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COVID-19: 'A third of pupils are not engaging with work'

This sobering statistic, which refers to secondary pupils, comes in a report from the National Foundation for Educational Research (1). Schools with the highest number of children eligible for free school meals reported that only 48% of pupils were engaged with learning activities, compared with 66% and 77% of pupils at schools in the middle and lowest brackets. And while lots of children are getting fantastic support at home, there are many who are not: On average, teachers say that 55% of their pupils' parents are engaged with their children's home learning. But the report also reveals that teachers from the most deprived schools report a lower parental engagement, at 41%.

A report published by UCL's Institute of Education, 'Schoolwork in Lockdown' (2) shows similarly worrying trends. It says that, on average, children are doing 2.5 hours of schoolwork per day. However, this varies widely, with 20% doing less than an hour, and 17% doing more than four hours. And there seems to be a marked north/south divide, with 28% of children in the south-east doing more than four hours of offline schoolwork a day, compared with only 9% in the north-east.

If these patterns are also evident in primary school children's learning during the COVID-19 crisis, the need for one-to-one support once schools fully re-open is going to be enormous. Thank you to all who support Schoolreaders by volunteering and donating; you will be playing a vital role in getting children back on the path to good literacy and a decent life.


(1) Lucas, M., Nelson, J. and Sims, D. (June 2020). Schools’ Responses to Covid-19: Pupil Engagement in RemoteLearning. Slough: NFER.

(2) Green, Francis ‘Schoolwork in lockdown: new evidence on the epidemic of educational poverty’, published by the Centre for Learning and Life Chances in Knowledge Economies and Societies at:

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