With schools having been shut for most pupils since 23 March, a specially-designed online survey of over 4000 parents in England shows that children from better-off households are spending 30% more time each day on educational activities.

This is by comparison with children from the poorest fifth of households.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), the gap of an hour and a quarter every day means that children in better-off families will already have done extra home learning hours equivalent to a week and a half of full-time school compared with poorer children by 1 June, when some students could return to school.

If schools were to remain closed until the end of the current term, that gap would grow to over three weeks.

As well as spending more time on educational activities overall, the survey found that pupils from better-off households are more likely to spend time on activities that may be particularly beneficial, such as online classes and with private tutors.

The survey was carried out between 29 April and 12 May: the resulting IFS report can be found at https://www.ifs.org.uk/uploads/BN288-Learning-during-the-lockdown-1.pdf.

Alison Andrew, IFS Senior Research Economist and an author of the report, said: “Children in lower-income households are less likely to have their own space for schoolwork and less likely to have a computer or tablet to use for school. On average, the state schools that lower-income children attend are also less likely to provide online classes and other interactive activities than the state schools that higher-income children attend, leaving children more reliant on their parents for help.”

Moreover, she went on, less than a third of parents in the poorest fifth of families would send their child back to school if given the choice, compared with half of parents from more affluent backgrounds.

This risks leaving the children least able to cope with home learning remaining at home even as their better-off classmates return to school.

Last reviewed 22 May 2020