July 15, 2021
How schools, parents and children coped with the biggest challenge in the history of modern education, is at the centre of a ground-breaking research project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, UK Research and Innovation, analysing the reactions of schools and families to the school closures in 2020 and 2021.
In an effort to control the spread of COVID-19, schools in almost all countries around the world were closed for extended periods of time. In the UK there were two periods of school closures, during which schools were expected to provide learning materials to their students, parents were expected to help their children with their schoolwork, and children were expected to complete schoolwork at home. It was widely predicted that school closures would exacerbate inequalities between children from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and new evidence is now emerging that this might indeed be the case. From a policy perspective what matters is not only to document these inequalities but also to identify the channels that contributed to widening the socio-economic gradient in children’s educational attainment. This report studies inequalities in learning inputs during the two periods of school closures in the UK by focusing on the inputs into children’s learning by schools, parents, and the children themselves. We consider how schools, parents and children responded to the switch to distance learning, how this differed by family background, and how parents and children engaged with the provision of learning materials and lessons by schools. We use data from the Understanding Society COVID-19 survey for around 3,500 children in April 2020, during the first period of school closures in the UK, and 1,900 children in January 2021, the second period of school closures.