Fears for disadvantaged pupils as report shows those in Wales get among least home schooling

Child at a computer

Research from University College London suggests that engagement between Welsh pupils and their schools are among the lowest in the UK.

The research shows that only 2% of children in Wales receive four or more daily online lessons (the lowest figure in the UK), compared to 12.5% in London and 7% as a UK average.

When it came to offline work, the figures showed that only 14.6% of Welsh children received 4 or more offline lessons a day (the second-lowest figure in the UK), compared to 25.2% of children in Northern Ireland and 27.7% in South East England.

Plaid Cymru said that it was “incredibly disappointing” to see Wales faring badly in comparison with the rest of the UK.

Shadow Education Minister Siân Gwenllian said she feared that the attainment gap between those from the most advantaged backgrounds and most disadvantaged backgrounds was widening.

“The results of this research paints an incredibly disappointing picture and has highlighted how ineffective homeschooling measures have been on the whole,” the Arfon Senedd Member said.

“Thousands of children are being left behind and the attainment gap between those from the most advantaged backgrounds and those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds has only widened.

“The First Minister admitted himself last week that for many children there had been no contact with their school and their experience of remote learning ‘may have been mixed’. If he knows the full extent of the problem – why doesn’t he act, rather than brush the problem under the carpet?

“Scotland has invested far more in ensuring pupils have access to digital equipment compared to Wales and recently committed an extra £30 million on top of what they’ve already invested – compared to the £3 million set aside in Wales.

“The priorities of the Welsh Government’s connectivity program should be looked at urgently to ensure digital connectivity is not a barrier for disadvantaged children and their education.

“We need to know how many pupils don’t have a personal laptop or proper internet access. We need to know how many pupils are logging on to their education – and how many have no contact at all.”

 

‘Threat’

The study for the University College London (UCL) Institute of Education estimated that two million pupils in the UK – around one in five – had done no schoolwork or managed less than an hour a day.

Prof Francis Green, the study’s lead author, said its findings painted a gloomy picture of lost schooling and low amounts of schoolwork at home. “The closure of schools, and their only partial reopening, 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. Better home schoolwork provision, and better still an early, safe return to school for as many as possible, should now become a top priority for government.”

The UCL research also showed a huge gap in provision between pupils in private education and those in the state sector during lockdown, with private school pupils found to be five times more likely to get near full-time teaching online as those in the state sector.

While seven out of 10 state school children (71%) had had between none and one online lessons per day, almost a third of private schools (31%) have been providing four or more online lessons or meetings every day, the study found.

Overall, pupils spent on average 2.5 hours a day doing schoolwork – half what was estimated in an earlier survey – while just 17% have put in more than four hours a day since schools closed in March as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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