BRITISH FAMILIES IN LOCKDOWN STUDY:

The Impact of COVID 19 on Education and Children’s Services

C. Clayton, R. Clayton and M. Potter.

Leeds Trinity University

 

‘British Families in Lockdown’ is a qualitative study led by Leeds Trinity University which has investigated the day-to-day experiences of British families during the first seven weeks of lockdown. Fifty-six families from a diverse set of socio-economic backgrounds, geographies, religions and cultures participated in telephone or video calling semi-structured interviews and they shared their detailed, personal stories and experiences of employment, children’s schooling, health, well-being, family life, leisure time and technology use during the first phase of lockdown.

Outside of this study, reported Covid-19 evidence is overwhelmingly quantitative based, scientific, clinical, anecdotal or journalistic, as such, these qualitative insights will help build a more rounded picture of British family experiences. The study was quick to respond to the pandemic and is one of the few qualitative studies collecting data from the UK population during the initial stage of lockdown. Our initial findings demonstrate some of the complex ways in which Covid-19 has impacted children’s services and education. Our data supports quantitative reports to some extent but there is contrasting evidence and wider issues to also consider.

SUMMARY OF MAIN FINDINGS

 

 

                                

LEEDS TRINITY UNIVERSITY

 


CRITICAL WORKERS AND ACCESS TO EDUCATION

A number of our families had one parent who was classed as a critical worker. There were some difficulties accessing families where both parents were critical workers. Often the invitation to take part in the research was declined by such families due to heavy constraints on their time and work pressures. Nevertheless, our study did include several families where both the mother and father were critical workers. It is also important to note that in all of the families we spoke to, at least one of the parents continued to work, during lockdown, either working from home or by going to work outside of the household (this included both critical and non-critical workers). 

 

CHILDREN’S SUPPORT SERVICES

A number of our parents had children who were engaging with support services prior to lockdown either for physical or mental health needs, or due to their disabilities or SEN. For most, this support stopped and although some parents were accepting of this and recognised the unprecedented nature of the lockdown, it did lead to some parental reports of negative outcomes for the children.

EARLY YEARS CLOSURES: CHILDCARE AND CHILD DEVELOPMENT

Several parents had children who were registered with early years settings, this included nurseries (private and local authority led), pre-schools and childminders. There were mixed parental responses in terms of the envisaged and actual impact of early years closures on families and children. Parents reported both benefits and challenges of having young children at home during the lockdown with respect to child development.

CANCELLED EXAMS

Some of the children in our sample were due to be sitting either their SATS, GCSE exams or A-Levels this year, and so for them there were mixed feelings about the impact of lockdown.

CONTACT WITH SCHOOLS

Our study gathered data from children of all ages from 0-18, who were educated across a range of geographical locations and school types including state-run and private schools, urban and rural schools, outstanding schools and those in or recently out of special measures.

CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH

Parents largely had mixed responses concerning their children’s well-being. Some parents felt that their children were benefiting from spending more time at home and increased time with family members, whilst others felt that their children were missing out on social interactions. For parents of children at primary school and in the early years, there were largely positive stories about increased levels of closeness which had benefits for the whole family. That the younger children seemed happier, more content. There were a smaller number of parents who were worried about their child’s mental health, these were mostly parents who expressed difficulties with adjusting to lockdown themselves.

 

FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES

Families were asked about their financial concerns and worries. Most families noted that their outgoings had reduced during lockdown, however, for many their income had been negatively affected.

 

IMPACT ON DISADVANTAGED GROUPS

In our sample there were parents who can be described as on low incomes, unemployed, single, separated, care leavers, young, BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) and some parents had care needs. In addition to this, a number of parents identified their children as having specific needs ranging from disabilities and learning difficulties through to poor mental health, victims of bullying and grieving children.

CONCLUSIONS

Families who had children with support needs including disabilities and SEN received little or no support during the first stages of lockdown. For parents who were having to work and look after their children, including caring for a child with additional needs, the home environment became increasingly difficult and hard to manage. Alongside critical workers, there were other parents who would benefit from the option of a school place, particularly those who were still working full time and had additional care needs within the home.

For a number of families, there were perceived benefits for their children’s mental health by spending more time at home and out of the school environment. Whereas most families found the experience of lockdown to be positive in terms of increasing family time, strengthening bonds and enhancing closeness, it is uncertain whether these improvements in well-being have translated into increased levels of educational attainment for older children and learning for younger children, although some parents would suggest so.

The majority of parents noted that children (particularly older children) needed to be spending more time outside with their peers and some parents encouraged their teenagers to break social distancing guidelines in order meet up with their friends. These meet-ups were encouraged for social and mental health reasons but not necessarily for educational purposes.

Parents noted that their children were not able to effectively learn for a full teaching day, even with parental support, as such most children would study for fewer hours than would be expected in a normal school day.

Some parents were positive regarding the schools’ and early years settings efforts during the lockdown and expressed some degree of satisfaction with the support provided. Other parents were unhappy with the remote learning guidance offered to their children, particularly within state-run schools and felt the expectations of teachers were unrealistic considering the low levels of support received. An exception to this was made in terms of fee-paying schools, who had higher levels of pupil contact and offered regular online classes and guidance.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONTINGENCY PLANNING

 

PROJECT DETAILS

 

Research Team

Dr C Clayton, R. Clayton M. Potter

Lead Academic Organisation:

Leeds Trinity University

Correspondence Details:

Name: Dr C. Clayton (Principal Investigator)

Email: C.Clayton@Leedstrinity.ac.uk

Phone: +44 (0)113 2837 116

Address: Institute of Childhood and Education, Leeds Trinity University, LS18 5HD

 

 

 

                                

LEEDS TRINITY UNIVERSITY