According to a new survey, most teachers believe that with the return of exams this year, poorer students will fall even further behind better peers.
An education union warned that this was the “great danger” of the ongoing impact of the Covid pandemic as students await their GCSE and A-level results.
Exams were canceled two years in a row due to the coronavirus — which also kept students at home for months — before returning this year.
Fears have been expressed about the impact on disadvantaged students, who research has suggested were hardest hit by the disruption caused by the pandemic.
A new report from Sutton Trust, a social mobility charity, shows that the long-standing gap in achievement is set to widen this year with the return of GCSE and A-level exams.
It suggested that most teachers — 72 percent of a sample surveyed — thought poorer students in their school would fall further behind more affluent peers this year.
According to a survey of more than 4,000 teachers, nearly 29 percent thought there would be a “moderate” increase in the skills gap, while 19 percent thought it would be “significant.”
It comes after the achievement gap appeared to widen during last year’s GCSE and A-level results, with private schools seeing a bigger rise in the number of top classes.
The Sutton Trust report also suggested that prior to this year’s exam season, poorer students had less experience of taking exams in a formal setting compared to better peers.
The experience of A-level students likely relied on mock exams, with their GCSEs canceled due to the Covid pandemic.
According to the poll by Teacher Tapp, a survey app, 81 percent of A-level teachers said their students were mocking an exam room in preparation for the real work.
The figure fell to 68 percent of respondents in the most underprivileged schools and rose to 87 percent in the most affluent schools.
“Students who have not previously taken a formal exam may have found their exams more daunting this summer, potentially affecting their performance and thus their final grades,” the Sutton Trust said in its new report.
A higher percentage of college applicants from a working-class background said they felt unprepared for exams this year — 37 percent — compared to 25 percent from the middle class.
The Liberal Democrats claimed the government had repeatedly “refused” to carry out its duty to “help and support disadvantaged children”.
“The Conservatives continue to disappoint young people because all their talk of a higher level is nothing to show when it comes to our children,” said Munira Wilson, the education spokesperson.
“This is an absolute moral failure on the part of the Conservatives.”
Tom Middlehurst of the Association of School and College Union said education in the Covid pandemic has been “extremely challenging” for everyone involved, with illness and isolation affecting students and staff over the past two years.
“The big danger is that the disruption will hit especially disadvantaged students hard and the gap between them and other students will widen in this year’s results,” he said.
The Sutton Trust’s A Levels and University Access 2022 report this year also surveyed students about absenteeism, finding that more than a fifth of A students who applied to university had missed more than 20 days of school. , while a third had missed 11 or more days .
James Turner, the director of the social mobility charity, said the research shows that “the impact of the pandemic on education is far from over” and that its effects are “still being felt among young people”.
“As we approach results day and a more competitive college admissions cycle than ever before, we need to ensure that poorer youth have a fair chance at success,” he said.
“Universities should pay extra attention to underprivileged students who have just missed their grades and ensure that recent gains in broadening access to higher education are not lost.”
The Ministry of Education spokesperson said: “In recognition of the disruption students have experienced, we have worked with Ofqual this year to make a number of adjustments to exams. It is encouraging to see that more than three quarters of the candidates for the university found the information about the advanced exam useful.
They added: “To help students get back on track, we have invested nearly £5bn, with more than two million tutoring courses already started through the National Tutoring Programme, in an estimated 80 per cent of schools. .”