Remote learning ‘at best partial substitute’ for classroom, analysis finds

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According to the new analysis, distance learning was the “best partial option” for classroom lessons, with schools with more disadvantaged pupils being particularly hard hit.

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The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that students covered “significantly less material” at home than their physically peers at school.

The ONS analysis found that the gap between distance schooling – which takes place at home – and in-person learning was “particularly sharp” in schools where more students were eligible for free school meals.


“Distance learners in these schools covered a smaller proportion of the in-class learning material compared to distance learners in schools with a lower proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals,” the statistics body said.

Distance schooling took place when pupils had to stay at home, including during lockdown or when they were self-isolating.

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The ONS said: “During the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic distance learning was, at best, a partial alternative to in-class teaching because, according to the teacher, students were more active while working from home than their peers in the classroom. Very little material was covered. assessment.”

The statistics body said the data shows that the gap between distance and in-class learners appears larger in schools with more disadvantaged pupils, which could potentially be narrower for a number of reasons.

It said one could be that social problems associated with disadvantage “have a greater impact on distance learning students than those in school”.

Another reason could be that teachers in more affluent schools may be able to “rely more on students having access to appropriate technology for remote working”.

The government and charities have released hundreds of thousands of laptops to help disadvantaged students with distance learning when they are unable to attend school during the pandemic.

But one study suggested that a third of disadvantaged students did not have access to the tools needed for online work last year.

Geoff Barton, of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “Despite the best efforts of schools, disadvantaged pupils are more likely to suffer learning impairments during the pandemic than their peers.

“It was difficult for the government to roll out laptops to enable these students to access distance learning. In addition, many of these youth may not have a dedicated space to work, and they often face many other challenges in their lives.”

The union leader said the new findings on distance education “emphasize the need for a more ambitious and better resourced education recovery package” from the government.

Shadow Schools Minister, Peter Kyle MP, said: “All children are suffering from the consequences of this pandemic. Despite the best efforts of teachers, distance learning cannot compensate for being in the classroom.

“But these data show that it is children with free school meals that are most withheld.”

The Labor MP said: “Conservatives have refused to support efforts to recover enough money for our children, and oversee a widening gap in children with free school meals learning.”

The Department of Education (DFE) has been contacted for comment.

Additional reporting by the Press Association


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