Two-thirds of parents concerned about ‘lost learning’ as schools reopen

Neil Puffett
Monday, March 8, 2021

The majority of parents are concerned about lost learning during the coronavirus pandemic, with some worried their child will never catch up, a study has found.

Millions of pupils are returning to school today. Picture: Adobe Stock
Millions of pupils are returning to school today. Picture: Adobe Stock

A survey conducted by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found that while nine out of 10 parents are happy to send children back to school today (8 March), two-thirds are worried about the amount of learning they have missed as a result of enforced school closures to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Among concerned parents with children in primary school, close to half think that their child will have recovered within a term. But a third of concerned parents think that recovery will take a school year or more. At secondary school, nine per cent of concerned parents think that their child will never make up for the pandemic’s effect on their learning.

The survey of 6,000 parents, conducted last week, found that support for catch-up measures is very high, with more than 90 per cent of parents in favour of at least some policies for academic catch-up. The most popular proposal is tutoring, which more than 80 per cent of parents support.

However, support for policies that would increase the amount of learning time is much lower, with around half of parents favouring a longer school day and fewer than half supporting extra homework, an extended term, summer school or repeating school years.

Parents are also as supportive of policies to promote children’s wellbeing as they are of academic support. Of the 83 per cent who supported policies aimed at children’s wellbeing, the largest share believed that in-class activities (such as arts, creative writing or spending time outdoors) would make the biggest difference, while around a quarter of parents prioritised greater access to mental health services.


The government has set aside funding to help children catch up, but the IFS has previously warned that far more needs to be allocated. Over the weekend Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said that longer school days and shorter holidays are among the measures the government is considering.

Christine Farquharson, a senior research economist at IFS, said: “Most parents agree that their child has lost out academically over the last year. But while close to half of those concerned think that the damage will be relatively short-lived, one in 10 secondary school parents think their child will never catch up.

“While the tutoring programmes that the government has emphasised are hugely popular with parents, it is hard to believe that the £1.7bn currently allocated to the recovery is anywhere near enough to meet the scale of this challenge.”

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