Learning in Lockdown - Sutton Trust

RESEARCH BRIEF               JANUARY 2021

                          Learning in Lockdown
Rebecca Montacute and Carl Cullinane

 KEY FINDINGS                                                 to 23%, and for secondary students it has increased
                                                              from 19% to 45%.
 Attendance at school
                                                              • However, 40% of children in middle class homes are
 • In the first week of the January 2021 lockdown, more
                                                              reported to be doing over 5 hours a day, compared to
 than a quarter (27%) of primary school age children
                                                              26% of those in working class households.
 were reported to be at least partially attending school in
 person, compared to just 8% of secondary age children.       Support for home learning
 • Of those children attending school in person, less         • 41% of parents with children learning at home report
 than half (47%) of them had been attending school            that they have not very much time or no time at all to
 during the first lockdown last March. Almost half of         help their children with online learning, with parents of
 parents cited work-related reasons for this, including       secondary age children having less time.
 their status as a key/critical worker (26%), a change in     • Parents were split in their experience of learning from
 working status (14%), or a less flexible employer (8%).      the home this time around. Many reported that they
 • As a result, 37% of teachers in primary schools report     found it easier than the spring 2020 lockdown, with
 they now have 1 in 5 or more of their usual pupils in        others reporting that they were finding it more difficult.
 attendance, compared to just 1% last March.                  28% of those on low incomes were finding it more
                                                              difficult, compared to 15% of those on the highest
 • At the beginning of the shutdown, just 5% of teach-
                                                              • 31% of those with the lowest incomes had not been
 ers in state schools reported that all their students have
                                                              able to spend anything on their child’s learning from
 access to an appropriate device for remote learning,
                                                              home since September 2020, while 29% of those on
 compared to 54% at private schools. Looking at pupils
                                                              the highest incomes had spent more than £100.
 with adequate internet access, the figures are 5% and
 51% respectively .                                           • 10% of parents reported paying for private tutoring in
                                                              the current school year, a mix of online and in person.
 • 19% of parents overall report their children do not
                                                              Middle class households were almost twice as likely to
 have access to a sufficient number of devices suitable
                                                              have done so compared to working class parents (13%
 for their online learning, however this is 35% for house-
                                                              v 7%).
 holds with the lowest incomes, and 11% in households
 with the highest.                                            The attainment gap
 • Two thirds (66%) of senior leaders in state schools        • The impact of the pandemic on learning continues
 reported needing to source IT equipment for disadvan-        to be unevenly felt, with over half (55%) of teachers at
 taged pupils themselves while waiting for government         the least affluent state schools reporting a lower than
 support.                                                     normal standard of work returned by pupils since the
                                                              shutdown, compared to 41% at the most affluent state
 Remote learning
                                                              schools and 30% at private schools.
 • School provision for online learning has changed
                                                              • Most teachers (84%) thought the COVID-19 lockdown
 radically since the beginning of the first lockdown.
                                                              and associated disruption would increase the attain-
 Over half (54%) of teachers are now using online live
                                                              ment gap, with a third (33%) saying it would increase
 lessons, compared to just 4% in March 2020. The use
                                                              substantially. This is up from 28% in November.
 of offline methods to provide work has fallen, with just
 15% now using physical workbooks, compared to 34%            • Teachers in the least advantaged schools were much
 in March.                                                    more likely to say there would be a substantial increase
                                                              in the gap. About half (49%) said so, compared to just
 • However, disparities remain. 86% of private schools
                                                              25% in the most affluent and 8% in private secondary
 are using online live lessons, compared to 50% in
 state schools, a gap which has widened since the first
 lockdown.                                                    • A majority of teachers (52%) cited a faster rollout of
                                                              laptops as the single most helpful intervention to help
 • Parents also confirm a clear increase in intensity of
                                                              disadvantaged pupils during the period of closure, with
 online learning. The proportion of primary pupils doing
                                                              20% of headteachers citing online tutoring.
 more than 5 hours of learning a day has risen from 11%

