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Education divide set to widen during lockdown, charity warns

Unequal access to adequate home-learning environments could disproportionately affect the grades of poorer students, says the Social Mobility Foundation

THE education divide will widen during the coronavirus lockdown, with poorer students less likely to have access to quiet study rooms, private tutors and the internet, a charity warned today. 

About 40 per cent of children from low-income families – earning less than £20,000 – do not have a quiet room at home to work in, according to data from the Social Mobility Foundation (SMF). 

In households where parents earn over £70,000 the figure is18 per cent.

Wealthier families are also three times more likely to hire private tutors, while 10 per cent of children in Britain – mostly from low-income households – do not even have access to the internet. 

Unequal access to adequate home-learning environments could disproportionately affect the grades of poorer students and their ability to get into universities, the SMF warned.

Its chair, Alan Milburn, said: “This new data makes clear that missing months of schooling will hit children from disadvantaged backgrounds, who do not have access to a quiet space to study or private tutors, harder than others.

“The risk is that too many low-income students, having to study in cramped noisy conditions, will gain lower grades than they might otherwise have done.

“Universities can help offset these disadvantages by taking these inequities into account and making contextual offers the norm as they move to admitting new students later this year.”

National Education Union assistant general secretary Rosamund McNeil said the SMF’s poll “makes us confront just how unequal families' home-learning environments are.”

“The fact that keeping students at home is raising these questions has thrown into a stark light the inequalities arising from poverty and income inequality, which were there before children were sent home,” she said. 

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