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16 June 2020

Millions of state school children are missing out on lessons during lockdown

Students attending state schools, particularly those eligible for free school meals, are struggling with their studies due to fewer online and remote learning materials, two separate reports have found.  

By Samir Jeraj

Research by University College London has found that two million children have done little to no school work since the UK’s lockdown measures against the coronavirus pandemic started in March. A poll of headteachers reinforced these concerns, with a third to two fifths of students being found to be disengaged from their learning, according to the National Foundation for Educational Research.

Both reports raised concerns about the impact this will have on long-term educational inequality. Students from private schools, for example, were far more likely to have several online lessons a day, access to a computer, and offline homework, when compared to their counterparts in the state sector.

Asian students were also more likely to be assigned offline homework, but the reasons as to why that is the case has not been explained. Just under a third of private schools had four or more lessons a day, whereas seven in ten state school students had zero to one lesson a day.

The findings underline the gap in access to computers at home, and the knock-on effect this has on education. The UCL survey found that one in five children on free school meals did not have a computer at home, compared to just 3 per cent of private school children. Overall, children were doing two and a half hours of school work a day – half the previously reported amount.

There were also huge regional discrepancies in the findings. Across the UK, 20 per cent of students were being assigned four pieces of school work a day. But in the South East that rose to 28 per cent, while in the North East the figure was just 9 per cent.

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Schools are slowly reopening across the UK as lockdown measures ease, with 14 to 17-year-olds starting again this week. The government previously abandoned plans to reopen all primary schools. Around 7 per cent of students were attending school at the start of the month.