INTRODUCTION                                  the winter.4                                          ‘bubbles’ and whole year groups
                                                                                                    needing to self-isolate, for weeks
For the second time in less than a
                                              During the first lockdown, research                   at a time. Furthermore, once again
year, the COVID-19 pandemic has
                                              from the Sutton Trust found that                      the impact was felt unequally: some
forced schools to again close for
                                              children’s experiences of remote                      of the poorest areas in the country
most children. Since the beginning
                                              learning differed varied substantially                were also the most heavily impacted
of the crisis, pupils, school staff and
                                              across different socio-economic                       by absences and partial closures,
parents have faced unprecedented
                                              backgrounds. Teachers in schools                      with all 10 local authorities with the
challenges, from school closures, to
                                              with the most deprived intakes                        highest number of lost learning days
cancelled exams, a disrupted autumn
                                              were much more likely to report                       since September having an above
term, and now back full circle to
                                              substantial numbers of their pupils                   average proportion of FSM eligible
another full national lockdown,
                                              lacked access to appropriate devices                  pupils.8 For many children, this will
with most children now once again
                                              and internet access for remote                        have further worsened gaps in their
learning remotely. At every stage,
                                              learning. Technological barriers, as                  learning from the first lockdown.
the education and life chances of
                                              well as significant differences in the
the poorest young people have been
                                              amount of support pupils received                     Now, as the country enters a second
hardest hit, with a risk that years of
                                              for learning at home, resulted in a                   round of school closures, this
work to reduce the attainment gap
                                              highly unequal experience of learning                 pattern looks set to continue, with
and tackle social mobility could be
                                              during this time. Research from                       all young people suffering further
undone in just a few months.
                                              London Economics also showed                          from disruption, but some suffering
                                              that lost learning could lead to long                 much greater than others. While
The conditions children experience,
                                              term impacts on young people’s                        the government made efforts in the
and resources they have available
                                              career and future earnings.5 The                      spring and summer of 2020 to get
when learning at home differ
                                              Education Endowment Foundation                        devices and internet access to young
considerably. Before the pandemic,
                                              have also warned that this could                      people, this roll-out stalled during
Ofcom estimated that up to 1.78
                                              reverse progress made in narrowing                    the autumn, with polling carried out
million children in the UK had no
                                              the attainment gap on the last                        for Teach First in November finding
home access to a laptop, desktop or
                                              decade,6 an outcome which would                       that 84% of schools with the poorest
tablet,1 figures which do not even
                                              be disastrous for the prospects of so                 children still did not have enough
take into account the many thousands
                                              many pupils across the country.                       devices or internet access for all self-
more who would have to share limited
                                                                                                    isolating pupils to continue learning.9
devices with siblings and parents.
                                              Thankfully, schools were able to
As well as issues with devices, up to
                                              re-open during the autumn term,                       Nonetheless, schools are much better
559,000 children lived in households
                                              with catch-up funding announced                       prepared this time around, with
with no access to the internet, and
                                              by government. This included                          most teachers now familiar with the
up to 913,000 only able to access
                                              funding for the National Tutoring                     software and skills needed to teach
the internet through a mobile
                                              Programme, a scheme designed to                       pupils remotely. Expectations are
network.2 1.6 million children in the
                                              help disadvantaged students whose                     also higher, with the government now
UK also live in overcrowded homes,3
                                              education had been most affected                      legally requiring schools to provide
where they are likely to struggle to
                                              by school closures, reaching 62,000                   between 3 and 5 hours of remote
find space to work, and additional
                                              pupils in its first term of operation.7               education a day.10 However, even with
concerns have now been raised that
                                              However, even with schools mostly                     the best efforts of staff, many schools
some low-income households may
                                              open, there was still considerable                    may struggle to deliver this level of
struggle to pay for heating when
                                              disruption , with many pupils,                        provision, given ongoing technological
children are learning at home during
                                                                                                             barriers for some students,
                                                                                                             along with initial reports of
Figure 1: Proportion of normal student body attending school during lockdown 2021 and 2020

            Over 40%                                                                  Over 40%
        About 30-40%                                                             About 30-40%
        About 20-30%                                                             About 20-30%
        About 15-20%                                                             About 15-20%
        About 10-15%                                                             About 10-15%
         About 5-10%                                                               About 5-10%
Less than 5% of normal                                                  Less than 5% of normal
 None - entirely closed                                                    None - entirely closed
                          0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80%                                        0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80%

                 Primary - 2020     Primary - 2021                                      Secondary - 2020        Secondary - 2021

                                                     Source: Teacher Tapp survey of teachers in England, March 23rd 2020 and January 6th 2021

school resources stretched by many          less than 5%. However this is still                social differences, with secondary
more pupils attending in person than        an increase from last year, when the               pupils in some local authorities
in the first lockdown.11                    figure was 88%.                                    losing up to 13 days of school across
                                                                                               term. On average, areas with greater
This research brief looks at the            For parents whose child is now                     deprivation were more likely to have
situation for pupils during the latest      attending school in person but hadn’t              suffered greater Covid absences,
round of school closures, with survey       last spring, there were a variety                  further exacerbating gaps that opened
data from Teacher Tapp on teachers12        of explanations. Almost half cited                 up during the first lockdown.
and YouGov on parents13 giving an           work-related reasons, including their
up to date picture on how teaching is       status as a key/critical worker (26%),             School-level survey data from Teacher
now being delivered remotely, access        a change in working status (14%), or               Tapp reinforces this picture (Figure
to resources, and barriers faced while      a less flexible employer (8%). 13%                 2). Looking at Year 11s in secondary
learning at home, while also looking        cited that they had been struggling to             school due to take their GCSEs this
at how the impacts of the pandemic          combine support for home learning                  year, by mid-November, 29% of
on education and social mobility can        with other responsibilities. While                 teachers reported at least one whole
be minimised.                               the guidance in both lockdowns was                 year group closure for this year, 18%
                                            that if one parent was a key worker                had to close a class or bubble, and
ATTENDANCE IN SCHOOLS                       their child could attend school, many              13% had individual Year 11 students
                                            such families did not avail of this,               isolating. Just 36% had been fully
While schools have once again been
                                            and kept their children home during                open to this group all term. This is
closed for most children, there remain
                                            the first lockdown. In response to the             also likely to have worsened at the
exceptions for vulnerable children
                                            significant numbers attending school               end of term, with analysis from the
and the children of key workers. The
                                            this term, the government has advised              Education Policy Institute finding
definition of vulnerable children has
                                            that pupils with one non-key worker                a big drop in attendance in the last
also been expanded since the first
                                            parent should stay at home ‘if at all              week.16
school closures, now including pupils
                                            possible’.14 But this may be difficult
without adequate equipment or study
                                            for many, with more workplaces                     Year 11 students in state schools
space to learn at home.
                                            open this time around, putting more                suffered much more disruption up
                                            pressure on parents than last spring.              to November than those in private
At the beginning of this lockdown,
                                                                                               schools. While just over half (51%)
11% of parents reported their child
                                            This term’s closures are coming on                 of private school teachers report
was attending school full time, with a
                                            the back of an autumn term when                    being fully open to Year 11 during
further 8% attending school for some
                                            schools were open, but disruption                  the autumn term, this was just
of the week. This has however been
                                            and periods of remote learning were                33% for state schools, and 28% for
much higher in primary schools, with
                                            nonetheless common. Research                       schools with the highest levels of
more than a quarter (27%) of primary
                                            by the Children’s Commissioner in                  deprivation. 50% of state schools
school age children reported to be at
                                            December showed that on average,                   had a whole year or bubble closure
least partially attending, compared
                                            primary school children lost 3.5                   in Year 11, (57% at the most
to just 8% of secondary age children.
                                            days of school in the first term due               disadvantaged schools), compared
20% of children in middle class
                                            to the pandemic, and secondary                     to just 33% of private schools. This
households were reportedly attending
                                            school children lost more than 6.3                 will have significant consequences
school, compared to 16% of those in
                                            days.15 However behind the overall                 for assessment in 2021, as discussed
working class homes.
                                            figures are huge geographic and                    below.
This is significantly different
                                     Figure 2: Attendance of Year 11 students during autumn term 2020, by school type
from spring 2020. Of those
children currently attending                                                                                      31%
                                         We’ve had at least one whole Year 11 closure
school in person, less than                                                                               20%
half (47%) of them had been
attending school during the first
lockdown. This is reflected in the   We’ve had at least one closure to a Y11 class or                     19%
figures reported by schools. 37%                      social bubble                                 13%
of teachers in primary schools
report they now have 1 in 5 or
more of their usual school body           We’ve had individual Y11 students isolating
in attendance, compared to just
1% with that level of attendance
last March (Figure 1). 56%
of primaries had 5% or lower                  We’ve been open to Y11 so far this year
attendance in March, compared
to just 11% in January 2021.
                                                                                        0%    10%    20%        30%    40%   50%    60%
Attendance at secondary school
is lower on average, with 60%                                                  State-funded     Private
of teachers reporting attendance
                                                                   Source: Teacher Tapp survey of teachers in England, 18th November 2020

