Home learning during Covid-19: Findings from the Understanding Society Longitudinal Study

Eemer Eivers, Jack Worth and Anusha Ghosh

14 July 2020

This report is based on data from Understanding Society (USoc), a longitudinal study of a representative sample of 40,000 UK households, tracked since 2009 (University of Essex, 2019). In late April 2020, all adults in the USoc sample were invited to complete the first in a series of ad-hoc surveys about how the Covid-19 pandemic had affected them. The report is based on the responses of the parents of over 4,000 school-aged children, and it provides a unique snapshot of home learning activities at a specific point in time – after the first month of home schooling.

Key Findings

  • Almost all pupils received some remote learning tasks from their teachers. However, almost half of exam-year pupils in Years 11 and 13 were not provided with work by their school.
  • Just over half of all pupils taught remotely did not usually have any online lessons, defined as live or real-time lessons. Offline provision, such as worksheets or recorded video, was much more common than ‘live’ online lessons.
  • Secondary and post-secondary pupils were slightly more likely than primary pupils to have online lessons. However, across all three phases, pupils had access to fewer online than offline lessons.
  • Most pupils spent less than three hours per day on remote learning activities. Pupils from higher-income households, and whose parents had higher levels of education, spent the most time on school work at home, particularly at secondary level.
  • In contrast, parents from the lowest-income households spent the most amount of time supporting their child with school work. Parental education was largely unrelated to the amount of time parents spent helping with their child’s school work. Parents of primary school children spent more time providing support than parents of secondary school children.
  • At least five per cent of pupils live with an adult who is at very high risk (clinically extremely vulnerable) of serious illness related to Covid-19. A further 19 per cent live with an adult who is at high risk (clinically vulnerable).
  • Pupils from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background (defined as those with at least one BAME parent) and those whose households fall into the lowest income quartile are significantly more likely to live with an at-risk adult.