, so it’s mainly 18-24 year olds)

I guess this is because they are more likely to be working in the kinds of sectors which have been hit hardest by the virus – namely the hospitality sector, and while Furlough would have offered some protection, many hospitality sectors businesses are now starting to fold as consumers are just more reluctant to eat and drink out.

Looking at the longer term – if we have a recession, it’s likely to be younger people that suffer more as they struggle with the legacy of a disrupted education and fewer opportunities to get their first jobs.

Relevance to A-level sociology

Age stratification isn’t a major topic in most options, but perhaps it should be, as this is a great example of how the young seem to be suffering more than any other age group.

It certainly shows the limitations of the government’s capacity to deal with a crisis. Anthony Giddens famously said that Nation States are too small to deal with global problems – and here we have a government simply not having the resources to help everyone in society when faced with a global pandemic.

IF you think we need the government to help us through this mess, then this is a criticism of neoliberalism, which argues for less government.

However, you might just regard such reports as the one linked above by The Guardian as part of an exaggerated risk consciousness, and think that maybe young people haven’t been harmed at all by this crisis – maybe they are perfectly capable of being innovative and adapting to this crisis in new ways we haven’t even thought about yet?!?

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How has Coronavirus Affected Education?

The most obvious impact of the 2020 Coronavirus on education was the cancellation of GCSE and A-level exams, with the media focusing on the chaos caused by teacher predicted grades being downgraded by the exam authority’s algorithm and then the government U-turn which reinstated the original teacher predicted grades.

While it’s fair to say that this whole ‘exam debacle’ was stressful for most students, in the end the end of exam period cohorts ended up getting a good deal, on average, as they were able to pick whichever ‘result’ was best.

It’s also fair to say, maybe, that most of the students who missed their GCSEs and A-levels didn’t miss out on that much education – what they missed out on, mostly, was the extensive period of ‘exam training’ which comes just before the exam, which are skills that aren’t really applicable in real life.

However, in addition to the exam year cohorts, there were also several other years of students – primary and secondary school students, and older students, doing apprenticeships and degrees, whose ‘real education’ has been impacted by Covid-19.

This article focuses on some of the recent research that’s focused on these ‘other’ less newsworthy students.

This post has primarily been written to get students studying A-level sociology thinking about methods in context, or how to apply research methods to the study of different topics within education.

Research studies on the impact of Coronavirus on Education.

I’ve included three sources with lots of research: the DFE, The NFER and the Sutton Trust, and then a few other sources as well.

The Department for Education (DFE)

The DFE Guidance for Schools resources seems like a sensible place to start for information on the impact of the pandemic on schools.

The Guidance for the Full Opening of Schools recommends seven main measures to control the spread of the virus.

This guidance suggests there is going to be a lot more pressure on teachers to ‘police’ pupils actions and interactions – although ‘social distancing’ is required only dependent on the individual school’s circumstances, and face coverings are not mandatory. So schools do have some discretion.

All in all, it just looks like schools are going to be quite a lot more unpleasant and stressful places to be in as various measures are put in place to try and ensure contact between pupils is being limited.

The National Foundation of Education Research (NFER)

The NFER has produced several mainly survey based research studies looking at the impact of Coronavirus on schools.

One NFER survey of almost 3000 senior leaders and teachers in 2200 schools across England and Wales asking them about the challenges they face from September 2020.

The main findings of this survey are as follows:

  • teachers report that their students are an average of three months behind with their studies after missing school due to Lockdown
  • Teachers in the most deprived schools are three times more likely to report that their pupils are four months behind compared to those in the least deprived schools.
  • Over 25% of pupils had limited access to computer facilities during lock down. This was more of a problem for pupils from deprived areas.
  • Teacher anticipate that 44% of pupils will need catch up lessons in the coming academic year.
  • Schools are prioritizing students’ mental health and well being ahead of getting them caught up.

The Sutton Trust

The Sutton Trust has several reports which focus on the impact of Coronavirus, specifically on education. The reports look at the impacts on early-years and apprenticeships, for example.

A report by the Sutton Trust on the impact of the school shutdown in April noted some of the following key findings:

  • Private schools were about twice as likely to have well-established online learning platforms compared to state schools, correspondingly privately schooled children were twice as likely to receive daily online lessons compared to state school children.
  • 75% of parents with postgraduate degrees felt confident about educating their children at home, compared to less than half of parents with A-levels as their highest level of qualification
  • 50% of teachers in private schools said they’d received more than three quarters of the work back, compared to only 8% in the most deprived state schools.

