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Social Mobility: Coronavirus

Question for Department for Education

UIN 137137, tabled on 13 January 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment his Department has made of the effect of school closures during the covid-19 outbreak on social mobility.

Answered on

22 January 2021

The government is committed to the levelling up agenda and spreading opportunity throughout the country – every child should have the same opportunity to express their talents and make the most of their lives.

We know that receiving face-to-face education is best for children’s mental health and for their educational achievement. We have resisted restrictions on attendance at schools since the first lockdown but, in the face of the rapidly rising numbers of cases across the country, and intense pressure on the NHS, we now need to reduce all our social contacts wherever possible. Limiting attendance during the national lockdown is about supporting the reduction of the overall number of social contacts in our communities.

Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak we have expected schools to remain open for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers, whilst limiting attendance for the majority of children to help slow the spread of the virus. Schools have also been offering wraparound provision, such as breakfast and afterschool clubs, for those children eligible to attend. Resuming this provision is important to ensure that parents and carers who are critical workers can continue to work, as well as to provide enriching activities for vulnerable children that improve their wellbeing or support their education. We know this has been a challenging time for pupils and their families.

For children who are not attending education settings in person we expect schools to provide remote education. We have updated the remote education guidance to clarify and strengthen expectations while on-site attendance is restricted. The guidance is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/remote-education-good-practice/remote-education-good-practice.

To make up for lost teaching time and stop pupils and students falling behind, our £1 billion catch up package remains in place, including the £650 million catch-up premium and in-school support through the National Tutoring Programme for the most disadvantaged.