Covid: disadvantaged pupils in England now seven months behind privileged peers due to pandemic

A report from the social mobility foundation has warned that progress on closing the attainment gap risks being undone.

The report recommended the government consider a permanent uplift to universal credit to stop millions falling into deeper poverty.
The report recommended the government consider a permanent uplift to universal credit to stop millions falling into deeper poverty.

The pandemic has left disadvantaged pupils as much as seven months behind their privileged peers, a report from the social mobility commission has found.

The report warned that coronavirus has erased progress on closing the attainment gap between richer and poorer children, with a risk of long-term damage to social mobility if the government does not take action.

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At a glance: 5 key points

- The Social Mobility Commission assessed the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on social mobility in Britain finding that Covid has slowed, erased or even begun to undo progress made over the past few years.

-The commission found that young people have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic, suffering the highest amount of job losses and interruptions to education while almost a third of British children are now living in poverty.

- Their findings showed that geography remains a key determinant of how much people earn, with some working class men earning twice as much as those in other areas.

- They also found a gap in digital access between rich and poor, with only 51% of households earning between £6,000 to £10,000 having home internet access when the pandemic hit in March 2020, compared with 99% of households with an income over £40,000.

- The commission made a series of recommendations to the government on improving social mobility, including increasing universal credit, ending section 21 “no fault” evictions and expanding 30 hours’ free childcare to all families.

What’s been said

“In the last 16 months, we have all lived through a once-in-a-generation crisis. The pandemic will have a profound impact on the UK over the next decades.

“There is a huge risk that the gulf between the rich and the poor will continue to grow ever deeper and wider,” the report’s authors said.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

“We know the pandemic has had an impact on many children’s education, that is why we are targeting support for the very youngest children’s learning and speech development by investing in training for early years staff.

“We have also put unprecedented investment into childcare over the past decade – more than £3.5 billion in each of the past three years – and are providing the biggest uplift to school funding in a decade. Schools and early years settings can also target our ambitious recovery funding to support disadvantaged pupils with their attainment.”


The Social Mobility Commission aims to “create a Britain where a person’s circumstances of birth don’t determine their outcomes in life” and is responsible for publishing an annual report on the UK’s social mobility progress.

The commission also challenges employers, educators and the government on improving social mobility across sectors.