Research from other organisations

  • This article from the World Economic Forum provides an interesting global perspective on the impact of coronavirus – with more than a billion children worldwide having been out of school. It highlights that online learning might become more central going forwards, but points out that access to online education various massively from country to country.
  • The Institute for Fiscal studies produced a report in July focusing on the financial impacts of Coronavirus on Universities. They estimate that the sector will have lost £11 billion in one year, a quarter of income, and that around 5% of providers probably won’t be able to survive without government assistance.
  • This article in The Conversation does a cross national comparison of how schools in four countries opened up. They grade their approach. It’s an interesting example of how some social policies are more effective than others!

Final Thoughts

I’ve by no means covered all the available research, rather I’ve tried to get some breadth in here, looking at the impact on teachers and pupils, and at things globally too.

By all means drop some links to further research in the comments!

Coronavirus has made the rich richer and the poor poorer

30% of those with savings of more than £12000 before Coronavirus have seen their savings increase since the pandemic, compared to only 10% of those with no savings.

This is because the closing of so many shops and restaurants has meant high income households have had reduced opportunities to spend their money and so have been forced to save.

It’s also because those able to work from home are more likely to have higher savings rates and home-workers have been the least impacted in terms of income by Coronavirus.

Coronavirus has increased the debt levels of the poorest

21% of those in lowest income households have had to increase debt in the last few months compared to only 13% of those in the highest income households:

Relevance to A-level sociology

This is a good example of statistical research which suggests broad support for the Marxist view of society.

Sources

The above statistics are taken from a recent ‘Rainy Days’ report by the Resolution Foundation.

The report examines the long term trend in inequality in the UK and then the impact Coronavirus has had on inequality.

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Seems to be Capitalism as Usual for Corporations during Coronavirus…

Several large Corporations have created adverts tapping into our new ‘Coronavirus’ norms.

There seems to be a pretty formulaic structure involving images of key workers with thankful messages, images of people in their homes communicating via Zoom or some other video conferencing app, and finally a reference (the point of the ad) to how the Corporation is ‘here to help’.

Just a couple of examples….

Tesco – Food Love Stories

No surprise that Britain’s largest Supermarket Chain has got in there with a very aggressive ad campaign showing how (Tesco’s) Food brings people together either in times of crises – real colonisation of the lifeworld going on here – ‘new intimate’ moments brought to your courtesy of Tesco.

And of course the # to try and get the super-mugs to advertise for free for them.

Virgin Media – Stay Home Stay Safe, Stay Connected

This one is particularly grating because Virgin Atlantic has just announced a mass lay-off of a third of its staff, while our taxes are currently paying for most of them to be furloughed.

Meanwhile Branson keeps his $$$ millions.

A Marxist analysis seems most appropriate here?

What these ads are doing is attempting to ‘colonise our lifeworlds’ – they are either taking footage of ordinary people connecting online in these social distancing times, or using actors to create such footage (I don’t know which) and then ’embedding’ themselves right in the middle of these interactions.

And then they are further suggesting that what binds us all together in our isolation are these Corporations – they are ‘here for us all’ here to ‘help us all through’ as if they’re some kind of benevelant parental figure.

This is false consciousnesses and the creation of false needs on steroids – trying to convince us that these Corporations are here for the social good?

Let’s remember that behind the scenes these Corporations are interested in one thing only, and that is profit. In fact I imagine both of the above Corporations are going to do very nicely out of Coronavirus – especially Tesco.

Virgin as a whole may suffer because of its transport holdings, but I imagine Virgin Media will see a boost.

What’s really going on here are these Corporations embedding, or at least attempting to embed, themselves into our psyches, so that we become more committed to them in the future as we get through Coronavirus and come out the other side.

Stay informed and don’t be fooled!

A Very Paternal Sun

I’ve been adding a copy of The Sun newspaper to my basket every time I do my lock down shop, primarily because it at around 50 pence it’s pretty cheap!

The Sun is also Britain’s most widely circulated newspaper, so it’s worth doing a bit of casual content analysis on it during these unusual coronavirus times – this is the paper most people are reading, after all!

One of the main themes I’ve noticed is moralising through shaming, and today’s paper (Friday 8th May) is a great example of this…..

