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The realities of online schooling

With most pupils unlikely to return to school until September, a recent report from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) has raised significant concerns about the effectiveness of online schooling. As the long summer stretches ahead, we take a look at how families are coping across the country.

Headteachers have said a third of students are not engaging with set work, with pupils only studying an average of 2.5 hours a day – halving the figure previously reported and suggesting the learning deficit is even greater than feared. Overall, students are doing 90% less work than usual, and over two million children are doing under an hour, or even no work at all.

While the government says it has committed over £100 million to support home learning, many students are still struggling with limited or no access to technology. School leaders reported this was a problem for a staggering 23% of pupils. For some, the simple lack of study space has proven a real challenge, and those with special educational needs or additional responsibilities at home, such as young carers, have proven particularly vulnerable.

The closures have certainly impacted disadvantaged students more – 64% of state secondary school students from the richest households received some form of active help, as opposed to 47% from the poorest fifth of families. But there are curriculum gaps across the board, and while children from higher income homes are studying closer to six hours a day, families around the country are struggling, with more than half of parents reporting difficulties with home learning. Only 55% of parents are engaged with their children’s learning, and this figure drops to 48% for parents of secondary school children.

The NFER isn’t alone in coming to these conclusions. Research by University College London paints a similar picture, with Professor Francis Green, who led the research, saying: “The closure of schools, and their only-partial re-opening, constitute a potential threat to the educational development of a generation of children. Everyone is losing out in this generation, some much more than others.”

The government’s announcement of a £1 billion catch-up tuition fund is a much-needed step in the right direction and will go some way to addressing the lost time. There’s a mounting body of evidence demonstrating the value of tuition as a cost-effective way to support students, with trials funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) showing successful results for a range of tuition models. With the right interventions, there’s no reason why students can’t close the learning gap in the long run – and here at Figtree, we’re already seeing the positive impact of learning over lockdown. Find out more about how our small group and one-to-one sessions are helping students catch-up in time for September.

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