DIGITAL DIVIDE                                 The scale of the problem can perhaps                in state schools report that all their
                                               be seen in more detail by teachers,                 students have a device, this is 54%
Nonetheless, with the new lockdown
                                               who are on the frontline of this                    at private schools. This gap has
at the beginning of January, the vast
                                               digital divide. Just 10% of teachers                actually widened since the 2020
majority (85%) of parents report
                                               overall report that all their students              lockdown, with full access at private
that their child is learning at home
                                               have adequate access to a device                    schools increasing by 12 percentage
some or all of the time. This poses
                                               for remote learning (Figure 3), while               points, outpacing the 1 percentage
significant challenges for teaching
                                               17% report that more than 1 in 5                    point growth at state schools. At
and learning, but the most basic one
                                               of their students lack access. This                 the other end of the spectrum, the
is access to the equipment required
                                               problem is much steeper in schools                  number in the state system reporting
for online learning: a laptop or tablet,
                                               in more disadvantaged areas, with                   more than 1 in 5 lack a device has,
and a reliable internet connection
                                               32% of teachers in the most deprived                perhaps surprisingly, risen from 13%
with an adequate data allowance.
                                               schools report more than 1 in 5                     to 18%.
                                               lacking devices, compared to just 5%
77% of parents overall report having
                                               at the most affluent state schools and    While the government has embarked
a sufficient number of internet-
                                               even lower, 3%, at private schools        on a major programme of laptop
enabled devices suitable for online
                                               (Figure 4). The picture in the state      distribution during this time,
learning, with 17% reporting that
                                               and private sector is drastically         expectations of the degree of remote
they have some, but not enough for
                                               different. While just 5% of teachers      learning have risen in the current
all their children, and 2% reporting
no such devices. Estimating
the number of families without     Figure 3. Proportion of a teacher’s class who lack access to an internet enabled device for
any equipment or internet          learning, 2020 and 2021 lockdowns
connections is difficult, as
they are a group who are,                                          More than 33%              7%
by definition, hard to reach.
Nonetheless, our survey                                         21 - 33% (1 in 3)           6%
of parents indicates the
issues felt by some families,                                   11 - 20% (1 in 5)                  10%
even though it is likely to
underestimate the full scale of                                 5 - 10% (1 in 10)                              18%
the issue.
Unsurprisingly, there were big                                   2 - 5% (1 in 20)                                       24%
differences by affluence: 35%
of households in the lowest                                      1 - 2% (1 in 50)                                       24%
income quintile reported not
having sufficient devices in       0% - All our students have adequate access to a            7%
                                                        device                                     10%
their house, compared to 11%
of those on in the highest                                                         0%   5%     10%     15%     20%    25%      30%
quintile of income.
                                                       Beginning of March 2020 lockdown                Beginning of Jan 2021 lockdown

                                                     Source: Teacher Tapp survey of teachers in England, March 25th 2020 and January 9th 2021

Figure 4. Proportion of a teacher’s class who lack a device for learning Jan 2021, by deprivation level of school

         70%                                                           66%

                      40%                                                                                             39%
         40%                                                                                                                 36%
                                                                           18%                                                 17%
                                          8%                                                             10%
         10%                                                      3%             4%
                            2% 2%                       3%                                  2%                      2%
                         Private           Q1 (affluent)                   Q2                     Q3                 Q4 (deprived)

                    0% - All our students have adequate access to a device          1-10%         11-33%         More than 33%

                                                                             Source: Teacher Tapp survey of teachers in England, January 7th 2021

lockdown (explored in the next                            lack internet, compared to 3% in the                          schools reported needing to source
section), and schools are likely to                       most affluent state schools, and just                         IT equipment for disadvantaged
have better information on home                           1% at private schools.                                        pupils themselves while waiting for
circumstances. This may mean that,                                                                                      government support, with the figure
despite the increased number of                           Despite the government distribution                           rising to 72% at secondary schools.
devices available to pupils, this is still                schemes, at the beginning of the
not adequate, when they are expected                      January lockdown, 47% of state                                LEARNING AT HOME
to complete 3-5 hours of online                           school senior leaders report their
                                                                                                                        When the Trust looked at remote
learning each day. For example,                           school has only been able to supply
                                                                                                                        learning in March 2020, schools had
sharing a device with a sibling or                        half of their pupils or fewer with the
                                                                                                                        just been plunged into a very new and
parent may no longer be sufficient.                       laptops they have needed. This is
                                                                                                                        challenging situation, with generally
Nonetheless, this data shows                              56% at the most deprived schools,
                                                                                                                        only the most well-resourced schools
how steep the challenge remains,                          and 39% at the most affluent. Two
                                                                                                                        capable of pivoting quickly to
particularly for the most deprived                        thirds (66%) of senior leaders in state
                                            Figure 5. How teachers were providing work for their classes, 2020 and 2021 lockdowns
Access to the internet itself
poses a similar challenge,                                                                                                                                         64%
                                            Via an online learning platform to set/collect work
with government also                                                                                                                                                     71%
providing internet dongles                                                                                 4%
                                                                Online video 'live' conferencing
to some students over the                                                                                                                                54%
last year, and more recently
                                                                     Online video clips to watch                         19%
working with mobile                                                                                                                          41%
phone companies to give
disadvantaged students free                                                      Online chatting                               26%
increases to their mobile
data allowance.17                                         Via instructions posted on a website                        16%

