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2.3 million children have done 'almost no schoolwork' in lockdown

Sky News logo Sky News 16/06/2020

a blue chair in a room: Plans to get more primary schoolchildren back before England's summer break have been shelved © Imagebridge Plans to get more primary schoolchildren back before England's summer break have been shelved Around 2.3 million children in the UK have done almost no schoolwork at home since lockdown began in March, according to researchers.

The study by UCL Institute of Education found one in five had done no homeschooling or managed less than an hour a day.

An average of 2.5 hours each day was spent on doing schoolwork - half the amount indicated by previous research, suggesting "learning losses are much greater than feared", the report concluded.

It also suggested disadvantaged pupils were falling behind their peers with only 11% of youngsters who receive free school meals spending more than four hours a day on schoolwork, compared with 19% of those who are not eligible for FSMs.

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Key changes to the UK's lockdown rules (The Guardian)

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In addition, one in five children on FSMs had no access to a computer, compared with only 7% for other pupils.

Researchers found nearly a third (31%) of private schools provided four or more online classes each day for pupils, compared with just 6% of state schools.

Professor Francis Green, lead author of the study, said: "The closure of schools, and their only partial reopening constitute a potential threat to the educational development of a generation of children.

How countries are easing out of lockdown (Photos)

"Everyone is losing out in this generation, some much more than others. Better home schoolwork provision, and better still an early safe return to school for as many as possible, should now become a top priority for government."

The study was based on a survey of 4,559 households in April, and comes amid growing criticism of the government's handling of the impact of COVID-19 on education.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has accused ministers of "mismanagement" over the reopening of schools, insisting there was "no plan, no consensus, no leadership".

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he wants all pupils back in classrooms by September - with reports suggesting he is willing to relax the two-metre rule to make this happen.

Plans for all pupils in England to return to primary school this term before the summer holidays have been dropped after the government conceded social distancing would be a challenge for some schools.

Some primary schools have already reopened for Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 students, with class sizes limited to 15 pupils, desks spaced as far apart as possible and outdoor spaces utilised in keeping with the government's new guidance.

This week, secondary school pupils with GCSE and A-level exams next year returned to classes.

Downing Street has defended the government's "significant support" for children's education at home during the lockdown.

The prime minister's official spokesman said: "We are making over £100m available to support children to learn at home, providing laptops, tablets and 4G routers to those without internet access."

Mr Johnson has promised Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will give details this week of a "massive catch-up operation over the summer and beyond".

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Stay at home as much as possible to stop coronavirus spreading - here is the latest government guidance. If you think you have the virus, don't go to the GP or hospital, stay indoors and get advice online. Only call NHS 111 if you cannot cope with your symptoms at home; your condition gets worse; or your symptoms do not get better after seven days. In parts of Wales where 111 isn't available, call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. In Scotland, anyone with symptoms is advised to self-isolate for seven days. In Northern Ireland, call your GP.

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