Coronavirus school closures will worsen north/south education divide, say MPs

The schools shutdown will widen the education gap between north and south, MPs will warn the education secretary today.

In an open letter to Gavin Williamson, more than 50 MPs and peers have said urgent action is needed to prevent the poorest pupils falling behind long-term.

Two thirds of secondary schools teaching the most disadvantaged communities are in the north of England, new figures show.

The parliamentarians, including Tories in northern constituencies, are demanding that funding for one-on-one tuition be provided to these pupils when they return to school.

They say in the letter: “The most disadvantaged children fall behind their peers over a long summer holiday, and the shutdown will widen the north’s disadvantage gap and with it the north-south education divide.

“We need to deal with the consequences of this crisis for the most vulnerable in our society, and that must include children from low-income households.”

They say a “catch-up premium” of at least £300m – equating to £700 for every pupil on free school meals – would fund 30 minutes of tuition three times a week for 12 weeks.

The government has refused to say when schools may start to re-open, but sources say the earliest date being discussed is the beginning of June.

Mr Williamson has said there are no current plans for schools to stay open during the summer holidays to help pupils catch up on the lesson time they have missed, and suggested that enforcing social distancing in schools would be challenging.

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