However, just 5% of state                                       Physical workbooks/worksheets                                        32%
school teachers reported
all of their students have                                     Emails sent to the class/parents                             20%
access to the internet,
compared to 51% in the                                                                                    2%
                                                                                             Other         3%
private sector. Again, this
gap has actually grown                                                                                     2%
                                                                     No work has been provided
since March 2020, when                                                                                    0%
the figures were 6% and
                                                                                                     0%     10%      20%       30%      40%      50%       60%      70%      80%
38% respectively.
21% of those in the most                                                                March 20 lockdown            Jan 21 lockdown
deprived schools report
more than 1 in 5 pupils                                        Source: Teacher Tapp survey of teachers in England, March 23rd 2020 and January 11th 2021

Figure 6. Activities undertaken by secondary school teachers during their work day, by level of deprivation in school





          Hosted an online     Hosted an online       Emailed           Hosted an online     Recorded and posted Phone/video call with Phone/video call with Taught in person at
           streamed lesson     streamed lesson      pupils/parents   'lesson' with real-time    a video online       student(s)             parent(s)              school
        (students can speak)   (students cannot                          chat/messaging

                                                        Private Secondary   Q1 (affluent)    Q2      Q3     Q4 (deprived)

                                                                                      5        Source: Teacher Tapp survey of teachers in England, 12th January 2021
Zoom lessons and intensive online                        school in March), the gap in the use                 perhaps reflecting a greater need
      learning. With the experience of the                     of online ‘live’ video conferencing has              for disciplinary measures or welfare
      first lockdown, plus an autumn term                      actually widened since March, with                   concerns. While evidence is limited
      where many pupils spent periods                          86% of private schools now using                     on the effectiveness of live online
      learning from home, the picture in                       this method, compared to 50% of                      lessons (synchronous learning), in
      terms of provision of home learning                      state schools, a gap of 36 percentage                comparison to recorded lessons
      has changed substantially, with a                        points. In March, these figures were                 (asynchronous learning) or other
      much greater use of online platforms                     28% for private schools and 2%                       online techniques,19 in many cases
      and a move towards greater live                          for state schools. While provision                   where schools are not delivering live
      online interaction with pupils. While                    in the state sector has changed                      lessons it is likely this is because they
      live lessons do not automatically                        substantially, it has been outpaced                  have encountered barriers, including
      equate to more effective teaching,18                     by the private sector, a perennial                   resources, and their pupils’ access
      it is telling that schools with fewer                    challenge for educational equity.                    to appropriate technology. As in a
      limitations on their resources have                      Differences in provision also remain                 normal school environment however,
      increased their use of these methods.                    between different state schools, with                effectiveness is most often down to
                                                               the most affluent secondary schools                  the quality of the teaching rather than
      While just 4% of teachers were using                     also more likely to be using live video              the medium or method used.
      online video conferencing in the first                   conferencing (74% vs 65% in the
      weeks of March’s lockdown, allowing                      most deprived).                                      These changes are reflected in the
      them to both speak to and sometimes                                                                           data from parents, who report that
      see students, this is now much                           These changes in learning delivery                   17% of primary pupils and 47% of
      higher, at 54% (Figure 5). Similarly,                    have also changed the activities                     secondary pupils are taking part in
      only 4% of teachers were using                           teachers have been completing during                 at least 3 hours of live or recorded
      online chat in March, which has now                      their working day. 91% of teachers in                lessons each day. While two thirds
      increased to 26%. The use of other                       private secondary schools had hosted                 of children in the first weeks of last
      online methods has also risen, with                      an online streamed lesson, compared                  spring’s lockdown were receiving no
      41% now using online video clips for                     to 79% in the most affluent state                    live or recorded lessons, now just
      students to watch, compared to only                      secondaries and 68% in the least                     10% of children are reported to
      19% in March. Conversely, the use                        affluent (Figure 6). Almost all such                 receive no such learning.
      of offline methods to provide work                       sessions were interactive (allowed
      has fallen, with just 15% now using                      students to speak) at private schools,               As well as changes in method, there
      physical workbooks, compared to                          with non-interactive lessons more                    has also been an increase in the
      34% in March.                                            common at state schools, as well as                  intensity of online learning from
                                                               lessons conducted through real-time                  the beginning of the first lockdown.
      Since March, some gaps in types of                       chat/messaging.                                      Parents report that the volume of
      provision being used between the                                                                              work completed by children has
      state and private sector have reduced,                   Teachers in private schools were more                increased substantially, with the
      while others have widened. While                         likely to speak on the phone or video                proportion of primary pupils doing
      there is now no difference between                       call directly to students. Teachers in               more than 5 hours a day of learning
      state and private schools in the use                     the least advantaged schools were                    rising from 11% to 23%, and for
      of online learning platforms to set                      more likely to have phoned parents                   secondary students from 19% to 45%
      and collect work (71% and 70%                            (28% in the most deprived schools                    (Figure 7).
      respectively, compared to 63% in                         vs just 16% in the most affluent,
      state schools and 77% in private                         and 12% in private secondaries),

