Coronavirus: Wapping charity founder warns poorer pupils could become ‘lost generation’ after school closures

Susannah Hardyman, founder and chief exec of not for profit Action Tutoring based in Wapping. Pictur

Susannah Hardyman, founder and chief exec of not for profit Action Tutoring based in Wapping. Picture: - Credit: Archant

Disadvantaged pupils are at even greater risk of underachieving compared to peers because of the coronavirus lockdown, a charity’s founder has predicted.

Susannah Hardyman of Wapping based Action Tutoring, which supports children in schools across Newham and Tower Hamlets, urged the government to get help in place to avoid poorer children falling further behind.

Chief exec, Susannah, said: “March marked a seismic shift in education, with schools nationwide closing their doors to all but the children of key workers and the most vulnerable, whilst grappling to implement online solutions in a bid to provide effective teaching and learning.

“The shift also prompted unprecedented demand from affluent parents for private tutoring.

“But what about the 28 per cent of pupils in state education deemed as disadvantaged who may not have access to high bandwidth broadband to facilitate remote learning, or space to work easily in cramped accommodation?”

Nationally, pupils from poorer families are an average 18 months behind peers from wealthier backgrounds at the end of secondary school.

Action Tutoring’s staff fear that with disadvantaged children less able to access online materials, they will fall futher behind, affecting their ability to get into further education, employment or training.

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“We don’t think exam results are the be all and end all, but they are a passport to accessing those things. If children can’t catch up, they may become a lost generation, particularly if there are employment issues with the economy stalling,” Susannah said.

The charity is urging the government to provide poorer children with broadband and laptops as a short term measure.

But in the long term, it is calling for catch up funding for schools to help youngsters on free school meals and who already benefit from the pupil premium pot of money.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “We have published extensive guidance to support both schools and families while education settings are closed and are working urgently with school leaders, early years providers and local authorities to identify those children who need support the most.

“We are also in regular contact with the organisations working with families to make sure we are focusing our efforts in the right places, while we ask others to stay at home to protect our NHS and save lives.”