A charity has called for more support for teachers when it comes to delivering online lessons.
The Sutton Trust says that more than two-thirds of teachers in private schools feel prepared to give video lessons compared with around two-fifths in state schools.
And within the state sector, it says research suggests that teachers in schools with the most pupils on free school meals (FSM) are the least likely to say they could broadcast a lesson or receive work remotely.
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The Sutton Trust report, by Rebecca Montacute, published today, examines the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on social mobility in the UK.
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It states: “Teachers are likely to need support and training in how to deliver content online, especially teachers in the most disadvantaged schools, who currently feel the least able to deliver teaching in this way."
Meanwhile, the trust is proposing a voucher scheme to increase access to private tuition for lower-income students to help them catch up during school closures. And it is repeating calls for more private tuition agencies to provide a certain proportion of their tuition to disadvantaged pupils for free. It also says there needs to be an expansion of non-profit and state tuition programmes that connect tutors with disadvantaged schools.
The charity, which revealed in 2018 that a third of parents said their children did not own their own computer device, is today suggesting a fund from government, businesses or charity to help supply children with the necessary IT equipment for home learning, and is calling on broadband providers to lift data caps and provide lower-priced tariffs.
Dr Montacute says: “Looking at ways to ensure all children can access online learning, including providing access to the required resources, will be important in the coming months to minimise the impact of this [coronavirus] crisis on the attainment gap.”
Elsewhere in the Sutton Trust report there is a warning that early years providers “will be at risk of closure due to this crisis”.
The report says more information on the impact on early years is “urgently needed” and states: “There will be lost payments from parents above and beyond the entitlements the government will continue to provide – payments which many early education settings need to survive, and which are often filling gaps resulting from the low hourly rates of government funding.”
Dr Montacute also highlights a need to ensure that this year’s admissions-to-university process does not impact negatively on young people from less well-off backgrounds, with the cancellation of A-level exams and a situation where grades are now being decided upon by teachers themselves.
She states: “Any system relying on teacher assessment risks underestimating the abilities of disadvantaged students, as teacher assessment can unconsciously disadvantage students from certain groups, such as those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. For example, teachers have been found to be less likely to judge low-income students as having above-average ability in reading or in maths, even when their previous test scores indicate as such.
“There are also potential issues for any appeals process. The standard appeals process for exams can be difficult to navigate and there is a cost to any appeal. If these barriers are not removed at a time when appeals are likely, they may prevent disadvantaged students from making an appeal and widen inequalities within the system between students. It is also the case that students from poorer homes are less likely to be in a position to resit exams, either soon after the summer or the following year.”
Campaigners at the Good Law Project have this week launched a crowdfunding appeal for the government to help councils meet the cost of online provision for all pupils.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Schools are going above and beyond to support pupils during these uncertain times. We are working closely with them to make sure every child is supported.
"That’s why we are making sure parents and schools are able to access high-quality resources to help children to continue their education while they stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives, and are considering how best to support schools with the technology required.”
The DfE has published a list of online educational resources to help children to learn at home which can be found here.