Covid and young people

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the lives of young people, particularly younger people from poorer communities. Writing for the LSE British Politics and Policy blog, Andrew Eyles and Lee ElliotMajor examine the impact of school closures on poorer pupils.  

Schools were first closed in England in March 2020, and many remained at least partially closed until September 2020. While most schools stayed open during the second national lockdown in November, they have recently closed their doors again to the majority of pupils as part of the third national lockdown.  

Eyles and Elliot-Major state that school closures have created a home learning divide between more affluent families and the less well off. Factors that have created this divide include:  

  • the capacity of parents to home school their children; 
  • the availability of quiet study space and internet connectivity at homeand 
  • the ability to pay for private tutoring. 

Through their research, Eyles and Elliot-Major found that nearly double the amount of private school pupils than state school pupils were benefiting from full school days at home during lockdownThe authors also found that parents in higher income brackets were four times more likely to use private tuition to supplement their child’s home education than those on the lowest incomes.  

To compensate for this lost learning and potential falls in grades, the authors consider several policy ideas, including:  

  • one-off special flagging system alongside exam grades to identify pupils who have been most seriously affected by Covid-19; and 
  • greater flexibility for pupils to repeat a whole school year. 

 Read the full article: Andrew Eyles and Lee Elliot Major, ‘Further school closures and weakening economic conditions equate to bleak prospects for the young’LSE British Politics and Policy, 6 January 2021

LGBT+ questions in the UK census   

The upcoming UK national census, due to take place in March 2021, will for the first time include questions on sexuality and gender identity. To introduce the new section, primary legislation was required in England, Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland, due to it not sitting at the time, was included in the provisions from Westminster. Writing for the European Journal of Politics and Gender, Laurence Cooley looks at the change in more detail. 

Cooley argues that the change has largely been welcomed by activists from the LGBT community, stating that improved statistics could lead to improved service provision and greater recognition of rights. However, he also acknowledges certain problems. First, Cooley describes a definitional dilemma. The census will ask the respondent to choose a descriptor that best describes their sexual identity. Some have argued that this will miss sections of the population who may not self-identify as LGBT, but have still experienced sexual attraction or engaged in behaviour that falls within the definition of LGBT. Cooley argues that data on behaviour may be of more use in planning sexual health services, but accepts there would be difficulties including questions on sexual behaviour in a national census.  

The article then discusses concerns about the likely response rates to questions regarding sexual and gender identity. In a 2017 test of the census, the Office for National Statistics recorded that 8.4% of respondents did not answer the proposed questions. This was more than the percentage who responded ‘gay or lesbian’, ‘bisexual’ or ‘other’. Cooley states that a possible reason for lack of response is privacy concerns from within a household. A traditional census is completed by the ‘householder’. Under this system, the respondent wishing to respond would have to be ‘out’ to the householder. To navigate this problem, the Government has stated that individuals will be able to request an access code for the online census, allowing them to fill out their form without the householder knowing their responses.  

Cooley concludes by welcoming the change, while also warning that the results must be treated as a lower estimate of the sexual minority population in the UK.  

Read the full article: Laurence CooleySexual orientation and the 2021 UK censusEuropean Journal of Politics and Gender, September 2020, vol 3 no 3, pp 445447