      Figure 7. Hours spent learning per day by children, 2020 and 2021 lockdowns

50%                                                                                         50%
45%                                                                                         45%

40%                                                                                         40%

35%                                                                                         35%

30%                                                       27%27%                            30%                                                                 28%
                                              23%                   24%           23%                                                                24%
25%                                                                                         25%
20%                                                                                         20%                                                                    17%
                                                                                                                                         15%            16%
15%                                                                                         15%
                                                 11%                           11%
                                9%                                                                                                          9%
10%                                                                                         10%
                   4% 4%                                                                                                    5%
                                     3%                                                           4%
5%                                                                                          5%                2%                 2%
         1% 1%                                                                                         1%          1%
0%                                                                                          0%
         None    Less than 1    1 hour        2 hours     3 hours   4 hours   5 hours or          None      Less than 1     1 hour       2 hours     3 hours    4 hours   5 hours or
                    hour                                                        more                           hour                                                         more

                               Primary 2020         Primary 2021                                                        Secondary 2020         Secondary 2021

                                 Source: YouGov survey of parents, January 13th-14th 2021, Sutton Trust/Public First survey of parents, April 1st-3rd 2020

Socioeconomic gaps remain however,            private school teachers reporting a               their children’s remote education has
with 40% of children in middle class          lack of parental support for learning             been difficult, with many trying to
homes doing over 5 hours a day,               (65% vs 25% in private schools)                   do so alongside doing their own job
compared to 26% of those in working           and access to suitable technology                 remotely and other responsibilities.
class households. There were also             (44% vs 14%). Teachers in the most                Perhaps unsurprisingly, 41% of
differences between the state and             deprived state schools were much                  parents with children learning at
private sector (Figure 8). While 76%          more likely to cite a lack of suitable            home report that they have not had
of teachers in state secondary schools        technology (55% in the least affluent             very much time or no time at all
said their average Year 8 students            secondaries, vs 37% in the most                   to help their children with online
were spending 3 or more hours a               well off and just 10% in private                  learning. Only 19% of parents report
day learning, this is 90% in private          secondaries) and were more likely to              that they have a lot of time to support
schools. Teachers in private schools          say there was a lack of engagement                their children with online learning,
were also twice as likely to say their        from parents (57% vs 47%).                        with 34% saying they have a ‘fair’
average student was studying for                                                                amount of time. Parents of secondary
more than 5 hours a day (64%)                 For many parents, trying to support               age children are more likely to say
compared to the state sector (30%).
                                               Figure 8. Hours spent learning per day by pupils, state and private
To be able to learn successfully at                                              1%
                                              More than 6 hours per day
home, children need not just the                                                      7%
resources to take part in online
provision, but also the skills and                                                                      30%
motivation necessary to work                        5 or 6 hours per day
remotely, as well as help and support
from their parents.
As figure 9 shows, the most common                                                                                   46%
                                                    3 or 4 hours per day
reasons given by teachers for their                                                                  25%
pupils not engaging in online learning
were limited or no parental support                                                           17%
(60%), a general, long-standing poor                1 or 2 hours per day
attitude to school work (56%), lack
of independent study skills (46%),
and a lack of access to suitable                                               1%
                                                         Less than 1 hour
technology (42%).                                                             0%
Several of these issues are faced
more commonly in schools with                                               0%        10%   20%      30%       40%   50%     60%      70%
less affluent intakes. There were
                                                                                  State-funded       Private
significant gaps between state and
                                                                      Source: Teacher Tapp survey of teachers in England, 12th January 2021

Figure 9. Reasons for not engaging with online learning (secondary school teachers), by deprivation level of school










         Limited/no    General, long-    Lack of    Lack of access Some form of Age/maturity   Mixed    Another reason      Not relevant -
          parental     standing poor independent      to suitable SEND making of students messages from                      all students
         support for     attitude to  study skills,   technology accessibility of              central                      are engaging
          learning     school work in   e.g. self-                 work an issue             government                      with online
                           general     discipline,                                                                             learning

                                     Private Secondary     Q1 (affluent)    Q2        Q3    Q4 (deprived)

