Students from higher socio-economic backgrounds had significantly more support from their schools during lockdowns compared to students from lower economic backgrounds.
This is according to the latest findings from a contemporary longitudinal study (1) being carried by the Sutton Trust which is analysing the short and longterm consequences of the disruption suffered by students during the Covid lockdowns.
Social class differences in learning during lockdowns
Better of schools (in terms of FSM provision) were able to adapt much more quickly during Lockdown one to minimise disruption to student learning compared the most deprived schools.
Students attending independent schools (compared to state grammar and state comprehensive) and students attending the least deprived schools by FSM provision were more likely to receive online lessons during lockdowns; more likely to get more frequent online lessons; had more access to teachers outside of lessons; and suffered fewer barriers to learning such as lack of access to laptops at home.
By lockdown three the support offered to students by the more deprived schools had caught up with that of the least deprived schools, but significant differences remained.
For example, by lockdown three:
- Students from the least deprived schools were doing 2.9 hours more schoolwork per week than students from the most deprived schools.
- 71% of students from the least deprived schools reported having 3 or more online lessons per week compared to only 53% of students from the most deprived schools.
- Only 6% of pupils from higher managerial backgrounds reported only having a mobile device (rather than a computer) to access learning compared to 14% of pupils from routine/ manual/ non-working backgrounds.
Teacher contact during lockdowns
73% of students from independent schools reported having contact with teachers outside of lessons at least once a week during the first lockdown compared to only 43% of students from comprehensive schools. This gap had narrowed by the third lockdown with 77% of students from Independent schools and 52% of students from comprehensive schools reporting teacher contact.
Students from the most deprived quintile reported more teacher contact than those from the least deprived during the first lockdown and there was almost no reported variation during the third lockdown.
Hours of schoolwork during Lockdowns
Students from independent schools did almost twice as many hours schoolwork per week during the first lockdown compared to students from state comprehensive schools. The gap was narrower during the third lockdown with independent school students reporting 23.7 hours per week compared to 16.3 hours per week for comprehensive school children.
Pupils from the least deprived quintile did 3.2 hours more schoolwork per week during the first lockdown than pupils from the most deprived quintile and 2.9 hours more during the third lockdown.
Provision of online lessons during lockdowns
During the first lockdown 94% of independent schools provided online lessons compared to only 64% of state comprehensive schools. By the third lockdown state comprehensives had caught of a lot but there was still a large difference with 96% of independent schools providing online lessons compared to 87% of comprehensive schools.
By the third lockdown 95% of the least deprived schools (by FSM provision) were providing online learning compared to only 80% of the most deprived schools.
The above differences are significant but if we look at the amount of online learning which took place (immediately below) we find that independent schools and the least deprived schools were much more likely to provide MORE online classes…
How many online classes during lockdowns?
84% of pupils at Independent schools reported having more than three online lessons per day during the first lockdown, compared to only 33% of students from state comprehensive schools. The figures were 93% compared to 59% respectively during the third lockdown.
71% of students from the least deprived quintile reported having access to three or more online lessons a day during lockdown three compared to only 53% of students from the most deprived quintile.
NB this basically means that students attending the more deprived schools were more likely to get very little in the way of online learning, just one or two lessons a day, while students attending the better off schools were more likely to get three or more lessons, closer to a regular school day.
Barriers to learning during lockdowns by social class
Students faced several barriers to learning during lockdowns including:
- Minimal provision of online lessons or, in some cases, no online lessons.
- Internet connectivity problems.
- Inability to access teachers during the lockdown periods.
- Lack of access to desktop or laptop computers and having to rely on mobile devices.
- Having to share a device with siblings.
- A small percentage of students didn’t have any devices to access online learning
- Lack of a quiet study space.
- Parents who lacked the confidence to help students with learning during lockdowns
Students from lower social class backgrounds were more likely to suffer barriers to learning during lockdowns compared to students from higher social backgrounds.
For example 34% of students from higher and professional managerial backgrounds reported infrequent teacher contact during lockdowns compared to 39% of students from routine/ manual/ never worked backgrounds. The figures for having to share a device were 9% and 15% respectively for these two social classes.
Pupils without a device during lockdowns
Only 2% of pupils from independent schools reported not having access to a suitable device by lockdown three compared to 11% of pupils from state comprehensives.
5% of pupils from the least deprived backgrounds reported no access to a suitable device during lockdown three compared to 19% from the least deprived quintile.
Conclusions and policy implications…
15-18 year olds doing GCSEs and A-levels suffered just as much learning loss as younger students, and students from lower socio-economic backgrounds suffered proportionately more learning loss. Thus the pupil premium should be extended and paid out for 16-19 year olds for a couple of years. ATM Pupil Premium ends with year 11 students.
By lockdown three 30% of all year 11s who needed a laptop had received one, which was significant. However, HALF of all students who lacked a laptop or didn’t have access to one during the pandemic still haven’t received one.
Cullinane, C., Anders, J., De Gennaro, A., Early, E., Holt-White, E., Montacute, R., Shao, X., & Yarde, J. (2022). Wave 1 Initial Findings – Lockdown Learning. COVID Social Mobility & Opportunities (COSMO) study Briefing No. 1. London: UCL Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities & Sutton Trust. Available at: https://cosmostudy.uk/publications/lockdown-learning