During this period of lockdown, the onus has been on parents to provide a curriculum-standard education from home and as talk of a phased reopening of schools for primary and secondary students becomes more of a reality, we look at home schooling and the potential impact socio-economic factors may have had on the classroom divide.
As the conditional plan from the Prime Minister suggests; Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 students are set to return on June 1st, parents must make a judgement call on whether they feel it is safe enough for their child to go to school or to keep them at home and continue home-schooling. Home schooling has raised many questions, with one being a potential disparity between different socio-economic groups, both in terms of the level of home schooling that children are receiving from parents and also the resources schools are providing.
Regardless of income, more than half of all parents in a study conducted by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) admitted to struggling to support the education of their children at home. At this critical point in time where 52% of parents are worried about not having enough money to pay the bills, there should be no blame on parents that have struggled to supplement their child’s education. To maintain employment and work from home there is a need to keep children occupied during working hours and sitting them in front of a screen can be the most effective solution. Once the working day is over, parents can then feel that there is not enough time to feed, wash, educate and play all before bedtime calls.
However, whilst all parents are likely to be concerned, a child’s socio-economic background has been found to have an impact during this period of home schooling. The IFS study surveyed 4,000 families and found that the disparity in time spent on educational activities was higher amongst primary age students rather than older children. It highlighted that children from higher socio-economic groups will have studied for a longer time over the break– spending on average six hours a day learning, nearly two hours more than their peers from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
Without active help in the form of tutors and study groups the education gap may well have widened during this period. With 82% of children attending private secondary schools receiving this sort of active help provided by teachers compared to 64% of students in state secondary schools – this significantly drops to 47% when looking at the poorest families. This will no doubt impact the poorest, least motivated, and most at-risk children when they return to school having experienced varying levels of at home education and school interaction.
It should be noted that during the last 5 years, there has been a reduction in spend per pupil in both primary and secondary education which saw students per class increase. With schools getting themselves ready for post lockdown return the classroom will no doubt look very different with classes if anything reduced in size, but what long-term impact will the disparity in home-schooling have had on the classroom divide?
1. Peck, S., & Turner, C. (2020). When will schools reopen in the UK, and is it safe to send my child back? https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education-and-careers/2020/05/25/schools-when-reopening-primary-secondary-uk-june/
2. Giraffe Insights: Little Voices (April 2020)
3. Better-off children ‘study more than poorer pupils’. (2020). https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-52701850
4. Alison et al. (2020). Institute for Fiscal Studies. Learning during the lockdown: real-time data on children’s experiences during home learning. https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/14848
5. Britton, J., Farquharson C., Sibieta L. (2019). 2019 annual report on education spending in England. https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/14369