More than a third (36 per cent) of pupils at primary level eligible for free school meals and a quarter (26 per cent) at secondary level are spending just an hour or less on school work a day since schools closed, a new survey by the University of Sussex has revealed.
The study found a widespread home schooling "shortage" among both primary and secondary students, but with "worrying" differences between more and less advantaged students, especially at secondary level.
Exclusive: Covid-19 'widens achievement gap to a gulf'
Overall, more than one in four of all primary pupils and one in six secondary school pupils are spending less than an hour a day on home learning. But the problem is exacerbated for pupils whose parents are on low incomes or who did not receive a university education.
This raises further concerns that the pandemic is exacerbating education inequalities.
The study found that 36 per cent of primary school pupils who are eligible for free school meals spend one hour or less a day on home learning, compared to 25 per cent of pupils not eligible.
The difference is more pronounced in secondary schools: 25 per cent of pupils who are eligible for free school meals spend one hour or less a day on home learning, compared to just 13.5 per cent of pupils who are not eligible.
Dr Matthew Easterbrook, senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Sussex and the project’s lead researcher, said: “It is particularly worrying that there are marked differences in the time that children are spending on home learning depending on whether they are primary or secondary pupils, boys or girls, the children of graduates, and how financially comfortable their household is, and, in particular, whether or not they are eligible for free school meals.
“The disruption to pupils’ education caused by the school closures is dramatic and could have long-term negative consequences, with some pupils receiving lower grades and becoming less engaged with school. But the consequences are likely to be different for different pupils depending on their home environment and the support they receive from the school and their parents.”
Further results from the survey will be released in the coming weeks, covering areas such as parents’ and teachers views of home learning support, parents’ ability and confidence to home school, and how provisions for home learning vary by school.