Just Sociology

Government Responses to the Pandemic: Impacts on Education Policies

The coronavirus pandemic has brought about unprecedented challenges across the globe, including in the realm of education policy. Governments have had to respond quickly to the crisis, and their actions have had diverse impacts on pupils, teachers, and the educational system as a whole.

This article delves into the complex theories and key principles behind government responses to the pandemic, with a focus on education policies. Specifically, it discusses the lockdown measures, cancelled exams, catch-up education policies and funding increases for education to 2025, their impacts on pupils, and how they can affect educational attainment.

Lockdown Measures

One of the most significant responses of governments to the pandemic has been lockdown measures, which involved school closures. While necessary for public health, they had adverse effects on pupils’ mental health, educational attainment, and socioeconomic disadvantages.

According to reports, nearly nine out of ten teachers believed that lockdowns have harmed their pupils in some way, with 83% highlighting the negative effects of school closures on students’ mental health (Ofsted, 2021). This highlights the importance of prioritizing pupils’ well-being beyond academic interests.

Cancelled GCSEs and A-Level Exams

The cancellation of GCSEs and A-Level exams in 2020 and 2021 prompted significant changes to the grading system, mainly relying on teacher assessments. This measure generated criticisms regarding potential biases, unfairness, and grade inflation, especially for more affluent and better-educated students who already held advantages.

Such inequalities risked creating a covid-disadvantaged attainment gap, leaving those who had experienced greater socioeconomic disadvantages before the pandemic even further behind.

Catch-up Education Policies

Governments have employed catch-up education policies to address the learning losses resulting from lockdown measures and cancelled exams. These strategies include catch-up premium, national tutoring programme, pupil premium, and academic support for core subjects.

However, the effectiveness of these measures depends on several factors such as the quality of support provided by tutors, the length of time pupils engage with them, and the alignment of support with pupils’ needs. Not all institutions may provide equally effective support, which could exacerbate potential inequalities of opportunity.

Funding Increases for Education to 2025

Governments have pledged funding increases for education to 2025, which could help mitigate the harm caused by lockdowns and cancelled exams. However, it is essential to consider that increases in cash-terms spending may not necessarily indicate an improvement in the overall quality of education, particularly if funding cuts result from increases in cost of living and support for teacher wages.

Such cuts could lead to teacher shortages, declining quality of instruction and an increasingly unequal playing field. Impact of Lockdown on Pupils’ Mental Health

The negative effects of lockdown measures on pupils’ mental health are significant and long-lasting.

According to a secondary analysis of data from 28 studies, the prevalence of anxiety in children increased by 26% compared to pre-covid levels (Loades et al., 2020). The report further indicates that prolonged lockdowns could lead to the normalization of stress, thereby stigmatizing mental health issues and perpetuating additional harms, which heighten inequalities in pupils’ lives.

Covid-Disadvantage Gap

The covid-disadvantage gap has significant negative impacts on pupils’ educational attainment, particularly for children from deprived backgrounds or those who have limited access to educational resources. A survey conducted in 2021 indicates that almost a third of pupils (31%) had completed less schoolwork than their teachers had set in 2020, while 38% of pupils lacked access to necessary equipment such as mobile devices to access online lessons (Sutton Trust, 2021).

Greater steps need to be taken to address the disadvantage gap and ensure that no child is left behind. Conclusion:

In conclusion, governments’ responses to the coronavirus pandemic related to education policy have had various impacts on pupils, teachers, and the educational system.

Lockdown measures, cancelled exams, catch-up education policies, and funding increases for education to 2025 have all had significant implications, including potentially exacerbating socioeconomic inequalities in education. This article highlights the critical considerations that policymakers and educators must take into account when implementing policies to ensure that their interventions do not cause more harm than good.

Providing adequate mental health support, prioritizing pupils’ needs, and addressing the covid-disadvantage gap should be paramount to mitigating the impacts of the pandemic.

Government Policies and


The Catch-up Premium and National Tutoring Programme

The catch-up premium and national tutoring programme are two key government policies aimed at providing additional funding and targeted academic support to pupils affected by the pandemic. The catch-up premium is an additional funding initiative, totaling 1 billion, that aims to support pupils’ academic progress.

The funds are used to target specific groups of pupils those who have previously attained low levels, those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and those who have missed more schooling because of the pandemic. The money is allocated to schools to target academic support and extra-curricular activities.

While the catch-up premium is a significant step towards bridging the covid-disadvantage gap, the amount allocated to each pupil varies widely by school, and it may not be effectively used. The national tutoring programme is a part of the catch-up premium that enables schools to offer pupils one-to-one or group sessions with trained tutors in mathematics and English subjects.

