The financial cost of lost schooling.


The loss of formal education in school since the onset of the pandemic is significant.


Children across the UK are likely to have missed out on at least half a year of normal, in-person education.


In many cases, children have missed substantially more time in school, with the requirement to self-isolate at home due to close contact with those infected.


But what is the financial impact of this lost period of education?


According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, there is a substantial cost associated over the long-term.


The projected figures are not intended as precise estimates, but they are designed to illustrate the financial impact of lost schooling.


In creating these projections, the IFS hopes to illustrate the scale of potential costs and risks we face, and to create an economic rationale for the massive national plan required to address this crisis.


Some of the key findings from the IFS include the loss of at least half a year of normal, in person schooling by the time we reach the February half term.


If schools are unable to reopen until Easter, the loss of schooling will be extended to two-thirds of a year.


Early evidence suggests that this loss of normal, in person schooling will lower educational progress and skills, especially for already disadvantaged pupils.


There is also evidence on returns to schooling that imply a long-run loss in earnings of £350 billion.


Even if efforts by schools, teachers, children, parents and charities are able to mitigate three-quarters of this impact, the future loss of earnings will still run to £90 billion.


A significant proportion of these negative impacts are likely to be borne by children from lower-income families, and this could push up levels of inequality in the long-run.


Pupils will need a massive injection of resources to help them properly catch-up, once schools are able to reopen.


One benchmark that can be used to judge these plans is the normal cost of half a year of schooling, at around £30 billion across the UK.


To date, the government has allocated around £1.5 billion towards catch-up costs, which the IFS believes is highly unlikely to be sufficient to help pupils catch-up or to prevent existing inequalities from widening.


Luke Sibieta, Research Fellow at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said:


“A loss of over half a year of normal schooling is likely to have far-reaching long-run consequences. We will all be less productive, poorer, have less money to spend on public services, more unequal and we may be less happy and healthy as a result.


“Standard evidence on the returns to schooling would imply a total loss of £350bn, or £90bn under incredibly optimistic assumptions. The inescapable conclusion is that lost learning represents a gigantic long-term risk for future prosperity, the public finances, the future path of inequality and well-being.


“We therefore need a policy response that is appropriate to the scale of the problem. One useful benchmark is the £30bn it normally costs for half a year of schooling in the UK. That doesn't mean we need to spend that much. But it does strongly suggest that the £1.5 billion allocated across the UK so far doesn't even start to match the scale of the challenge.


“A much larger policy response would allow us to consider radical and properly resourced ways to help pupils catch-up."


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