On the front page we have the paper moralising against ‘Just Giving’ taking a £300K fee from Captain Tom’s fundraising efforts.

On pages 5-6 we have public shaming of businesses and shops for ‘flouting’ lock down rules on a sunny day yesterday

Later on pages 8-9 we have a detailed map of England footballer Kyle Walker’s lock down violations as he visits his sister, mother and father and friend for a cycle ride.

All of these events are newsworthy based on their news values, but The Sun goes beyond objective reporting and adds a shaming element through the use of language: ‘Walker the Plank’ as a title, for example.

And it’s not just The Sun being Paternal… apparently Dominic Raab has said that if people take advantage of the lockdown gradually being relaxed, they’ll restrict the rules again, as if we’re all like a bunch of school children?!?

Captain Tom’s 100th Birthday: A Quintessentially British Occasion?

Today is Captain Tom’s 100th Birthday, an event broadcast live to the nation by BBC Breakfast between 8.00 a.m. to 8.30 a.m.

Captain Tom really is the perfect media hero for our times, and the construction of ‘our national hero’ was levelled up this morning as it turns out Captain Tom seems to be a huge fan of many of the symbols which signify classic conservative ideas about ‘Britishness’.

Honestly, it was all there, crammed into a 30 minute slot on BBC breakfast this morning….

The Armed Forces and the Fly By…

We know him as Captain Tom, but he’s now been given the honorary title of ‘Colonel’, so take your pick (he doesn’t mind). He got a special fly by this morning, and really seemed to love it!

You can check out the fly-by and most of the rest of the BBC ”Tom show’ below…

The historical Link to World War II

There aren’t many WWII veterans alive, but Captain Tom is one of them, and WWII – that’s deep in the conservative idea of the nation!

I guess this link is even more popular because of the fake similarities with ‘fighting’ Coronavirus.

His love of the Royal Family

Captain Tom thanked the Royal Family (who he thinks are wonderful) for their letters of support.

This ‘deferral to authority’ goes along with being in the armed forces I guess. Very much part of Conservative Britishness.

The countryside village in which he lives

Ironically the only thing not British about the village is the name – Marston Moretaine, maybe that’s the result of a French twinning project?

But everything else about it seems quintissentially British – it’s bang in the middle of Oxford and Cambridge, so proper ‘home counties’, lovely fields and a church.

It’s basically a cross between ‘Midsommer Murders’ but without the murders, the Vicar of Dibley and Last of the Summer Wine, with the poor people hidden from site.

His Love of Cricket

Tom is a lifelong cricket fan, and he was today presented with an honorary membership of the England Cricket Club, and gifted a hat by Michael Vaughn, once captain of England.

Is there a sport that says ‘conservative England’ more than cricket?

You’ll Never Walk Alone

A number one in 1963, and Liverpool Football Club’s Anthem – you don’t get much more British than early 1960s pop music and one of our longstanding Premier League clubs!

The Grandchildren

Honestly, they seem to come across as perfect. His grandson’s got that ‘healthy rugby build’ about him, and his granddaughter just seems so perfectly sweet. Framed with Captain Tom’s daughter (presumably their mother) you get the impression of the perfect British nuclear family, albeit stretch out by one generation.

And let’s not forget the NHS

It was Captain Tom’s efforts to raise money for NHS that propelled him to media stardom, and the NHS is part of our ‘national identity’ too, especially recently!

What are we celebrating exactly?

This morning was a ‘pause for celebration’, and fair enough in some respects, but what are we celebrating?

I personally think I witnessed something extremely hyperreal on BBC Breakfast today. The media seems to have used Captain Tom’s 100th birthday as a chance to reinforce conservative ideals about Britishness, ideals that don’t really exist outside of the upper middle class echelons of society.

Maybe this is because Captain Tom (he went to a grammar school in the 1920s!) and media professionals are both of the upper middle class, that this kind of celebration of traditional British identity comes so naturally to them.

I also thought Captain Tom’s efforts were about raising money for the NHS and helping to tackle Coronavirus, but this seems to have just got lost somewhere along the way?

And let’s not forget that 1/7 NHS workers aren’t even British, but they’re risking their lives for us.

Celebs like us?