The government has accredited four national tutoring providers who offer tutoring courses via schools, tailored to meet the needs of individual pupils. The programme aims to give pupils additional support, supplemented by the catch-up premium, to enhance their academic progress.

However, the amount of time in which the tutoring courses can be offered and the length of the courses can vary between schools, affecting the overall effectiveness of the programme. Additionally, the provision of individual or group sessions is dependent on staffing – this dependency can be a challenge given current classroom sizes and the pressure on teacher workload.

Funding Increases to 2025

The government has pledged to increase funding for educational institutions by 14.4 billion by 2025. The funding increase marks the end of a decade of funding cuts and intends to help support schools to keep up with inflation, maintain good quality educational provision and potentially provide enhanced services.

The funding per pupil in the UK has remained stagnant in recent years, which has resulted in schools struggling to keep running costs covered. The new investment will help to address this challenge, meaning schools will now have more resources to allocate to the resources and support they need.

However, this funding increase must be used to support and enhance educational delivery to enable schools to address the long-standing challenges facing education provision in the UK. One significant consideration is whether the increased funding would be enough to cover the additional costs of maintaining a good quality of educational provision post-pandemic.

Emerging evidence indicates that the pandemic has exposed many of the challenges facing education provision in the UK, including poor funding, understaffing, poor digital infrastructure, and a lack of resources. A healthy injection of funds will undoubtedly help address some of these challenges, but it remains to be seen whether it will fill the gap completely.

The key area to watch here is whether the funds will be wisely used to give pupils the best chance of academic progress while supporting teachers and schools to deliver the most effective provision possible.


The pandemic has undoubtedly exposed many of the challenges facing the UK’s education system. The government’s responses including lockdown measures, cancelled exams, catch-up education policies, and funding increases have had significant impacts on pupils, teachers, and the educational system.

The catch-up premium and national tutoring programme are two policies that aim to address the covid-disadvantaged gap while providing additional targeted academic support. While these initiatives are welcome, there are logistical challenges that must be addressed to ensure that they are effectively implemented.

The funding increases to 2025 mark the end of a decade of funding cuts but the question remains whether it will be utilized effectively or whether the additional money will only address the inflation that has occurred. Future analysis will be needed to establish how these funds, plus any additional funds, are being targeted and whether they are making a material difference in the classroom.

To conclude, the UK’s education system still faces many challenges as a result of the pandemic. The government must prioritize support and provision that address the covid-disadvantage gap while simultaneously providing resources and support to teachers and schools.

The impact of government policies will take time to measure, but there is a genuine opportunity to deliver a considerable improvement in the quality of education in the UK by ensuring that pupils do not fall behind in their academic progress in the wake of the pandemic. Conclusion:

In conclusion, government responses to the coronavirus pandemic have had significant impacts on the UK’s education system, including lockdown measures, cancelled exams, catch-up education policies, funding increases for education, and policies aimed at reducing the covid-disadvantaged attainment gap.

While these policies are essential steps in the right direction, they must be implemented wisely to ensure that they are effective in delivering quality education while supporting teachers and schools. With continued analysis and refinement, these policies have the potential to help shape a better future for the UK’s education system.


Q: What are the catch-up premium and national tutoring programme? A: Catch-up premium and national tutoring programmes are government policies aimed at providing targeted academic support, extra-curricular activities, and one-to-one or group sessions with trained tutors in mathematics and English subjects to pupils affected by the pandemic.

Q: Will the funding increases in education be enough to address the challenges faced by schools? A: Increased funding is a step in the right direction but whether it will be sufficient depends on whether it is targeted effectively and provides resources, sustenance, and support essential to maintaining good quality educational provision.

Q: How have lockdown measures affected pupils’ educational attainment and mental health? A: School closures resulting from lockdown measures have led to a decline in pupils’ academic performance and contributed to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

Q: What is the covid-disadvantaged attainment gap? A: The covid-disadvantaged attainment gap refers to the widening gap between pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and those from more affluent backgrounds resulting from lockdowns, cancelled exams and lack of appropriate governmental and institutional support.

Q: What are the major challenges facing the UK’s education system? A: The UK’s education system’s main challenges include poor funding, understaffing, a lack of resources, and poor digital infrastructure.

Q: What must the government prioritize to improve the UK’s education system? A: The government must prioritize policies that address the challenges facing the UK’s education system, provide resources, and support teachers and schools while simultaneously addressing pupils’ well-being and delivering quality education.

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