Has government intervention during COVID-19 supported our UK schools and teachers?
This new paper from Prof Francis Green, UCL Institute of Education evaluates the evidence on homework set during lockdown in the UK.
Myths and perceptions
Imagine working in school teaching vulnerable children and having to also provide online work for everyone else? That’s double the work, and very much evidence of schools being ‘open’ for business. For teachers working from home on full pay, and by goodness do they deserve it when we consider they are paid one of the lowest teacher-salaries in all OECD countries, some have had to teach 30 pupils whilst also looking after their own children!
The government response to the pandemic
There has been much speculation about the disadvantaged gap, young people’s mental health and exams and assessment, now the narrowing of the curriculum post-COVID to help students catch up, and so on and so forth. It’s easy to get lost in all the research, opinions and conclusions.
What we can all agree on as a result of the pandemic, and learning lost, is that we will be picking up the pieces of the brilliant work achieved by all of our state schools for years to come.
How did schools respond?
This research paper, in particular, looked at how schoolwork was set, whether a resource pack posted home, emailed online or live lessons taught in various online platforms. The research concluded that:
- Children at home spent on average, 2.5 hours per day doing schoolwork.
- Most homework consisted of assignments, worksheets and watching videos.
- On average children were given two such pieces of homework a day.
- 71 per cent of state school children received no or less than one daily online lessons.
- One-fifth of pupils (over 2 million children) did no schoolwork at home, or less than one hour per day.
Given that we have 4 million pupils living in poverty across the UK, I would have expected this to be much higher.
I also understand why state schools have been unable to deliver online teaching.
Has the homeschooling novelty worn off?
I suspect many parents and celebrities have soon realised that the novelty of homeschooling has worn off and the reality and expertise of our teachers who do this day in, day out, have been realised; teachers doing remarkable work despite low pay, high working hours and macro-accountability.
Those who have experience of working in our state schools will know that diminished funding, the availability of technology, teacher training and more importantly, the safeguarding risks of teaching vulnerable pupils online makes the delivery of teaching (live) online, a risky decision.
The research findings
Children in receipt of free school meals spent more than four hours on schoolwork at 11 per cent, compared with 19 per cent among those not eligible.
The research found that the North West of England reported the lowest offline schoolwork.
There were many comparisons between what pupils were receiving in our private schools, despite the obvious absence/evaluation of ‘paying for a service’ and the demographic circumstances of the young people taking part on their one or two technological devices connected to the superfast broadband wifi tuned across all rooms in their homes
I am being facetious, but it is an important point our politicians and journalists fail to grasp, used to divide the teaching profession and the taxpayer.
Our independent teachers work just as many hours as our state school. teachers, but report much lower stress, generally before COVID-19, despite now facing the risk of being furloughed by their school – who may require a bailout because they cannot draw in funding from parents – after the financial impact unfolds post-pandemic.
There is a lot more in the research which offers more context, rationale and other findings.
I think a compassionate human being will agree that all our schools have, on the whole, responded very well considering the lack of government intervention, clarity and the lack of time and funding made available.
Download the working paper.