The effects of home learning are still yet to be perceived fully throughout the UK education system. Currently, remote learners are struggling, with only half reportedly engaged with their learnings. Another factor is the effect on parents, who in most cases have to provide time and effort to help their children with their studies.
However, parents are in a unique position. It was found that 56% of primary school parents are engaged with their children’s remote education. Parent engagement is a crucial factor for success, so how should they respond to the current remote learning situation?
Opinion on Remote Learning
Due to the current coronavirus pandemic, 31% of UK parents are struggling to get their child to dedicate time during the day to continue learning, according to a survey by Azoomee. While the children of frontline workers have still been attending school in some manner, other families have been greatly affected by the change.
60% of respondents said they view online or remote learning as a good short-term replacement for the classroom. Also, 22% believe the model of remote learning is the future of education.
The survey found a large number of parents, 75% in fact, view remote learning as having the potential needed to teach children of all ages. However, it also noted concerns from parents.
Lockdown has forced children to suffer from missed curriculum, lack of socialisation (which can have effects on mental health) and a potential lack of future social mobility.
In the case of parents, many of them have had to take more of a direct hand in their children’s education, by either setting time aside to go through school-provided work with their children or by supplying lessons themselves.
This has had the potential to cause a significant amount of stress within a working parent’s everyday life, having to juggle both work commitments and their child’s education. The school re-opening advocate group, Sept for Schools, has been hearing from parents who are struggling.
"It is not that I don't think I am capable or that we do not have access to materials, but I cannot do two jobs at once” One parent said. “I can either attempt to support my seven-year-old in doing some schoolwork or try to do my own work and keep my job.”
The concern has been raised by parents that they both don’t have the time or experience to help their child study, but also can’t leave them to do it alone. Some children find it hard to self-motivate, especially under challenging circumstances. Both the government and NGOs have tried to help with this by supplying key information that can help. For example, the NSPCC has gathered a number of resources for parents facing issues of supporting children while at home.
Regardless of technological innovation in delivering remote learning, 63% of parents surveyed worry the pandemic and lockdown will set their child back at school. Around 40% of parents are concerned about how the children will adapt to routine again once back at school.
To increase success for remote learning and children in general, parents need to become fully engaged with their child’s learning process.
The Social-Digital Divide
An important side-effect of the coronavirus impact is the exposure of the digital divide that exists in the UK. Social mobility and class differences mean that some of the poorest and most disadvantaged children are likely to be affected by a lack of access to remote learning because of technological issues. A study by the Office for National Statistics found that in 2019:
60,000 children from the ages 11 to 18 do not have internet access in their homes.
Around 700,000 children do not have a computer, laptop or tablet with which to access online learning.
Evidently, this represents a huge loss of learning potential for lesser-advantaged children. It can result in parents feeling guilty for not being able to provide those kinds of technologies in order to aid their child’s studies.
Improving pupil engagement is difficult to compartmentalise as it’s affected by many factors, for example:
How advantaged that pupil happens to be.
The pupil’s attitude and self-motivation also play a big part, but this can be greatly affected by how affluent a background the pupil comes from. We mentioned previously the digital divide felt by some pupils and so economic background is an important factor.
It’s particularly important to emphasise the issue of the north-south education divide within the UK. Two-thirds of schools teaching the most disadvantaged communities are in the north of England. It’s feared that the lockdown, remote learning and economic difficulties will widen that gap.
In an open letter to Secretary of Education, Gavin Williamson, a number of MPs wrote: “The most disadvantaged children fall behind their peers over a long summer holiday, and the shutdown will widen the north's disadvantage gap and with it the north-south education divide.” They called for a ‘catch-up premium’ of £300m to fund 30 minutes of one-to-one tuition three times a week for 12 weeks.
On top of that, parental engagement has been found to make a massive impact on a child’s achievement. The more parents and children converse and tackle a subject, the better a child performs. Fortunately, the UK Government recently announced a £1 billion ‘catch-up’ package to help children from primary and secondary schools to regain learning from lost teaching time.
In a report by the Centre for Real World Learning (at the University of Winchester) called ‘The impact of parent engagement on learner success’, it was found that:
“Parent involvement [is] a much bigger factor than school effects in shaping achievement.”
However, some parents, especially those from disadvantaged communities or backgrounds can find it increasingly difficult to provide that engagement. Some parents may find themselves having to work more to make up for any loss or reduced wages, while others may not have the ability to provide help for their children. This ultimately results in a lack of important resources: time and financial ability.
For example, BAME and single-parent families are the ones that are being hit the hardest by the implications of COVID-19. Only 31% of BAME employees have been furloughed, compared to 44% of non-BAME employees. This creates a harder environment for parents to dedicate time and resources, which does nothing to help lower the BAME attainment gap.
To help children, there are several practices parents can follow to improve engagement within home learning environments. For example, parents can introduce new vocabulary, have discussions about current events and encourage the reading of a wide range of sources.
They can also:
Introduce new ideas and information.
Practice cultural activities, such as visiting libraries and museums (when able to do so).
Things like television and internet time can have positive effects, but they are to be limited and the content is to be chosen wisely. Similarly, adults who demonstrate their own interest in learning new things is incredibly helpful.
Practical Ideas for Parents
The effects of home learning at this time are crucial for the continued development of children. Parents need to consider how they can show their interest in their child’s learning.
The report mentioned above set out six factors that affect achievement. The ones parents can provide support in include:
Expectations: Setting high standards children can stick to.
Routines: Creating routines that promote health and wellbeing, as well as regular study.
Opportunity to learn: Ensuring a good learning environment is to be found at home.
Support: Showing an interest in the child’s studies and offering praise when needed.
Culture: Establishing a positive environment that practices cooperation.
Role modelling: Demonstrating the good habits of effective study.
They can also make an effort to talk with the child about their progress and their feelings. The coronavirus pandemic has created a very stressful environment for children, impacting their mental health, so parents need to provide emotional support too.
Ensuring children enjoy a multifaceted support network is the best way to maintain their engagement with their studies.
COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the state of education as a whole. For those who work in education, it can be difficult processing all the current information. To help, we’ve created a useful guide you can explore.
The Impact of COVID-19 on Education
In ‘The Impact of COVID-19 on Education’ guide, you’ll find a distilled look at the state of education in the UK, both before and after COVID-19. We cover the timeline of changes to the UK education system, the impact, and what’s being implemented to mitigate the damage. We also cover what the future of education may look like.
To read your own copy, click the button below.