                                                                  Source: Teacher Tapp survey of school teachers in England, 13th January 2021
they have not very much or no time           Figure 10. Whether parents were finding the 2021 school shutdown easier or
at all to support with learning (61%)        more difficult than 2020, by household income
compared to primary age (23%).
During this round of school closures,          90%
while parents have more experience                       33%              34%
of home learning, which could help                                                      43%             42%
with their confidence in supporting            70%
their child, they have also had to             60%
go through a longer period of trying           50%
                                                         30%              32%
to juggle different priorities, with           40%                                      28%             25%
perhaps less leniency from their               30%                                                                     29%
employers. Parents may also feel
increased pressure to help their                         28%              27%           23%             25%
children, given the longer periods of                                                                                  15%
schooling pupils have now missed,               0%
                                                       Q1 (lowest          Q2            Q3             Q4         Q5 (highest
making doing so adequately feel more
                                                        income)                                                     income)
                                                                    More difficult   About the same     Easier
Parents were split on their experience
                                                                           Source: YouGov survey of parents, January 13th-14th 2021
of learning from the home in this
current lockdown. 39% reported
that they found it easier than the       Private tutoring is another way that
                                         those with financial means can boost         There are still however large
spring 2020 lockdown, with 24%
                                         the educational prospects of their           differences between state and private
reporting that they were finding it
                                         children. 10% of parents reported            schools. While 24% of teachers in
more difficult. While 28% of those
                                         paying for private tutoring in the           private schools said all their students
on low incomes were finding it more
                                         current school year, a mix of online         have returned work set, this is just
difficult, this compared to just 15%
                                         and in person tutoring. This is at a         4% in state schools. This is a larger
of those on the highest incomes,
                                         comparable level to a similar survey         gap than in March, when 11% of
indicative of the differing challenges
                                         in 2018.22 Middle class households           teachers in private schools reported
felt by different households (Figure
                                         were almost twice as likely to have          this, compared to just 2% in state
                                         done so compared to working class            schools. Teachers in the most
                                         parents (13% v 7%).                          deprived schools also continue to
Many parents have used their
                                                                                      be much less likely to say they’re
financial resources to support their
                                         As well as tuition provided privately        receiving most work back from their
children during the pandemic, with
                                         and paid for by parents, some                classes (Figure 11). While in the
extra costs often incurred by learning
                                         children from disadvantaged                  most advantaged state schools, 51%
at home, including equipment and
                                         backgrounds will have received               said they were getting at least three
other learning materials. 26% of
                                         tutoring during the crisis through           quarters of work back, this was just
parents reported having spent over
                                         their school. Since autumn 2020,             20% in the most deprived schools.
£100 on their child’s learning from
                                         the National Tutoring Programme has
home since September 2020, with
                                         been set up to provide small group           Unequal experiences of remote
15% reporting having spent more
                                         tutoring to pupils who otherwise             learning also continue to have
than £200. There are significant
                                         could not afford it with schools able        impacts on the quality of work being
gaps between the top and bottom of
                                         to access highly subsidised, high            produced by young people. Overall,
the income spectrum, with 31% of
                                         quality tuition from an approved list        while 42% of secondary teachers
those with the lowest incomes had
                                         of providers. The programme has so           say that work so far this term is of a
not been able to spend anything,
                                         far supported 62,000 children in the         similar standard to what they would
while 29% of those on the highest
                                         first term of delivery.23                    expect from their students, 33% say
incomes had spent more than £100,
                                                                                      it’s of a slightly lower standard and
and 19% spending more than £200.
Parents of secondary school children     IMPACT, ASSESSMENT AND                       12% say it’s much lower. Just 7%
                                                                                      say work is of a higher standard than
were more likely to have spent more.     THE ATTAINMENT GAP
                                                                                      normal, as one might expect. This is
These increased costs are occurring      Students are also much more likely           a very similar picture compared to
in a context of increased economic       to be returning work set during this         last April, though could reflect higher
inequalities due to the pandemic,20      round of school closures than in             expectations on the part of teachers
with those in some occupations able      March last year. While last March,           this time around.
to continue their job from home          only 21% of secondary teachers said
with minimal disruption, often           over three quarters had returned work,       Socio-economic gaps persist however,
increasing their savings due to lower    this is now 40%. Similarly, last March       with 64% of teachers in private
expenditures, while others in more       almost a quarter (26%) of teachers           schools reporting work to be of a
precarious jobs have suffered from       said they were having less than a            similar or higher standard, compared
lower incomes and unemployment.21        quarter or no work returned, a figure        to 56% at the most affluent state
                                         which has now reduced to just 9%.            schools, and 37% at the least
Figure 11. How many students have returned the work that was expected to be submitted back to you, secondary school teachers,
by level of deprivation in school







         None have returned   Less than a quarter   Between a quarter and         Between half and          Over three-quarters   They have all returned
               work           have returned work     half the class have         three-quarters have        have returned work       the work to me
                                                        returned work               returned work

                                             Private    Q1 (affluent)       Q2      Q3      Q4 (deprived)

                                                                   Source: Teacher Tapp survey of school teachers in England, 14th January 2021

affluent (Figure 12). Over half        Figure 12. Whether work received was at a higher or lower standard compared to what a teacher
(55%) of teachers at the least         would normally expect from their class, secondary teachers, by level of deprivation in school
affluent state schools report
a lower standard of work than               70%           64%
normal, compared to 30% at
private schools.                            60%                                  56%                                                        55%
                                                                                                    49%                    49%
With what they have seen since              50%
the beginning of the pandemic,
most teachers (84%) thought                 40%                                                     44%
the COVID-19 lockdown and                                                        41%
associated disruption would                                                                                                                 37%
increase the attainment gap                               30%
between pupils in their school,             20%
with one third (33%) saying it
would increase the attainment gap           10%
substantially, a further third saying
it would increase modestly (34%),            0%
and 18% saying there would be a                          Private        Q1 (affluent)                  Q2                  Q3          Q4 (deprived)
small increase. This has increased                                                     Similar or higher           Lower
since November, when 28% felt it
would increase the attainment gap
                                                                   Source: Teacher Tapp survey of school teachers in England, 14th January 2021
As Figure 13 shows, teachers in the
most deprived schools were much               cited more laptops and tablets as                         been leading a project to secure
more likely to think there would be a         the most urgent measure needed,                           the exclusion of online learning
substantial increase in the attainment        underlining the importance of the                         from mobile data allowances, which
gap in their school (49% in the least         government scheme, as well as the                         could potentially have a significant
advantaged secondaries vs just 25%            various charity donation schemes set                      impact on those currently reliant
in the most affluent state secondary          up by the BBC and others, including                       on mobile internet for learning.25
schools and 8% in private secondary           XTX Markets who have donated                              12% of teachers cited targeting
schools, with a similar pattern also          laptops to participants in Sutton Trust                   online tutoring to help those most in
seen in primary schools).                     programmes.24 24% cited measures                          need, with headteachers particularly
In the short term, teachers were              related to internet access, including                     supportive (20%). Since the closures,
asked what would help most over the           the distribution of internet dongles                      the National Tutoring Programme has
next 6-8 weeks to help disadvantaged          with free mobile access, and the                          moved much of its provision online
or vulnerable pupils and prevent              ‘zero rating’ of educational websites                     where possible,26 but this is unlikely
attainment gaps opening wider                 by telecommunications companies.                          to address the full scale of need.
(Figure 14). The majority of teachers         The Oak National Academy has

