Cancelling exams in England will hit poorer children hardest | Lee Elliot Major

With GCSEs and A-levels being scrapped, how can we ensure that pupils’ results are fair?

The grotesquely unequal playing field facing many schoolchildren in England and the wider UK is best captured by the footballer Marcus Rashford. “Growing up as a kid,” he told the BBC, “I felt like I started 50 metres behind everyone else in a 100-metre race.” If education is a race, those from poorer backgrounds start with huge handicaps. And at every hurdle, they face a bigger fall.

The closure of schools and cancellation of GCSEs and A-levels as a result of England’s third national lockdown risks tilting this playing field even further towards advantaged students. Let’s be clear: lockdown will deepen education inequalities. Research that I’ve been involved with has shown how poorer pupils have suffered the largest learning losses from school absences during the pandemic. Outside the school gates there lies a stark home-learning divide. Disadvantaged pupils are less likely to benefit from quiet study space, home computers and internet connectivity, let alone the luxury of extra teaching from private tutors.

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