Ross Clark Ross Clark

The class of Covid will pay the price for years to come

(Getty images)

Schools in England, it seems, will reopen fully on 8 March at the earliest – a full two months after they closed. The Prime Minister has declined to bring this forward, in spite of new Covid cases falling at a rate of 25 per cent per week. The Scottish and Welsh governments have both said they will partially reopen schools in February. What was looking like being half-a-term’s lost schooling is now looking to be closer to a full term’s worth. That comes on top of over two months of school closures last year – and some interrupted education in the autumn terms as teachers and pupils were forced to self-isolate on many occasions.

What will be the long-term cost of the lost months of education? The OECD has had a go at estimating it. Analysing data from previous instances where education has been disrupted, such as a long teachers’ strike in Wallonia in 1990,  to a reorganisation of education in Germany in the 1960s, which saw some children missing out on education, its findings make for depressing reading.

Every week of lost learning will have a severe impact on inequality in decades to come

It concludes that a term’s worth of lost education could go on to cost the US $14 trillion (£10.2trn) in lost output, Germany $3.1 trillion (£2.3trn) and Britain $2.2 trillion (£1.6trn) over the next 80 years as the effects on children last a lifetime. 

As a general (global) rule, says the OECD, each year of school education adds an estimated 10 per cent to a pupil’s earnings. On this basis, it concludes that a lost term could reduce a child’s future lifetime earnings by around three per cent. 

Given that many children will have lost at least two terms present in school, the loss in earnings might be closer to six or seven per cent.

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