Figure 13. What impact will the COVID-19 lockdown and associated disruption have on the attainment gap at your school? Second-
ary teachers, by deprivation level of school






        No change - we have an    No change - we have no         Small increase in         Modest increase in      Substantial increase in
         attainment gap but it   attainment gap within our        attainment gap            attainment gap            attainment gap
         won't have increased             school

                                     Secondary Private       Q1 (affluent)   Q2      Q3     Q4 (deprived)

                                                                   Source: Teacher Tapp survey of school teachers in England, 11th January 2021

For year 11 and year 13s, the most            some external quality assurance, and               decisions on the basis of these
prominent worry is how they will be           a robust appeals process, as well                  grades take this into account. The
assessed for their GCSE, A Level and          as training and guidance available                 emphasis, for all those in the sector,
other qualifications, and in particular,      to reduce potential bias. However,                 should be on facilitating progression,
what impact this will have on their           evidence suggests that ‘non-blind’                 whether it be to sixth form, university,
progression. The cancellation of this         internal marking by teachers is                    apprenticeships and training, or
year’s exams was announced at the             less likely to be unbiased than if                 employment.
same time as the new closures, and            the tests were marked externally.29
this decision is backed by 70% of             It has been argued that a greater
teachers, with only 13% disagreeing.          level of external marking (or at least             DISCUSSION
Nonetheless, this raises the                  moderation) of such tests would both               The COVID-19 pandemic has
significant question of what happens          ease the burden on teachers, as well               brought about a level of disruption
next, and how assessment will be              as improve the fairness of the grading             to young people’s educations at a
conducted this year, particularly             process.30                                         scale previously unimaginable in
in light of the controversy around                                                               modern times. And at every stage of
teacher assessed grades and ‘the              As the 2020 process demonstrated,                  this crisis, young people from the
algorithm’ in 2020. Ofqual have               with exams cancelled, it is virtually              poorest backgrounds have been hit
launched a consultation on this               impossible to devise a system of                   the hardest. Without urgent action
year’s assessment plans,27 with initial       grading that will be robust and                    significant enough to meet the
indications that grades will again be         generate credible grades for use by                extraordinary challenges posed by the
based on teacher assessment, but              universities and employers, while also             pandemic, there is a real risk that
with a bulked-up range of evidence            ensuring fairness and consistency                  prospects for social mobility will be
available to teachers in assigning            across pupil characteristics and                   irreversibly damaged for a generation
those grades, coupled with some               schools, and also take into account                of young people.
external oversight.28 It is likely that       the huge inequalities in the impact of
there will be some level of testing,          the pandemic on learning. This latter              While schools remain closed,
set externally by exam boards, but            point will be particularly acute in the            everything that can be done should
taken in school and likely marked             context of the in-school assessments               be done to mitigate the impact of
by teachers themselves. Grades                taken over the next few months, in                 closures and to prevent any further
are also likely to be announced in            the context of the disparities seen                widening of the gap. Providing
July, giving time for appeals before          throughout this report, where it                   more devices for those who need
universities make their final decisions       will be highly challenging to ‘fairly’             them is currently the top priority for
on admissions. Given the established          recognise unequal learning disruption              teachers to prevent disadvantaged
issues around bias and predicted              in the marking. It will be vital that              students from falling further behind.
grades, it is welcome there will be           universities and employers making                  As a matter of urgency, devices and

internet access should be provided
                                               Figure 14. What intervention is most important to prevent disadvantaged pupils
to all of those who need them. While           from falling behind during this lockdown?
it is welcome the government have
announced an additional 300,000
                                                 More laptops/tablets for those who still
laptops for students, taking the                                                                                               52%
                                                               need them
total up to 1.3 million,31 many of
these have still not been delivered             More internet dongles for those who still
to students. Every day students do                             need them
not have the equipment they need
                                                     Additional online tutoring for these
is another day of preventable lost                                students
                                                 ‘Zero rating’ of educational websites to
Internet access also continues to                       save mobile data charges
be a barrier. The government and
many mobile phone networks have                          Extended online learning times          2%
been working together to increase
data allowances for students,32 but                                                         0%   10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60%
schools need to apply for students
to be able to access it, and concerns                       Source: Teacher Tapp survey of school teachers in England, 15th January 2021
have been raised that administrative
barriers mean many could miss out.33       Tutoring Programme, are welcome,                  of school closures would be at
The work being done by Oak National        this new set of school closures,                  least £1.59 billion for just one year
Academy to encourage providers to          compounding the previous 9 months                 group.36 After this further period of
‘zero rate’ educational websites is        of disrupted learning, makes further              closure, the economic impact will
welcome, and progress has already          investment essential. As part of a new            only have increased.
been made by some providers on             package of support, the government
some sites, for example, several now       should provide a one off ‘boost’ to               Responding to this unique challenge
zero rate content by BBC Bitesize.34       the pupil premium to be used by                   will also be needed beyond the next
However, more needs to be done to          schools to fund catch up. £400 per                academic year. At the very least, the
ensure all students can access all the     pupil (at an estimated total cost                 government should extend its current
sites they need to learn from home,        of £750m), could for example, be                  commitment to maintain per pupil
and providers should continue to work      used to fund 30 minutes of paired                 rates for the pupil premium beyond
to overcome any technical obstacles        tuition, five times a week for 12                 2021, to protect funding for this
to zero-rating all such sites.             weeks, which the EEF estimates can                group into the long term. Due to the
                                           result in an additional 4 months                  economic impact of the pandemic,
But even if everything possible is         of progress for students, or a week               there are likely to be increased
done to mitigate the impacts of            long summer school, potentially                   numbers of eligible pupils, and it is
this set of school closures, learning      resulting in 2 months additional                  important that pupil premium rates
remotely is not an adequate                progress.35 However, teachers should              are not diluted as a consequence,
substitute for time in the classroom.      be empowered to choose how                        given the significant needs of this
Schools need to be re-opened as soon       exactly this money is spent, taking               group following this year’s disruption.
as it is safe to do so, with government    into account existing guidance.                   It will be also vital to monitor and
working in collaboration with parents      Existing reporting mechanisms for                 publish data on lost learning and
and staff on plans for re-opening.         the pupil premium could be used to                the impact of the pandemic on the
                                           monitor the use of this funding and               attainment gap in the longer term,
Work is ongoing to estimate the            maintain accountability. It should                to help inform further support where
pandemic has had on students, and          also be regarded as separate to                   necessary.
the Education Endowment Foundation         funding needed for other parts of                 Students facing exams in the next
will shortly publish interim findings      the pandemic response, for example                few years are a particularly vulnerable
on the extent of learning loss in the      to cover staff shortages or cleaning              group, with the least amount of time
first period of closures, with the study   supplies.                                         available to catch up lost learning,
one of the first to provide robust                                                           and should be prioritised in any
insights into the impact of school         While additional funding for catch                support. This year’s Year 11 and
closures on attainment. However, the       up will be expensive at a time                    Year 12 students have had two
scale of the long-term impact on the       costs to government are already                   school years of disrupted learning,
attainment gap still remains to be         high, failure to act will be far more             compounded by the cancellation of
seen, with much relying on actions         expensive in the long term, as                    their GCSEs, as they transition to
taken in the coming year.                  young people who go into the labour               post-16 education. Pupil premium
                                           market with fewer skills will be less             funding however does not continue
A huge national effort of catch up is      able to contribute productively to                after age 16. While money has been
needed, with a focus on those from         the economy. Research earlier this                made available to provide tutoring for
disadvantaged backgrounds who              year commissioned by the Sutton                   16-19 year olds,37 it is crucial that
have suffered most. While existing         Trust estimated, that the total net               next year sees a greater investment in
efforts, including the National            economic loss of the first round                  those in post-16 education, including

