Commenting on COVID-19 and Disadvantage Gaps in England 2020, a new report by the Education Policy Institute, Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

"The EPI's report on Covid-19 and the Disadvantage Gap is a verdict on the dismal record of governments over the last decade and more.

"Thirteen years ago Michael Gove told his party conference that ‘schools should be engines of social mobility. They should enable children to overcome disadvantage and deprivation so they can fulfil their innate talents and take control of their own destiny’.  Those words ring hollow now.

"Since 2009, we have had years of rhetoric and precious little effective action. Worsening poverty has had what the EPI report is right to call a 'decisive' impact on the education of children and young people. 4.3 million children - or nine in a classroom of 30 - are living in poverty. This speaks of untold hardship endured the length and breadth of the UK.

"Education policies alone are not capable of addressing a problem on this scale - but they can certainly make it worse.  Exam factory cultures, and the downgrading of creativity and vocational education have introduced disincentives to learning. In the way they are currently used, grades which are rationed and rely entirely on examinations work to lessen the chances of disadvantaged students.

"It is clear that without fundamental change to Government policy, 'social mobility' for children living in poverty will remain nothing but a pipe dream. We need to see serious reforms to our education system, invest heavily in education catch-up and as a minimum first step restore the £20 a week that was cut from Universal Credit in October."



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