Lockdown media has been full of celebrities speaking to us from wherever they may be isolated, and one might think that because we’ve all got ‘lockdown’ in common, that we might somehow feel closer to the celebrities who are also going through the same challenges as the rest of us ordinary folk… as if they are celebs, just like us!

Channel Four’s ‘Stef Show’ is the most obvious example I can think of that spins this narrative – not only is ‘Stef’ presenting the show from home, not only is she herself a pretty ‘ordinary’ presenter (one of very few non middle class presenters on T.V.), the show intersperses video feeds of ‘ordinary families’ with celebs.

However, rather than feeling solidarity with these celebs, I think the glimpses we are getting into their homes serves as a reminder of the class divide.

Many of them have been broadcasting from huge open plan kitchen-diners, often in the South East of the country. It’s as if lockdown has become an opportunity for them to show off their wonderful homes.

A prime example of this is Gloria Hunniford, speaking here: her pristine, ornamented house signifying that upper middle class identity….

And when Griff Reese Jones was interviewed, he was sitting underneath a picture of his great great uncle (or something like that) who was a past mayor of Cardiff. That was after us seeing some footage of him collecting eggs from his chickens from his large garden in the countryside.

This got me to wondering…. what proportion of celebrities have chickens? Probably at least thrice the national average.

However, there are counter-cases

I was particularly impressed when Jack Monroe, whose been given a slot on ‘Daily Kitchen Live‘ told Matt whatever his name is (the main presenter) that arborio rice isn’t a necessity, while he was making a recipe with it because ‘that’s what he had lying at the back of his cupboard.

Jack Monroe really did come across as ‘like us’, I mean who else has Arborio Rice kicking about at the back of the cupboard?

Clapping for the NHS – Liquidarity, not Solidarity?

It’s quite a nice feeling heading outside at 20.00 every Thursday and banging on a saucepan for 5 minutes to show support for the NHS.

And I’ve even had the chance to chat with some neighbours who I never even talked to before the lockdown, despite having live where I’m living for almost two years.

Thinking sociologically about the weekly ‘national clap for the NHS’, it’s tempting to think of it as an example of a practice which reinforces social integration: a lot of people coming together to say ‘thank you’ to ‘front line workers’ in unison, at both the local and national level.

You certainly get this feeling if you watch the national clap on Television: there’s a five minute slot on Thursdays devoted to it, where certain streets are focused on, and there is a certain feeling of ‘belonging’ to the local and national during the event, I can’t deny it.

Solidarity, but not as we know it?

HOWEVER, I can’t quite bring myself to think of this as an example of us acting in solidarity because of the extremely passive, almost impotent nature of the event.

A I understand it solidarity defines ‘working towards a shared goal’ in the sense of building a better society, but I don’t think that describes what we’re celebrating when we clap for front-line workers.

Those Front Line Workers aren’t really working to build a better society, they’re just trying to prevent a melt down, they’re trying to prevent people from dying and from the NHS being overwhelmed, and just to ‘keep essential services ticking over’.

For the majority of us, our role in this crisis is to ‘stay home and protect the NHS’. We have no clarity over when this crisis is going to end, no certainty over how we’re going to come of Lockdown, and no agreement over what the ‘best way forwards’ is through summer and autumn.

In short, there’s nothing positive and long term for us to unite around, only the short-term agreement around saving lives and staying in.

Also, there is no discussion of what comes next – this is blanked in the media, so we have this looming uncertainty.

Liquidarity, my new concept!

I want to call the national clap for the NHS ‘liquidarity’ after Bauman’s concept of Liquid Modernity. Yes, we are coming together, but it’s as if this national clap is the ONLY sense of national routine we have left, there is nothing else, no clarity ATM about the way out.

Liquidarity = a shared expressive act in a response to shared fear and uncertainty, where there is no clear underlying set of principles or clear long term goal which unites people.

NB that’s very much a first thoughts definition, just working it through.

I’m sure once we start hear proposals for a staged way out of Lockdown and the social changes that are going to come in to deal with a post-corona age, we’ll be back to the same old tensions and divisions again.

It’s all very well and good clapping for the NHS, but if these workers really are facing higher levels of risk, maybe a pay rise is in order? I wonder how many people would put their tax money where their hands are for one minute every Thursday? And what happens if Brexit is delayed for years because of Corona fall-out, are Brexiteers just going to suck that up through the early 2020s?

