Family time use and home learning during the COVID-19 lockdown

This report from UK think tank the IFS presents analysis of some of the first data on children’s lives during the lockdown.

In this report, we present analysis of some of the first data on children’s lives during the lockdown and how home learning during the lockdown worked in practice. Between 29 April and 20 June 2020, we interviewed over 5,500 parents with at least one child entering Reception in September 2020 or a child in school aged 4–15. We asked parents about their employment circumstances, as well as how they and their children spent their time during a weekday. We also asked about the resources (both from their schools and at home) that school-age children had available for home learning. We collaborated with an online survey company to ensure that our respondents came from a mix of genders, regions, and social and economic backgrounds. We then reweighted our data to ensure that they are as representative as possible of families with school-aged children in England.

We start the report by providing more details about the data we use to conduct our analysis. In Chapter 3, we examine how the COVID-19 crisis has affected the economic circumstances of households with children. Then, in Chapter 4, we turn to analysing what the days looked like for parents during the lockdown, focusing on the challenges they faced when juggling work and childcare responsibilities. To put these results into perspective, we compare how parents’ time use during the lockdown differed from the pre-COVID-19 period, drawing on the 2014–15 UK Time Use Survey. The rest of the report focuses on children and their home learning experiences. In Chapter 5, we describe children’s time use and the activities that fill their learning time, again comparing these results to the pre-COVID-19 period where available. In Chapter 6, we complement this picture by examining the home learning environment and the resources children have received from their schools for home learning.

An important theme running throughout the report is that, while the COVID-19 crisis has affected all families with children, it has not affected them all equally. In almost all aspects of family life that we look at, we see important differences between households of different socio-economic status. In the concluding chapter, we reflect on these findings and their implications for the long-term impact that the unprecedented circumstances we have lived through over the past few months is likely to have for children’s well-being and learning, and inequalities therein. We end the report by drawing a few ‘lessons for next time’, as the prospect of a second wave and future lockdowns loom in the autumn.

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