Over 21 million people — 11 million parents and 10 million children, or a third of the population — are being affected by schools shutdown across the UK, according to a new analysis of official government data. Up to two thirds of parents have received no contact from schools with advice about supervised learning, leaving them to fend for themselves.
While schools remain open, only 180,000 vulnerable children or those of key workers attended school on average each day following the Easter holidays (21 April – 1 May). The remaining 98 per cent of school children have been forced by the coronavirus outbreak to continue their education at home under the supervision of parents and carers.
The new data analysis by education campaign group Just Add Parents reveals that:
- 14.2 million parents with dependent children have been affected by the closure of schools and childcare services
- 11 million of those parents have school-age children between 5 and 18 years old
- 10.2 million children typically attend school, but an average of only 180,000 are currently attending — two per cent of the total
- During the lockdown, 98 per cent of school age children will be dependent on the support and motivation of parents to complete their schoolwork
Peter Sigrist, founder of campaign group Just Add Parents, comments: “Parents have always played a vital role in their child’s education but coronavirus has harshly revealed the gap between a school’s ability to communicate and parent’s ability to teach. Schools need help to move beyond information. They need to equip parents with knowledge, confidence and clarity to make sure their children don’t lose out on a whole year of education.”
A recent report from education charity the Sutton Trust (note 1) revealed half of schools (50 per cent secondary, 47 per cent primary) offer no general advice to parents about supporting learning and only one in three (36 per cent secondary, 34 per cent primary) had contacted parents to offer specific advice about supervised learning. This means parents have mostly been left to work it out for themselves. The Department for Education has published only five paragraphs of advice on “the expectations on schools regarding staying in touch with parents whose child is at home”. It contains no suggestions on how schools can help parents play the role of educators during the shutdown (note 2).
The coronavirus is affecting parents and children unevenly. The Sutton Trust research reveals most parents with a degree feel confident directing their child’s learning, compared to less than half of those parents who did not attend university. Only one third of children in state schools have joined online classes during the shutdown, while over half of children in private schools have taken part daily in live or recorded online lessons.
Sigrist continues: “While schools are doing their best to send information to parents and provide access to technology, from the examples we’ve seen, few appear to recognise the role that good communication plays in giving parents the support they need to build home-schooling into their already busy, stressed out schedule. All the evidence shows that clear, consistent and regular communication, whether by email, app or video, helps parents avoid becoming overwhelmed and losing confidence.”
Education researchers in Latvia concluded a major study of education during their coronavirus shutdown and found a strong connection between communication and confidence (note 3). The research team at Edurio found three quarters (76 per cent) of parents who received clear communication from their school also had confidence that their children would meet their learning goals. Where school communication was completely unclear, only nine per cent of parents were confident in their children’s learning success.
The same research found that while communication was the most important factor in delivering successful home-based education during the crisis, schools also need to focus on clarity over volume, with communications a few times a week almost as effective (91 per cent clear) as communication a few times a day (95 per cent clear).