Two in five children failed to meet government guidelines for remote learning during school closures earlier this year, according to a report.
Under Department for Education guidelines, three hours of remote education every day must be provided for five- to seven-year-olds, four hours for eight- to 11-year-olds and at least five hours for 11- to 14-year-olds.
But overall around 40 per cent of children did not meet the Government’s expected standard in the second round of school closures, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) report which looked at survey data collected between March 2020 and March 2021.
After a year of Covid-related disruption to education, 25 per cent of parents think their child will take at least a school year to catch up on lost learning and 7 per cent believe that their child will never catch up.
Researchers say catch-up policies need to be targeted at poorer pupils to close “educational inequalities that have grown so much wider” during the coronavirus pandemic.
But while the majority of parents support tutoring to help children, the poorest families were the least likely to accept an offer of catch-up sessions.
Among the poorest fifth of families, 36 per cent of pupils had been offered tutoring by March 2021, but nearly a third of these chose not to take it up. By contrast, while a similar share of those in the most affluent families had been offered tutoring, only one in seven of them refused.
During the autumn term – when schools were open – poorer pupils spent longer in self-isolation and had less access to school provisions when doing so, the report suggests.
While 43 per cent of secondary school pupils in the richest fifth of families had access to online classes while self-isolating, just 35 per cent of their peers in the most disadvantaged homes had access to online lessons.
Adam Salisbury, a research economist at IFS and an author of the report, said: “Thanks to the efforts of teachers, schools, families and policymakers, the second round of remote learning went far better than the first time around.
“But even with this welcome improvement, many children still struggled with home learning; around four in 10 pupils did not meet the Government’s minimum guidelines for learning time during the second round of school closures.
“With this huge hit to children’s learning we have seen so far, it is perhaps unsurprising that a quarter of parents think their child will need a year or more to recover learning lost during the pandemic.”
Angus Phimister, a research economist at IFS and an author of the report, added: “Catch-up policies need to be carefully designed to be taken up by poorer pupils if they are to have any chance of putting a dent in the educational inequalities that have grown so much wider during the pandemic.”
In June, the Department for Education announced an additional £1.4 billion of funding, on top of the £1.7 billion already pledged for catch-up, to help pupils in England make up for lost learning. The programme included £1 billion to support 15-hour tutoring courses for children.
A DfE spokesman said: “The Government acted swiftly to minimise the impact on children’s education and wellbeing and help keep pupils in face-to-face education as much as possible.
“To ensure that pupils could continue to receive their education at home, we provided more than 1.3 million laptops and tablets to disadvantaged students, funded Oak National Academy to provide video lessons, and set clear expectations for remote education quality, including a minimum number of hours per day.
“We have also committed to an ambitious, long-term education recovery plan, investing over £3 billion and significantly expanding our tutoring programme to support children and young people to make up for education lost during the pandemic.”