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BERA Blog: The £350 billion home-schooling question


Dr Sally Riordan and Professor Michael Jopling from the Education Observatory have written a blog post for the British Educational Research Association (BERA) interrogating the widely reported figure of '£350bn lost lifetime earnings' due to 'lost schooling' amid Covid-19, arguing that the headlines reflect a credulous and narrow attitude to social science research.

Sally Riordan is senior research fellow in the Education Observatory at the University of Wolverhampton. She writes about and researches issues relating to educational disadvantage and policy in secondary schools and the philosophy of education, and is currently completing a national study of pupil premium for the Social Mobility Commission.

Michael Jopling is professor of education and director of the Education Observatory at the University of Wolverhampton. He writes about and researches issues relating to education policy, vulnerable families and young people, social justice and collaborative school leadership. 

The blog post starts:

Education research hit the headlines recently. The BBC reported research claiming that time spent out of school due to coronavirus could cost each child £40,000 in lifetime earnings. By the time this was picked up by other news outlets, including the Independent and the Guardian, the headline figure had become an overall £350 billion loss in earnings (reached by multiplying £40,000 by the number of school-aged children in England today). The £40,000 figure was also referred to, rather bizarrely, by Robert Halfon, chair of the education select committee, in a television news interview as one of the ‘four horsemen of the education apocalypse galloping towards our children’. It was soon obvious from Twitter that neither parents, struggling to get through these long, dark days of home schooling and homeworking, nor teachers, working long hours in schools and online, were buoyed by the findings.

Some found it hard to believe the findings, and rightly so. The articles referred to a ‘report’ from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), which gives the impression that this was the result of fresh research conducted to find out how home-schooling might impact children’s long-term economic outlook. This was not the case. The £40,000 figure is an estimate made in an ‘observation’ written by an IFS researcher (Sibieta, 2021) and published online. And there are some obvious reasons why this is not a very good guide to the impact of home schooling in the UK today.

Read the full blog post on the BERA website:


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