Learning inequalities in the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic

Speaker: Nicola Pensiero, Southampton University School of Education
Date: Wednesday 24 November 2021
Time: 12:30-13:30

Learning inequalities in the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic: a longitudinal analysis using data from the Understanding Society 2020 and 2021 surveys

In the United Kingdom, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to two school closures in 2020 and 2021 that forced families and schools to transition to remote learning. There is little research on learning during the second closure period. Using data from the Understanding Society (USoc) Covid surveys we analysed the extent to which levels and inequalities in the uptake of schoolwork changed between the first and second school closure periods caused by the pandemic.

Compared to the first school closure period, the second closure showed an improved provision of schoolwork in both primary and secondary schools. Using the richness of family background data in USoc, we found that children in families where the main parent was in a service class occupation, where both parents worked from home and where the children had their own computers spent more time doing schoolwork than other groups, particularly compared to children in families where the main parent was in a routine class occupation, where the child had to share a computer with other family members and where the parents did not work regularly from home. The children of single parents who work from home was a particularly disadvantaged group.

Whilst inequalities between socio-economic groups in the uptake of schoolwork have remained stable between the two school closure periods, better school provision and better family engagement with schoolwork contributed to an improvement in the total hours of schoolwork completed. We finish the paper by recommending policies to mitigate the impact of school closures on the learning loss.

About the speaker:

Nicola(Nic) Pensiero is a lecturer in quantitative education and social science at Southampton University School of Education.

He is an interdisciplinary researcher with a good record of leading externally funded education research projects. His expertise lies in the use of analytical approaches in studying social phenomena such as education programme effectiveness, comparative analysis of the effectiveness of education system characteristics, inequality in educational attainment, school segregation and income inequality.

His recent research on Covid and educational inequalities shed light on the combined effect of parents’ social class and working patterns, computer availability and family structure on learning opportunity during the school closures.

His current research includes a study on the role of individual decision-making mechanisms in shaping educational inequality by social origins and school segregation and a study on the effect of tracking on political engagement.

His research on income inequality has a political economy approach and focuses on the distributional consequences of privatisation of public services, labour relations and technological innovation.