News & Insights 17 February 2022

What does the EPI report show about the impact of the pandemic on disadvantaged pupils?

The Education Policy Institute (EPI), an education policy think tank that aims to promote high-quality education outcomes through research and analysis, has released a significant report highlighting the impact of the pandemic on disadvantaged pupils.

The report studies the education gap in 2020 at a national level and among varying levels of disadvantage. The findings help us better understand the inequalities in education and the importance of taking the necessary measures in order to alleviate the concerning gap.

What do the EPI findings reveal about the disadvantage gaps?

The disparity in academic performance is one of the most critical challenges our education system currently faces in England. 

The gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers at key stage 2 (primary school) and key stage 4 (secondary school) is a key measure to assess pupils’ performance. Typically, indicators of attainment gaps at both primary and secondary levels have been based on comparing the percentages of pupils in each group achieving an expected standard – specifically, expected standard in reading, writing, and maths at the end of key stage 2, and five good passes including English and maths at GCSE.

This education inequality is demonstrated in the EPI findings. Specifically, the report shows that the gap in GCSE grade attainment between pupils from low-income families and their peers has not improved in the last decade. Instead, poverty levels have now risen due to the pandemic and more disadvantaged young people are unable to receive the academic support they need in order to catch up. 

If you’re a child from a low-income family, you’re less likely to achieve the GCSE grades needed to progress to further education, employment or training. The attainment gap particularly increased for pupils in college and sixth form in 2020: disadvantaged young people are now 3.1 grades behind their more affluent peers, ((COVID-19 and Disadvantage gaps in England 2020)) compared to 2.9 grades in 2019.

The EPI fears that the disadvantage gap in education may widen further in schools as more and more pupils fall into longer term poverty. The persistent rising of poverty among disadvantaged pupils is linked with the stalling of progress in closing the attainment gap. This makes the question of increasing social mobility more urgent than ever.

‘’Worsening poverty has had what the EPI report is right to call a ‘decisive’ impact on the education of children and young people. 4.3million children – or nine in a classroom of 30 – are living in poverty. This speaks of untold hardship endured the length and breadth of the UK.’’ 

Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union 

Making sure disadvantaged young people are academically supported is the first step towards ending the cycle of poverty. Action Tutoring partners with schools in England and with the help of our motivated volunteer tutors, delivers tailored and personalised support to disadvantaged pupils across the country. 

disadvantage gaps education

We are proud to support a strong community of inspiring volunteers, dedicated to giving disadvantaged pupils the opportunity they deserve to thrive in life. 

Read more: Achievement in the face of adversity – celebrating GCSE results!

How can you help?

The government is being called on to prioritise closing gaps in attainment for the most vulnerable pupils in disadvantaged areas of the country. 

However, their plans to reduce education inequalities are only possible if we all contribute by offering our help during these difficult times. It is our collective responsibility to ensure disadvantaged children are supported and given the opportunity to progress in their education. Volunteering has the potential to make a real difference in the lives of vulnerable communities.

We can all be part of this positive change if we spare an hour each week to volunteer as a tutor in English or maths. Let’s help pupils achieve their full potential.

If you are unable to volunteer, you can still offer your help by sharing our mission on social media. Small acts of support can lead to a great positive change!