‘Over 1 in 5 A-level students missed 20 days of school to Covid!

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A-level students march to the Department for Education.1 in 5 missed 20 days of school to Covid before exams

THE Sutton Trust has warned: ‘Over 1 in 5 A-Level students missed more than 20 days of school due to Covid-19, in the run up to exams this year.’

  • As pupils sit the first national exams since 2019, 72% of teachers think the attainment gap between poorer pupils and their classmates will widen at their school.
  • Almost half of teachers thought the extra measures put in place for this year’s exams didn’t go far enough.
  • Concerns about grades among university applicants have increased since 2021.

According to new research published by the Sutton Trust on Thursday, pandemic-related disruption continued to impact students in the run up to the first national exams since 2019.
Over the past academic year, a third of A-level students who applied to university missed 11 or more days of school for Covid-related reasons, with over 1 in 5 missing more than 20 days.
A Levels and University Access 2022 – surveys university applicants and teachers to give a picture of this year’s exams and university admissions cycle.
Some mitigations were put in place for exams this year to reflect ongoing disruption, including giving advance information on topics to be covered in exams.
But Thursday’s polling of 4,089 teachers finds that almost half thought the measures hadn’t gone far enough.
And only 52% of university applicants felt that arrangements for exams took the impact of the pandemic into account, in a fair way.
Thursday’s research also looks at the types of catch-up activities that young people had been offered and took part in.
The majority of the 434 applicants surveyed by Savanta (74%) said they were offered at least one type of catch-up activity listed over the last academic year.
36% reported being offered some form of tutoring – a key plank of the government’s education recovery strategy – and 19% reported they had taken part. Over half of university applicants (53%) reported being offered extra in-person classes before or after school, or at lunchtime.
Teachers continue to feel concerned about the impact of the pandemic on education.
72% think the attainment gap at their school will widen with the return of exams.
29% of teachers in deprived schools thought that the increase would be substantial, almost twice as many as those in more affluent schools (16%).
Concerns are being felt among students too, with 62% of applicants feeling they have fallen behind with their studies compared to where they would have been without the pandemic.
Applicants were also more worried about their grades this year than last year, with 64% of university applicants saying they were worried about their grades, compared to 58% saying the same in 2021.
Applicants from working class backgrounds were more likely to be concerned than those from middle class backgrounds.
These concerns come amid warnings that more students than usual will be left without a place at their preferred university this year, as selective universities make fewer offers and the school-leaver population grows.
The Trust is calling for:

  • universities to give additional consideration to applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds who have narrowly missed their offer grades, to reflect the ongoing disruption to learning they will have faced.

To further address the challenges facing young people, the Trust is also recommending that:

  • Schools and universities should provide as much support to students as possible around results day and during the clearing period this year.
  • There should be further investment in catch-up activities, with targeted funding for those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, recognising that the pandemic will impact the system for years to come.
  • Pupil premium funding, targeted at disadvantaged pupils, should be extended to students in post-16 education.

James Turner, Chief Executive of the Sutton Trust, said on Thursday: ‘Today’s research highlights that the impacts of the pandemic on education are far from over – and the consequences are still being felt among young people and their teachers.
‘As we approach results day and a more competitive university admissions cycle than ever, we must make sure that poorer youngsters have a fair chance to succeed.
‘As we recover from the pandemic, there still needs to be a laser-like focus on supporting pupils to catch-up, through significant ongoing investment in education recovery.’
Commenting on the Sutton Trust research looking at the impact of the pandemic on this year’s exams and university admissions, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: ‘The stresses of the pandemic are not over for young people, and the government continues to fail them.
‘The Sutton Trust Research Brief confirms the experience of teachers: it is students from disadvantaged backgrounds whose preparation for A Levels has been most disrupted. It is these students who will suffer most from the new rationing of university places.
‘A government seriously committed to levelling up would have made stronger attempts to mitigate the effects of Covid on exam preparation. It would have ensured the funding that would have prevented universities from cutting back on places.
‘As it is, the government’s inadequate programme for educational recovery is compounding the damage done by the pandemic. The full effects of this double failure will be felt in the years ahead.’

  • Commenting on the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) report ‘School spending and costs: the coming crunch’, Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of NASUWT teachers’ union, said: ‘The government has since 2010 systematically reduced real-terms funding for schools and wider services for children and families.

‘Pupils, teachers and schools are being asked to pay the price for years of Government underfunding.
‘It is simply not acceptable to expect teachers to work longer and harder for less, or for the education and support available to pupils to be cut back further. The system is at breaking point.
‘We have record numbers of teachers and headteachers who admit they are planning to leave the profession due to the impact of underfunding and real-terms pay cuts.
‘The Conservative Party leadership candidates need to tell the country the truth – whether they would stick to current plans to deliver more real-terms spending cuts – or restore education funding following a decade of government underinvestment.
‘We also need the government to deliver the additional investment recommended by the government’s Education Recovery Commissioner, rather than expect schools to make do with less.
‘Unless the next Prime Minister is willing to commit to delivering a substantially better deal which significantly improves the funding of schools in real terms, they cannot claim to be putting education first whilst children’s education continues to suffer.’