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Homeschooling a child

In light of recent announcements that many students may not go back to school before September (if then), the Children’s Commissioner’s Office has undertaken some preliminary research on the homeschooling provided to children during lockdown. Understanding which children are missing out and why will be crucial for targeting help over the summer, in September and in the coming years as we help those disadvantaged by the pandemic to catch up.

Our research is based on the first wave of Understanding Society’s Covid survey, conducted over 5 days at the end of April. It includes a module on homeschooling, asked of all children who would usually be attending school at this time. The sample consists of 4559 school-aged children. Children who are not yet in school or have left school are not included in this, and it is therefore not a representative sample of all children, just school-attending children. We have broken down our analysis by teenagers (13 and over) and young children (12 and under).

A chart showing the age range of children who participated

The overwhelming majority of children (96%) were not attending school at the time of the interview (around the end of April). For those who were attending, the most common reason was being a child of key workers. It was much more common for the children of key workers to attend school when those children were younger, likely due to the fact that older children can more safely be left at home alone.

Did the child attend school in person?12 & under13+
Yes (Vulnerable or requires specialist support)1.2%1.2%
Yes (Attends residential special school or boarding school)0.4%0.5%
Yes (Parents are key workers)3.6%0.5%

Sample: All children who would usually be attending school

While the fact of being home from school was almost universal, the experience of it differed dramatically from child to child. Of those who are not at school, the majority have been provided schoolwork. However, a large number of teenagers (roughly 1 in 5) have not been provided with any work.

Does school provide work for the child?12 & under13+

Sample: All children who would usually be attending school, but are not

For the children who have been provided with work, there are big differences in the level of work provided. The two figures below show the range in terms of online and offline lessons provided to children per day. In general, the teenagers who are receiving work are receiving more of it than young children, but there are many with a small number of offline lessons per day.

Number of offline lessons provided12 & under13+
Less than one a day9.6%12.8%
About 1 a day19.5%15.6%
About 2 a day20.3%18.4%
About 3 a day22.7%20.1%
About 4 or more a day21%23.6%

Sample: Children who are not attending school who have had work sent home

Online lessons are less common but there are nonetheless children receiving 4 or more per day.

Number of online lessons provided12 & under13+
Less than one a day11.7%15.8%
About 1 a day11.7%10.1%
About 2 a day7.8%8.1%
About 3 a day4.6%7.7%
About 4 or more a day6.2%8.5%

Sample: Children who are not attending school who have had work sent home

Once again, the inconsistency in remote school experience is seen in the proportion of children who are having their work marked by teachers. Some are getting nothing marked, some are getting everything marked and some have no work that is expected to be assessed (even though they have some work to do).

How much of the childs homework is marked12 & under13+
None of it22.3%8.1%
Less than half11.4%12.8%
Half or more15%21.1%
All of it33.7%43.3%
Not applicable, not required to return work17.6%14.6%

Sample: Children who are not attending school who have had work sent home

The most common amount of time to spend on schoolwork per day is 1 to 2 hours for young children and 2 to 3 hours for teenagers, a substantial reduction from the 5+ hours children would be spending at school per day. However the distribution of time is quite widely spread. At least 1 in 10 teenagers is spending more than 5 hours per day on school work while just under 1 in 10 is spending less than an hour a day.

Hours spent on schoolwork per day12 & under13+
less than an hour11.1%8.9%
1 to 2 hours27.8%19.7%
2 to 3 hours25.7%22.1%
3 to 4 hours19.8%20.4%
4 to 5 hours10%15.1%
5 or more hours4.9%11.4%
Does not apply0.7%2.4%

Sample: Children who are not attending school who have had work sent home

Of the children who are being given schoolwork, there are big variations in the amount of help they are receiving from parents. The majority of older children are receiving none or less than an hour of help per day. While this level of help is potentially higher than they might usually receive (due to parents being furloughed or working from home), it’s not clear that it would make up for lost in-person teacher support.

Hours spent helping with schoolwork per day12 & under13+
less than an hour23.6%43.1%
1 to 2 hours34%17.8%
2 to 3 hours21.4%6.2%
3 to 4 hours10.2%1%
4 to 5 hours6%0.8%
5 or more hours1.9%0.3%
Does not apply0.1%2.1%

Sample: Children who are not attending school who have had work sent home

Older children overwhelmingly need a computer or laptop for most or all of their work.

How much of the school work requires a computer?12 & under13+
None of it8.6%0.4%
Less than half22%4.1%
Half or more31.6%24.8%
All of it36%68.6%
Not applicable1.9%2%

Sample: Children who are not attending school who have had work sent home

This answer has potential to be an underestimate. In the interests of speed, the USoc questionnaire was rapidly rolled out online where they would usually supplement with follow-up paper and telephone interviews. Nonetheless, there are still a meaningful number of children without a computer and a high number with only a shared device.

Does the child have a computer12 & under13+
Yes, childs own36.6%60.9%
Yes, shared58.8%36%

Sample: Children who are not attending school who have had work sent home

Most children have made use of some additional resources for education but only a small number have accessed paid tutoring/resources.

Does the child use additional resources including tutoring12 & under13+
Yes, we use freely available resources62.6%45%
Yes, we pay for additional resources8.8%5.9%

Sample: Children who would usually be attending school (including those currently attending)

A minority of children are eligible for free school meals (FSM). It is more common among younger children.

Did the child receive FSM in January or February12 & under13+

Sample: Children who would usually be attending school (including those currently attending)

Of the children who received free school meals in January or February, many were still not receiving food or vouchers in April.

Are you now receiving vouchers or meals provided by the school12 & under13+
School is providing free meals9.2%5.3%
Receiving vouchers31.5%75.5%

Sample: Children who received a free school meal in January or February

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