Students face 3% lower income over lifetime due to Covid-19

Loss of learning and income cuts from pandemic to hit disadvantaged pupils hardest

The report, Social Justice Policy Matters: Education and Covid-19, looks at the impact of the pandemic on primary and post-primary pupils.

The impact of Covid-19 on children’s education will widen the gap between rich and poor and impose long-term losses of income for all students, according to a policy document by Social Justice Ireland.

It warns that pupils affected by the pandemic face long-term losses in income and an average student can expect about 3 per cent lower earnings throughout their lifetime.

“Disadvantaged students will suffer greater learning losses and greater impacts on their lifetime earnings, and much of the progress made addressing educational disadvantage to date will be reversed unless the appropriate policies and investment are put in place.”

The independent think tank's research and policy analyst Michelle Murphy said "the impact on national GDP [gross domestic product] is equally concerning with the optimistic scenario being a loss of 1.5 per cent GDP throughout the remainder of the century, with this loss expected to be even greater if education systems are slow to return to prior levels of performance".


Education systems

She said “this annual loss of GDP is as a result of lower incomes, lower tax revenues, lower skill levels and productivity and a higher reliance on social protection systems as a result of the impact of Covid-19 on education systems”.

The report, Social Justice Policy Matters: Education and Covid-19, looks at the impact of the pandemic on primary and post-primary pupils. It found that “Covid-19 and extended school closures has had a devastating, and likely lasting, impact on children with special educational needs and their families.”

“Addressing educational disadvantage and investing sufficient resources into policies that work must be a Government priority” to reduce the risk of poverty.

The policy document notes that more than four in 10 students reported a major or moderate negative impact on their learning as a result of Covid-19 school closures and over 50 per cent reported that they did not learn enough during those closures.

Class sizes

To combat the impact of the pandemic, the report recommends keeping average class sizes below 20. Ireland has an average class size of 25 and the report says the Government should use the projections of a future oversupply of teachers to cut class sizes and reduce the teacher/pupil ratio.

It calls for Deis schools to have sufficient resources to implement strategies to improve literacy and numeracy outcomes and for the Government to make the improvement of educational outcomes for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and disadvantaged communities a policy priority. Chief executive of Social Policy Ireland Dr Seán Healy said “Policymakers must give serious consideration as to how the lost learning of students at all levels of education will be made up in the coming months and years.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times