Only a quarter of working-class children doing five hours of schoolwork a day in lockdown

Just a quarter of working class children are doing five hours of schoolwork a day during lockdown, a study by social mobility charity the Sutton Trust has found.

According to the research, only 59 per cent of youngsters from low-income households have access to a laptop or device for online learning compared to 87 per cent of those from wealthy families.

A YouGov poll of 877 parents, commissioned by the Sutton Trust, found that 26 per cent of youngsters from disadvantaged households are completing five hours of schoolwork a day compared to 40 per cent of their middle-class peers.

The research, published on Thursday, is the first indication of how much learning children are doing  during the latest lockdown. It reveals that during the past academic year parents were so concerned about their childrens’ lost learning that one in 10 turned to private tutors.

Middle-class parents were almost twice as likely to hire a tutor as working-class parents, the poll found, with 13 per cent of wealthier families doing so compared to seven per cent of the less well-off.

The research has led to calls for ministers to do more to address the lack of digital learning devices among disadvantaged children. The Government has promised to provide one million laptops and tablets to disadvantaged children and has so far delivered more than 800,000.  

"The immediate priority has to be to address the gap in digital provision between rich and poor," said Sir Peter Lampl, the founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust. "The Government has made good progress, but it needs to do more. There also has to be substantial additional funding for schools when they reopen, focused on students from low-income backgrounds who have fallen even further behind."

He said the first period of school closures during the spring lockdown had a huge impact on all young people, particularly those from lower-income backgrounds, adding: "The repercussions of these months of lost learning are devastating and will be felt for years to come. It’s imperative that we don’t let this happen again."

Overall, children have been doing more than double the amount of schoolwork at home during this period of school closures compared to last spring. The proportion of primary pupils doing more than five hours of learning a day rose from 11 per cent to 23 per cent, and for secondary students it increased from 19 per cent to 45 per cent.  

However, there are still vast differences in teachers’ expectations as well as the type of remote education on offer, depending on the school.

Fifty-five per cent of teachers at the least affluent state schools said they expect pupils to produce a lower standard of work that they usually would, compared to 41 per cent at the most affluent state schools and just under a third at private schools.  

A Teacher Tapp poll of more than 6,000 teachers found that 54 per cent are now using online live lessons compared to just four per cent in March. However, the gap between private and state schools has widened, with 86 per cent of teachers in private schools now using online live lessons compared to 50 per cent in state schools.

Dr Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said there is "no excuse" for the Government’s rollout of devices being "so slow and inefficient".

She added: "However, it’s clear that the existing divide in terms of food, laptops, home environment and job security is getting worse because of the virus, and the Government response needs to be radical and long term."  

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