extending the remit of the National       Levels, T Levels and BTECs, as well       the education sector as a whole
Tutoring Programme . Additional           as those re-taking GCSEs in Post-         should be to minimise the long term
funding, targeted at those who have       16 provision, to secure the passes        lost learning for those in the school
been hit hardest by the pandemic,         they need to progress to their next       system, and to enable young people
will also be needed, to help schools      destination.                              to progress to the next stage of their
and colleges afford tutoring through      As we move through this second year       education, training and employment,
the NTP, as well as to support broader    of the pandemic, if we are to secure      despite the unparalleled disruption
catch up plans. It is vital that this     the future prospects of a generation      they have faced.
group get back on track for their A       of young people, the twin goals of

                                         POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS
 1. As a matter of urgency, every pupil should have access to a device and internet access for remote learning.
 Laptops, internet dongles and other learning devices should continue to be rolled out at speed through the
 government programme. Every day that goes by with pupils lacking access to the tools for online learning widens
 gaps and harms the long term prospects of young people.

 2. Educational websites and online learning services should be ‘zero rated’ by internet data providers. While there are
 technical obstacles to this, telecoms companies should continue to work with the sector to find solutions to excluding
 online learning from mobile data allowances, removing this cost barrier to online learning.

 3. Schools should receive a £750m ‘boost’ for their disadvantaged pupils via the pupil premium, as part of a new
 package of catch up funding. The cumulative impact of the new school closures on top of 9 months of disrupted
 schooling on learning and the attainment gap is likely to be of an unprecedented scale. It is vital that schools are
 resourced to help those who have suffered the most ‘bounce back’ once schools are open again. A £750m one-off
 pupil premium boost would give schools £400 additional per pupil to spend on catch up as they see fit, which could
 pay for a block of high quality paired tutoring, and other effective interventions. Funding to cover staff shortages,
 enhanced cleaning, and other pandemic impacts should be separate from any such ‘catch up’ fund, to ensure its

 4. The pupil premium should, at the very least, be protected in per head terms from 2022/23. While it is welcome
 that the Pupil Premium has been protected for 2021/22, the impact of the pandemic will continue to be felt beyond
 the next school year. With increased numbers of eligible pupils likely over the current year, it is important that pupil
 premium rates are not diluted as a consequence.

 5. Funding for the National Tutoring Programme should be extended in the next Comprehensive Spending Review,
 to establish it as a long term contributor to narrowing the attainment gap. Tutoring will play a vital role in helping
 education recover from the pandemic, but given the scale of the challenge, it will not be sufficient on its own, and
 must be accompanied by a wider investment in catch up.

 6. There needs to be a renewed focus on 16-19 year olds, with eligibility for the National Tutoring Programme
 extended to students in post-16 education, alongside targeted funding support. Pupils beginning post-16 courses
 this autumn are at a critical stage in their education, and will have faced huge disruption to their learning, including
 the cancellation of their GCSEs. In order to help get those hardest hit back on track for A Levels, T Levels, BTECs,
 and for those who need GCSE passes to progress, it is vital that these students are included in targeted funding
 support, including a consideration of the extension of the Pupil Premium to FE.

 7. Assessment for A Levels and GCSEs and other qualifications in 2021 must be as robust, respected and equitable
 as possible in the circumstances, with a focus on facilitating progression. While no perfect solution is possible in a
 context of disruption that has been significant, and unequally experienced, it is crucial that this year’s assessment
 system should minimise bias or unfairness across pupil characteristics (such as socio-economic background) and
 across schools. It should also be as robust as possible so as to give this years’ cohorts genuine ‘currency’ as they
 move to the next level. Externally set tests and robust external moderation of centre assessed grades is vital.

 8. There should be a collaborative approach to the re-opening of schools, when it is safe to do so, that commands
 the confidence of school leaders, teachers and parents. Despite the huge efforts by schools and teachers, it is clear
 that nothing can replace face to face teaching and learning. If partial reopenings are considered, vulnerable and
 disadvantaged learners should be prioritised.

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