Covid’s lost generation: Devastating report lays bare the £350bn toll on children

The cost of lost schooling to a generation of children is today put at a shocking £350billion.

The impact on pupils missing classes during the pandemic could last a lifetime, a hard-hitting report warns.

Children who have been denied six months of normal education could lose an average of £40,000 in income over their career, predicts the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

The think-tank calls for ministers to consider ‘big and radical’ measures to help youngsters catch up. 

These could include extending the educational year, lengthening the school day, summer catch-ups and even ‘mass repetition of whole school years’.

The IFS says the overall cost to the economy could top £350billion in lost earnings.

Last summer Boris Johnson, pictured during a virtual meeting with pupils on Friday, announced plans for a £1billion catch-up fund in England. An additional £300million was unveiled on Wednesday, with the Institute for Fiscal Studies calling for ‘big and radical’ measures to help youngsters catch up.

Its dire warnings make campaigns such as Mail Force’s Computers for Kids even more crucial. 

The charity was boosted yesterday by further generous donations from readers and firms including The Hut Group, which pledged £500,000, and Santander bank, which offered 250 laptops. 

More than £5.6million has now been raised in just eight days.

In other developments yesterday:

  • A record 610,000 Covid vaccinations were carried out in a single day, meaning nearly nine million have now had their first jab;
  • Matt Hancock predicted Britain could look forward to a ‘happy and free summer’;
  • Liz Truss said the UK might send jabs to the EU and developing countries before every British adult is vaccinated;
  • Another 587 Covid deaths were reported, taking the total to 106,158;
  • A further 21,088 cases were confirmed, down from 30,004 a week earlier.

The IFS says administrations across the UK have allocated around £1.5billion toward catch-up support for pupils.

But it argues this is ‘tiny’ compared with the scale of the problem and a ‘massive injection’ of resources is needed.

It estimates that by the February half-term, the total loss in face-to-face teaching time will amount to around half a normal school year. 

The IFS believes ministers should consider extending the academic year and making school days longer to ensure children catch up on classroom time that has been lost due to Covid 

This is before accounting for lower-than-normal attendance rates in the 2020 autumn term, especially in disadvantaged areas.

If most schools do not go back until after Easter, youngsters will have lost two thirds of a normal school year.

Even if three quarters of the long-term impact is mitigated, the cost to the economy would still be nearly £90billion, the IFS analysis suggests.

The long-run negative effects of lost learning could be ‘concentrated’ among those from less wealthy backgrounds, leading to a ‘widening of existing inequalities’.

And the public purse could take a massive hit too. 

Potential lost future earnings of £350billion would mean more than £100billion less tax revenue.

The IFS paper says: ‘Without significant remedial action, lost learning will translate into reduced productivity, lower incomes, lower tax revenues, higher inequality and potentially expensive social ills.

‘The lack of urgency or national debate on how to address this problem is deeply worrying. 

‘The necessary responses are likely to be complex, hard and expensive. But the risks of spending ‘too much’ time or resources on this issue are far smaller than the risks of spending too little.’

The Government is being urged to send funding directly to schools and colleges to ensure every pupil can catch up

The Government is being urged to send funding directly to schools and colleges to ensure every pupil can catch up

The Government is being urged to send funding directly to schools and colleges to ensure every pupil can catch up

Last summer Boris Johnson announced plans for a £1billion catch-up fund in England, with an additional £300million unveiled on Wednesday.

But the IFS says extra resources must be much higher and ‘heavily skewed towards more disadvantaged pupils’.

Geoff Barton of the Association of School and College Leaders said the Government needed to put in place much more funding – going directly to schools and colleges.’

James Turner of the Sutton Trust, a social mobility charity, said: ‘The IFS is absolutely right to call for substantially more education funding to address the major issues coming out of this crisis. 

It is absolutely crucial that this is targeted toward disadvantaged pupils who have been the worst hit by the pandemic.’

A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘The Government will work with parents, teachers and schools to develop a long-term plan to make sure pupils have the chance to make up their learning.’

Headteachers of two new secondary schools will NOT offer the exams unless parents insist on it

Two new schools will challenge the practise of pupils sitting exams at age 16.  

Former Downing Street aide to Tony Blair, Peter Hyman, along with brothers Ben and Tobyn Thomas, who own Thomas’s Battersea where Prince George and Princess Charlotte are pupils, are backing a campaign to scrap GCSE exams.

They will be opening secondary schools where GCSEs will not be offered unless parents insists on it – as campaigners say that two years of no exams due to the pandemic has created the perfect time to reform the system, The Sunday Times reports. 

The schools will utilise different methods for recording a child’s progress, sparing them from spending 30 hours or more doing written tests in exam halls. 

Thomas’s Battersea Square, a senior school for pupils up to age 18, is putting together an online passport system to keep track of teenagers’ kindness, creativity, teamwork and social skills, along with academic progress.  

More than one day a week will be spent on sports, pottery, ballet, drama and arts and crafts at the new school, whose foremost rule is ‘Be kind’. Character traits and achievement will be updated online.

Tobyn Thomas says he and his brother agreed with campaigners who say that exams measure the wrong things in a pupil and stifle creativity. 

Campaigners from the group Rethinking Assessment claim England’s ‘mutant exam system’ is not helping young people succeed, with one in three UK graduates failing to find a graduate-level job after university, and many employers now holding their own tests to find suitable candidates. 

Former Conservative education secretary and the architect of GCSEs, Lord Baker of Dorking, is among those who argue that exams measure the wrong things.  

Thomas said: ‘We do not disagree with anything [they say]. We support their arguments. 

‘It has been amazing watching Ken Baker, who brought in GCSEs, saying: ”Now let’s take them out.” 

‘The question is, how do you change from a 19th-century system to a 21st-century system? The world awaiting our pupils is changing massively.’ 

Britain is the last country in Europe to have pupils sit national exams at age 16. 

Former Blair aide Peter Hyman, who is said to have coined the phrase ‘bog-standard comprehensive’, is opening a senior school in London that will make use of dashboards and online portfolios to record character traits and physical skills, along with academic knowledge. 

‘I don’t think it is good for children for their last four years of school to be cramming for exams,’ he said. ‘In 10 years’ time, I think everyone will leave school with a weblink to a portfolio showing what they have done at school.’

Schools do not have a legal obligation to enter children for GCSEs, but the majority of state schools did so because results decide their league table positions.

The grading of students became a fiasco last summer when exams were cancelled amid school closures, as thousands of A-level students had their results downgraded from school estimates by an algorithm before Ofqual announced a U-turn, allowing them to use teachers’ predictions.    

A consultation on how qualifications  for summer 2021 should be decided came to end on Friday, with no final decision expected for another two weeks. 

Pupils in England who have lost out on significant learning time as a result of the cycle of coronavirus lockdowns should be allowed to repeat an academic year, a think-tank urged earlier this week.

The Education Policy Institution has called on the government to consider allowing students to repeat a year of education, where this is supported by parents, to tackle extreme cases of learning loss.

It added that there is a risk of inconsistency and unfairness of grading between different schools and colleges, and between students, as well as a risk of significant grade inflation this year.

But it said that this policy would only help a minority of pupils across the country and called on the government to ‘focus on a much bigger and targeted package for the thousands of pupils who have lost learning through no fault of their own’.

Though headteachers expressed interest in the idea, they said the scheme could only be open to ‘small numbers’ to avoid a ‘logjam’, after Boris Johnson announced schools would stay shut until at least March 8.  

Other teachers warned that thousands of pupils in England could be ‘scarred for the rest of their lives’ as a result of mass disruption to their education caused by government pandemic action.   





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