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Blog 3: Parents' use of resources during the spring 2020 lockdown

How did caregivers view the tasks and resources sent home from school during the spring 2020 lockdown, and what activities were popular?

Parents held a wide variety of views about the resources which were provided by schools for families to use at home. Materials from the same school could be praised by one parent but criticised by another for being difficult to engage with. One school was commended for “being proactive with setting work” by one parent, whilst being criticised by two others for giving “little guidance with tasks” and, in another comment, “not very much was provided by the school at all.”

What felt supportive to one family might have felt inadequate by another family. Provision rated highly by one parent (teachers were great in setting work) was criticised by another for requiring too much preparation time (I simply didn’t have time to do the ‘prep’ with a newborn and a toddler. Instead I did my own thing). Some parents found the provision too generic and therefore not useful for their own child.

Some caregivers expressed a lack of confidence in their own skills as educators, particularly since some aspects of the EYFS curriculum (phonics was mentioned more than once) are unfamiliar. Resourcefulness was at a premium. Some parents found learning opportunities in everyday activities, e.g. counting cars during daily walks or building flat-pack furniture. Whilst some respondents were confident and organised enough to ‘pull out their old school books’, others told us they simply didn’t understand the tasks set by the school.

Families engaged with a wide variety of materials, e.g. online reading, Google Classroom work (including maths, reading, writing, and PSHE), printable worksheets, videos recorded by teachers, and phonics games on the tablet. One parent remarked that she would have liked more live lessons. In our sample of reception children who did some home learning, 96% had full or shared access to an electronic device/devices that could be used for learning. Shared access was a source of frustration:

with twins it wasn't easy due to the demand from both of them on one laptop

Several respondents commented about the challenge of printing out resources sent by the school:

most work was posted digitally on , and without access to a printer we couldn't access these

36% of our sample had no access to a printer, and several comments indicated that, while some families were able to purchase a printer, others could not find a printer to buy, because they were in such high demand. Home delivery of work was appreciated:

we managed to complete a few printed worksheets that School delivered to our door.

Most schools provided access to online reading books. One provided only hard copies of books and one school provided neither hard-copy or e-versions of books. Some parents mentioned difficulties around the move to online reading books:

we struggled to get him to read a book online for a little while. He liked to read an actual book

Some families were able to improvise around school provision:

we chose to take our own approach to their learning and catered to what we felt their individual needs were not the generic learning materials that were being sent from school

Links to free online resources were provided more often for phonics and mathematics than for other curriculum areas. Suggestions for games or activities (using items in the home or environment) were common across the curriculum areas, reflecting the young age of the children and the focus on learning through play. Games and activities were well liked:

We totally embraced the opportunity for the children to have lots of open-ended play opportunities and outdoor play and understood the value of this

Many families liked the resources they found independently, e.g. Joe Wicks PE and BBC Bitesize. Some families found value in learning ‘life’ skills rather than ‘school’ skills:

they developed and learnt lots of useful new life skills-baking, gardening, painting, problem solving building drawers using screwdriver

In the next blog, we discuss who was supervising children home learning during lockdown.