In the meantime, let’s enjoy the national clap, it’s a nice enough distraction from all the uncertainty, and I’m certainly not going to argue that front line workers don’t deserve some recognition.

A Marxist-Feminist response to covid-19

A Marxist-Feminist response to covid-19 demands that the political response to the pandemic puts people, and especially essential-service workers, before the interests of capital.

Below I summarise an article from Spectre, a Marxist-Feminist journal, based in the United States, which outlines seven ways we should be responding to the pandemic.

I’ve re-worded some of the material to make it a bit simpler to understand, as it is written in typcically ‘Marxist’ language/ Hopefully I haven’t changed the meaning too much in translation

Better funding for life-making institutions

Social reproduction services such as the health care services and education have been undermined by years of cuts. The crisis has shown us how essential these are, and so we should maintain them at a higher level of funding going forwards.

Better pay for essential service workers

We need to recognize the real value of nurses, care workers, cleaners and the people who do the basic work of society. They need better pay and conditions

Bail out people, not corporations

The article suggests that some CEOs are sacking people while keeping their high salaries, we need to make sure bail-out money doesn’t go to the shareholders of companies who have cut jobs

Open borders, close prisons

This is the most contentious to my mind – but they remind us that migrants and prisoners are probably some of the most effected people in all of this – the former because their livelihoods are decimated with border closures, the latter because they are forced to be inside in crowded conditions.

Stand in solidarity against domestic violence

Governments need to make sure domestic violence services are funded appropriately to meet the spike in DV since coronavirus

Use solidarity against capital

Ordinary people all over the world are stepping up and voluntarily making sure their neighbours and the vulnerable are getting what they need during this crisis. The governments need to follow their lead in provided assistance – help the people, but take the lead from the people, based on need.

Use solidarity to change society

This moment can be the moment when the left push forward with a pro-people, anti-capitalist agenda, it needs to be dynamic and global.

A few thoughts on the above

IMO there’s little to disagree with in the above statements with maybe the exception of the borders/ prisons point.

I like the idea of building on the voluntary work and renewed (or just new?) respect key workers now have in the eyes of general public to really push forward an economic recovery agenda that emphasizes rebuilding society based on basic individual needs, a recovery which puts health, care, education, essential services at the center.

It will be interesting to see if this is going to be the case!

Alternative media sources for better understanding Coronavirus

The mainstream media’s coverage coronavirus is utterly disgraceful – the narrow agenda being firmly focused on using official statistics uncritically to provide an exaggerated picture of the covid-19 death rate, for failing to engage in any critical debate about how we’re going to come out of this mess, preferring to distract us by a perpetual stream of presenter and ‘public-hero’ celebreities ‘sharing’ their ‘isolation’ coping strategies, and thus normalising individualised solutions to public problems. At the same time the commercial channels are more than happy to allow companies specializing in domestic services to ramp up their advertising at us.

It follows that unless you are going to do systematic content analysis of the mainstream media’s coverage of coronavirus to document the extent of this extremely narrow agenda, you should switch off the Television (actually physically unplug it until at least June would be my advice), avoid newspaper and radio at all costs, and be extremely selective about which web sites you visit.

If, however, you would like some more objective, fact based and critical sources to help keep up with pandemic developments, I can recommend the following:

Alternative news sources on Coronavirus

The Conversation offers some insightful articles exploring some of the less focused on consequences of covid-19, such as how it highlights the class divide, and many articles take a deeper look at issues such as ‘where do pandemics come from’?

The Corbett Report – hosted by James Corbett, an awared winning independent journalist. A good alternative news source focusing on global geopolitics and how ‘covid-19’ may be part of a longer term globalist agenda to establish a world government

The Last American Vagabond – Lots of interesting critical commentary on Covi-19 – focusing on evidence that it was here well before the China breakout and a focus on the really important issues of how governments around the world are using the pandemic to impose social control and remove human rights.

@Vforvapid over at Hive.blog is producing some interesting, well referenced material on how large Corporations are benefitting from the Covid-19 bail-out – check out this post as an example: America reaps egregious sums. Also check the rest of his feed for more.

You might have heard about the The David Icke Covid-19 Interview which was live streamed and then censored on (i.e. disappeared from) YTube. That link will take you to the same video on ThreeSpeak – an anti censorship, pro free speach video platform. Unlike YTube they allow people to post videos with contentious content (but not anything which is racist/ incites violence etc.).