Better-off children ‘studying more in lockdown’

Children from wealthier families are spending more time each day studying in the coronavirus lockdown compared with the poorest, according to new research.

A survey of families in England suggests better-off children will have studied for around seven days more than their poorer peers by next month.

Children in the highest-income families spend six hours a day on education, but the poorest spend four and a half.

The government said it will do whatever it can to ensure no child falls behind.

The study of more than 4,000 families, carried out for the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), found the gap in time spent on education activities was slightly bigger for primary age children than older pupils.

Whatever their income, more than half of parents said they were finding it hard to support their children learning at home.

Nearly two in three (64%) of secondary pupils in state schools from the richest households are offered some form of active help, compared with 47% from the poorest fifth of families, the study suggests.

Fewer resources

The new analysis from the IFS found that children from more disadvantaged families have fewer educational resources and parental support for home learning.

The research also found poorer children were less likely to have a place to study.

Less than a third (29%) of parents in the poorest families said they would send their child back to primary school given the choice, compared with 55% of the most affluent parents.

Ministers have said some primary school pupils in England should be able to go back to school next month.

But teachers’ unions have raised concerns over safety amid fears a rush to return to the classroom could spread the coronavirus in schools.

Researchers have called on the government to address the disparities between children from different backgrounds during school closures, as they warn the crisis is likely to widen attainment gaps.

Lucy Kraftman, research economist at IFS and co-author of the report, added: “These differences will likely widen pre-existing gaps in test scores between children from different backgrounds.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “We will do whatever we can to make sure no child, whatever their background, falls behind as a result of coronavirus.

“We have set out plans for a phased return of some year groups from 1 June at the earliest in line with scientific advice.”

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Belgians urged to eat more chips in lockdown

Belgians are well known for loving chips (frites), often with a big dollop of mayonnaise, but hard-up farmers now want them to eat chips twice a week.

Romain Cools of the potato growers’ union Belgapom presented it as a matter of survival, as a major export sector fears ruin in the coronavirus crisis.

About 750,000 tonnes of potatoes are piled up in Belgian warehouses, as the lockdown has sent orders plummeting.

“Let’s all eat chips twice a week, instead of just once,” Mr Cools urged.

Since mid-March, restaurants in Belgium and many other markets for potato growers have closed. The cancellation of Belgium’s many spring and summer festivals has added to their woes.

Moreover, the international trade in potatoes has been hit. Belgium is one of the world’s top exporters of potato products, including frozen chips. It sends more than 1.5m tonnes annually to more than 100 countries.

One small bright spot in this story is that Belgapom will now deliver 25 tonnes of potatoes a week to food banks in Flanders – produce that will otherwise simply rot, Belgian media report.

“In this way, part of the potato stock will still be used and we can avoid seeing excellent food, for which our farmers have worked so hard, being lost,” Flemish Agriculture Minister Hilde Crevits told the Brussels Times.

The potato crisis has also hit Hauts-de-France, the neighbouring French region that includes Calais. There, almost 500,000 tonnes of potatoes are still waiting for customers, and will most likely be lost.

A Belgian grower quoted by broadcaster RTBF, John Van Merhaeghe, doubted that he would get any decent offers from potato processing plants for his surplus.

“At best, if they buy any extra it’ll be for €15 (£13; $16) a tonne – 10 times less than the price marked in the contracts. Fifteen euros is the rate they give for turning potatoes into animal feed!”

Another grower, who declined to be named, called on Belgium’s federal government to provide aid, saying the Netherlands was providing €50 per tonne for Dutch growers, “and so far we have nothing like that”.

Meanwhile, RTBF reports that some surplus stocks might end up as biofuel to generate electricity.

Watch a report on Italy’s lockdown restaurants:

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Coronavirus: More than 90% of UK airliners grounded as travel demand plummets

More than 90% of passenger airliners in the UK have been grounded as demand for air travel has plummeted, Sky News can reveal.

EasyJet has become the latest airline to ground its entire fleet of aircraft, while Ryanair has warned it can’t rule out a complete shutdown over the COVID-19 pandemic.

International Airlines Group, which owns British Airways, has grounded 75% of its aircraft. More than 327 airliners belonging to the group have been parked in storage without a single flight for the past seven days, according to aviation analytics company Cirium.

Wizz Air, the Budapest headquartered airline that flies to 10 destinations in the UK, is operating 7% of its original scheduled capacity – utilising just 19 out of its entire fleet of 121 Airbus aircraft.

Low cost airline and package holiday provider has not operated a single flight over the past seven days on 93 aircraft. The company currently flies 110 airliners.

Data from Cirium also showed more than 40% of the global passenger jet fleet was now in storage – inactive for at least seven days – leaving just over 15,000 available.

It also showed a sharp increase in the number of aircraft placed in storage in the month of March as airlines around the world desperately try to trim costs.

Flight numbers have fallen to a trickle globally as international air travel responds to a collapse in demand and restrictions on movement.

Earlier this month, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the Foreign Office is advised against all non-essential worldwide travel for a period of 30 days.

The UK government has ruled out a support package but promised to work with individual airlines should they seek help.

Scottish regional airline Loganair has indicated it will do just that.

Flight information specialist OAG said the aviation industry was now less than half the size reported in mid-January.

It noted that 30% of global flight capacity was lost over the past week alone, with BA losing 72% to date.

Only KLM has lost more in Europe (73%).

Globally, the US, China, UK and India had the most number of airliners grounded.

Middle East-based Emirates said it been brought to a “sudden and painful halt” by the coronavirus pandemic as it too grounded majority of its passenger flights.

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