Since the mid-twentieth century, generations of people have taken it for granted that their children would go on to surpass their own successes. Those were the words of Nick Maughan, investor and founder of the Nick Maughan Foundation philanthropic project which supports education initiatives and civic support schemes for disenfranchised communities.
In Maughan’s view, education is at the centre of providing opportunities to the next generation who will inherit society. Indeed, it is widely regarded as a duty to ensure that young people are better educated, accumulate more skills and have better experiences in the workplace than their predecessors. Yet, the Covid-19 pandemic has threatened to compromise all of that, and Maughan feats that it could leave today’s youngsters with reduced educational and employment prospects compared to their predecessors, and society could be left weathering the impact for a number of years.
Writing for Reaction, Maughan said: “Earlier this week we were heard troubling news that five per cent of schoolchildren are still not in school due to pandemic-related reasons. These are the same schoolchildren who did not receive a single minute of face-to-face teaching for nearly half a year. Already finding themselves in educational deficit compared to previous generations, the latest figures show thousands more are falling further and further behind.
“Whilst the focus is understandably on the here and now, the long-term consequences for the ‘Covid generation’ look at best concerning and at worse catastrophic. We risk opening up a major intergenerational gap in terms of the educational divide between wealthier and poorer children as a result of the pandemic.”
Research from the Edge Foundation certainly paints a bleak picture. It estimates that the missed teaching, lack of classroom time and gaps in children’s education could see youth employment exceed one million in the UK over the coming years.
Furthermore, the OECD has predicted that the widespread disruption to education could bring about a 1.5 per cent decline in UK GDP.
Maughan added: “We can be in no doubt that the poorest children whose education has been hit hardest will bear the brunt of this. We face the very real prospect of swathes of young people going from school to further education to unemployment. As is so often the case with youth unemployment, it will be factors outside of their control that determine many young people’s prospects. It will be purely down to the lottery of life and the misfortune of being in education in the middle of a pandemic that could do real harm to future prosperity.”
Indeed, the Education Policy Institute has uncovered that children from disadvantaged backgrounds were 1.5 years behind in their learning compared to children from wealthier families, with that gap likely to have widened.
However, a defiant Maughan insisted that the bleak picture should not be considered inevitable and that a remedial period of “educational catch-up” is needed, which may be comprised of various forms such as extended school terms, more extra-curricular pursuits, and different avenues for children to develop a new skillset.
Maughan specifically suggested that an upscaling of technical education could be considered, to ensure young people have a wider array of options to upskill toward particular career paths.
Here, alternative education providers such as Nottingham’s Crisp Vocational Provision, which provides opportunities for children in school years eight to 11, could have a significant role to play in tackling the looming issue head-on.
Writing in The Parliamentary Review, owner Kev Crisp said: “No child starts their education aged five wanting to fail, but for many students by the time they reach 14 or 15, mainstream school has shifted beyond their reach. Alternative providers [Aps] like us offer students who have been permanently excluded another chance, by giving them the opportunity to experience a different kind of schooling. We allow them to develop a new and fresh appreciation of learning that has meaning for them, creating a vision of what their future could look like.”
Crisp’s company offers education around construction and motor vehicles as part of its curriculum, which could have numerous benefits for young people who have been significantly set back as a result of Covid-19 and are struggling to re-adjust to the demands of academia.
Crisp added: “Our curriculum offer of construction and motor vehicles allows students to develop genuinely useful vocational skills and industry-recognised qualifications that open their eyes to realistic next steps, mainly into employment with work-based training or continuing in education.
“Students can see a tangible value in what they are learning and can recognise exactly how it fits into the bigger picture for them. The steppingstone is there right in front of them.”
Crisp himself has put a meticulous amount of planning into building the right team of people at his business, who work closely with the students to ensure there is a sufficient bank of skills and experience to coach them and enhance their prospects.
“Over the past four years, I have built our team further to include three qualified teachers, three tutors, teaching assistants and a provision administrator. All members of the team work closely with all the students on roll at CVP, fulfilling teaching, pastoral and support roles.
“I feel we’ve got the balance right between qualified teachers and vocational tutors, and the bank of skills and experiences we’ve brought together are fundamental to our success.”