Lessons from the pandemic: The future of learning at home

Parents Online Learning
14 September 2022
Catarina Lomelino
Catarina Lomelino is the Policy Insight Manager at Parentkind. 
Parents took on a huge role throughout the pandemic when schools closed, and had to adapt to help support their children while they were learning at home.

As we move out of the pandemic, we must remember the lessons it taught the whole community. This is why we’ve launched our new report Learning at home throughout the pandemic’, to remind us of the impact it had on parents — both positive and negative — and to use it to learn from the various things the pandemic taught us.

Inappropriate home learning environments’

As we have seen, the pandemic exposed and exacerbated the pre-existing inequalities in education systems and in society for those who are most disadvantaged. Our report shows exactly this. For instance, in November 2020, 18% of children still did not have a quiet place to study. 2% of parents said their child did not have access to a device and 4% of children were still using a smartphone to access online learning. More than three in ten (31%) children were sharing devices with another family member. These figures show that many parents did not always have the resources needed in November 2020, which means a large proportion of parents were unable to support their children effectively. Their children were unable to learn in an appropriate home learning environment, putting them behind their peers because of a lack of resources.

Whilst our report shows that although access to resources increased throughout the pandemic, even with the technology and resources needed, a social divide continues. It exists between the knowledge and experience parents who come from a middle-income background have to support their children’s learning at home compared to lower-income parents. Our report shows that Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) and Free School Meals (FSM) eligible parents’ confidence declined after three months of supporting their child’s learning at home. In a world where technology is the new normal, innovative opportunities for teaching and learning must be accessible for all parents. Policymakers must recognise that digital and social inequalities exist and act to eliminate these by providing the necessary economic and social support to parents, particularly those of more disadvantaged backgrounds.

Our report also shows what resources parents needed to help them to better support their child’s learning. In order to support home learning, parents would find more feedback from teachers on their child’s work, more instruction and teaching from teachers, live online classes and recorded video-clips helpful. More video-clips explaining subject matter was a high priority for BAME parents and lower-income parents in particular. More than two thirds of parents in July 2020 wanted to see the government provide minimum standards of home learning provision that all schools should be expected to meet. To make this a reality, we must listen to parents and understand their needs. Our report touches on these aspects and proposes what solutions can be put in place to help parents in supporting home learning.

There is a lot more that needs to be done to eliminate the barriers parents face and to ensure parents have all the resources, support and knowledge they need. Parents feel more engaged than ever, so we must capitalise on that by bringing home life and school together and building on this appetite for parental participation. It is now more crucial than ever to give parents a strong voice. By doing this, we can narrow the social divide and overcome inequalities that exist and have been exacerbated by the pandemic, creating an education system that is fair for all.

Read the full report here.