Inequalities in home learning: Difficulty to complete tasks and reasons why
These results are based on analyses of the final sample of 5528 responses collected between 5th May and 31st July. Of these, 2075 responses were from teachers and 3409 from parents of school-aged children in the UK. The results in this report are based on the responses of parents.
The focus of this report is on inequalities in how difficult pupils find it to complete school work at home, and why that might be. The results are based primarily on parents’ responses to the question “How easy or difficult was it for your child to complete homework?” We then complement these findings with additional results regarding different factors that might support or impede homework completion (noise, lack of space, lack of technology, lack of or little Internet, lack of supervisors, parents working from home, parents working out of house, difficulty of tasks, amount of tasks, lack of food, use of extra resources, and use of a smartphone).
The results in this report show that children from families of lower socioeconomic status (i.e. pupils eligible for Free School Meals, pupils from low income households, and pupils of non- graduate parents) found it more difficult to complete the home learning tasks. Parents of these pupils were more likely to report that the difficulty and number of home learning tasks made completing the schoolwork from home more difficult, and that they had fewer additional paid-for educational resources to support their learning. Parents of children from families of lower socioeconomic status were more likely to report that some features of their home environment made it harder for their children to complete their schoolwork from home; in particular, noise and a lack of technology, space, and adequate internet. Worryingly, 19% of parents of primary pupils from financially struggling households reported that a lack of food made completing their schoolwork from home more difficult. However, children from families of lower socioeconomic status were less likely than children from families of higher socioeconomic status to report that they found their schoolwork harder to complete because their parents were busy working from home themselves.
Overall difficulty to complete home learning tasks for primary and secondary school pupils.
The most common response for parents of primary and secondary school pupils was that their child found it neither difficult nor easy to complete the tasks (30%). Around 8% reported that their child found it very difficult to complete the work, and 12% very easy.
There were no major differences in perceived difficulty of task completion between primary and secondary pupils.
In both primary and secondary schools, the biggest obstacles to completing homework were if their parents were busy working from home, the level of task difficulty, and the quantity of tasks. For almost half of secondary pupils, noise was also cited as a major hinderance.
In primary school, 78% of pupils used extra resources compared with 57% of pupils attending secondary schools.
In primary school, 27% of pupils reported using their smartphone to do their schoolwork, whereas this figure was 69% for secondary school pupils.
Inequalities by gender.
There were small gender differences in ease of task completion, with boys slightly more likely overall to find it very difficult than girls.
In secondary schools, girls were much more likely than boys to find the difficulty and amount of tasks an issue.
Inequalities between key worker and non-key worker parents.
Children of key workers tended to find tasks slightly more difficult than did pupils with non-key worker parents. These differences were insubstantial but consistent across the age ranges.
Children of key workers were around twice as likely to struggle with the tasks because their parents were working out of the home, compared to children of non- key worker parents.
Inequalities by pupils’ eligibility for free school meals.
Overall, children who were eligible for free school meals (FSM) were more likely than their non-eligible peers to report higher levels of difficulty with task completion and less likely to perceive tasks as easy.
At the primary level, FSM-eligible pupils were more likely to struggle with household noise and a lack of space, technology, internet and food than non-eligible children.
Among secondary pupils, many of the same patterns were found, with 39% of FSM- eligible students reporting a lack of technology compared to only 19% of non-FSM children.
Across the ages, parents of FSM-eligible children were much more likely state lack of food as a factor that made it harder for them to complete their school work from home. At secondary school, 10% of FSM-eligible children had a lack of food compared with only 2% of non-FSM children.
Non-FSM-eligible children were far more likely to find home learning more difficult if their parents worked from home during the pandemic than pupils who were eligible.
FSM-eligible pupils were more likely to find tasks difficult and too numerous than non-eligible pupils. This difference was greatest in secondary schools, where 65% of FSM-eligible pupils found their tasks difficult compared with 48% of their non-eligible peers.
At secondary level, pupils who were not eligible for FSM were more than twice as likely to use extra resources that had been paid for than those who were eligible. A similar trend was found among primary pupils.
Inequalities by family financial situation.
Children from financially struggling backgrounds were more likely to find tasks very difficult and less likely to find them easy than children from comfortable backgrounds.
Children in disadvantaged financial situations were also more likely to struggle with household noise and a lack of space, technology, internet and food than children from comfortable backgrounds.
Of greatest concern, at the primary level, 19% of pupils from households that were struggling for income reported that a lack of food made it harder to complete homework, compared to just 3% of those whose families reported comfortable levels of income. This suggests that for some children, when the most basic of needs are not being met, education can suffer.
Among primary school pupils, 80% of children from financially comfortable households used extra resources to aid their learning, compared with 70% of those from households that were struggling financially. This discrepancy was lower in secondary schools but the overall trend remained. These resources were also more likely to be paid for if the pupils’ parents were financially comfortable.
68% of secondary pupils from financially struggling households used their smartphones to complete work compared with 58% of pupils with a more comfortable household income.
Inequalities between graduate and non-graduate parents.
Children of graduates were more likely to find their school work easy than children of non-graduates. This trend was slightly larger at secondary school level.
Although children of graduates and non-graduates were equally likely to use free extra resources, across both primary and secondary levels, children of graduate parents were considerably more likely to use extra resources which had been paid for than those with non-graduate parents.