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  • Matt Easterbrook

Education in the time of corona: Background to the home learning study

Updated: Dec 14, 2020

School closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic have disrupted the education of over 8 million school pupils and the lives and livings of millions of teachers and parents across the UK.  For several months, our children’s education depended on their ability to learn from home. 


Teachers worked tirelessly to support and provide materials for home-learning, and many parents struggled to continue their child’s education.  Yet, the support that parents and pupils received from schools varied widely, as did the ability and confidence of parents to help their children learn. 


It is almost inevitable that differences in attainment between different groups of pupils—known as attainment gaps—will increase due to the school closures because the education of children from the poorest homes and the most deprived schools is likely to be more severely disrupted than the education of children from wealthier homes and more affluent schools.


We received funding to investigate these issues from the European Association of Social Psychology and, later, the University of Sussex's Higher Education Innovation Fund. Our group of psychologists and educators from England, Poland, and Belgium collaboratively developed a survey, which asked teachers and parents of school-aged children in the UK about the type of provisions that their schools were providing to support home learning, what they thought about them, and how engaged and motivated their children were to learn from home.  We have linked these responses to pupils’ family backgrounds (such as whether pupils are eligible for free school meals, or are the children of key workers), and to detailed information about schools, such as their Ofsted rating, overall attainment, and prior attainment gaps. 


This will mean that we can assess the impact of the school closures on pupils’ attainment, whether this varies by the type and rating of the school or the characteristics of the family, and whether the provisions that schools provide make a difference.  This will give us a clear picture of which pupils from which schools will be most affected by the school closures, and which types of provisions schools should be providing to support home learning.


We are aiming to team up with teachers, schools, multi-academy trust, Local Authorities, and organisations that create and deliver home learning materials so that we can work together to create evidence-based materials to support those who need it most.  Please get in touch if you want to work with us.


In the meantime, I will publish our findings as soon as they are available, on the INPSYED website.  Each time I conduct some analyses of our data, I will write a short blog that outlines the findings and post it here.  The blogs will be brief, but they will help to make clear what has been happening during the school closures, who might need additional support, and what they find most useful.  This is knowledge that needs to be shared as soon and as widely as possible.


A note on Methodology and Participants


The results presented in these report are based on the responses to an online survey for teachers and parents of school-aged children in the UK. We recruited respondents mostly via social media advertising (Facebook and Twitter), and boosted our sample of parents with low incomes and of ethnicities other than White British through paid panels from Academic Prolific.

The survey ran from 5th May until 21st July and is now closed. The vast majority – 85% (3222) - of parents were based in England, 4.8% (164) in Scotland, 3.6% (120) in Wales and 1.8% (63) in Northern Ireland. 60% of parents responded about a child in primary school, and 40% responded about a child in secondary school. 81% of parent respondents were mothers, 16% fathers, and the remaining either guardians, grandparents, foster parents, step-parents, or other extended family members.


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