When the UK Government announced a national lockdown in March in response to the worsening COVID-19 pandemic, it plunged many of us into unfamiliar situations.
One of these situations was that of schoolchildren suddenly having to stay at home and parents having to adapt to the loss of child care and education as we know it. Homeschooling was encouraged, where possible, yet the ability of families to carry this out and the support provided by schools was understandably varied.
Seeking to understand the extent of homeschooling provision during this difficult time, UCEM Learning Technology Researcher, Dr Tharindu Liyanagunawardena, and the University of Reading’s Professor Emerita, Professor Shirley Williams devised a survey. Here, they write about the survey and what conclusions they have made at this stage of their research with further responses sought…
Dr Tharindu Liyanagunawardena
In March, when the UK went into a lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools were closed for most children. We have been collecting family experiences of homeschooling in the UK during this period. If you have not yet taken part, there is still time to respond to the anonymous survey eLearning in Challenging Times – UK.
This blog post is based on the responses of some 200 UK families who shared their experiences of homeschooling their children during the first lockdown period.
One of our questions was:
‘During lockdown learning what were the opportunities to interact with the teacher and others in the class for your eldest child?’
The answers ranged from the stark ‘None’ to those where school moved online and essentially ran as normal. We analysed the sentiment of the responses to the question:
- 157 provided an answer
- 76 indicated a negative experience
- 14 indicated a positive experience
- the remaining 67 indicated there was some contact – but the phrasing did not indicate the quality of the experience.
Many respondents provided details of the media used; the most frequently mentioned was emails (33), followed by phone (19). Of specific platforms, Microsoft Teams was mentioned by 17 and Zoom by 12. Other platforms were mentioned occasionally. Generic terms like ‘online’, ‘virtually’, ‘video’ and ‘live’ where also used. In this partial review of the data there did not appear to be any correspondence between the media used and the quality of the experience.
The regularity of contact ranged from none to several times a day. Those who had negative experiences included remarks such as:
- very limited
- none until the end of July
- slow email exchange
- couple of phone calls
- practically non-existent
- zero opportunity to interact.
Those with positive experiences included remarks such as:
- all lessons
- start and end of each day.
What we found shocking was the diversity of experience that was reported to this single question. Some children were continuing with their interaction with teachers and peers as they had before lockdown, others were having little or no interaction at all.
Some parents believed their local authority had restricted the schools by not allowing them to offer synchronous lessons. Another view that came through was that once the exams were cancelled, the children in those age groups had been abandoned by the schools. We hope further analysis of all data in the survey will elucidate these experiences.
Ofsted reports on post lockdown schooling tells of the difficulties schools and young people face as a result of being out of school for so long. We anticipate further analysis of our survey too will reveal parents’ and carers’ views on this matter.
To share your experiences of homeschooling which will play a key part in this ongoing research, head to the eLearning in challenging times – UK survey.