'I teach 5-year-olds, so they have required parental support which has been hard for some families when parents have been working from home as well.'
UK Primary School teacher
The role of parents
OUP’s Addressing the Deepening Digital Divide survey highlighted teachers’ perceptions of parents; their educational avatars in the home during lockdown.
When asked about the challenges faced by learners, a high proportion of teachers included ‘lack of parental familiarity or understanding of the tools / platforms’ (50 per cent), which limited the effectiveness of the support available to learners. As lockdowns led to remote learning at home, parents and teachers worked more closely with each other than they have ever done previously: this exposure likely gave teachers a clearer insight into parents’ levels of digital competence.
Teachers have never before relied so heavily on the commitment of parents and families to facilitate and support effective engagement in online lessons for schoolchildren. Even with the right technological tools at their disposal to take part in remote learning successfully, children with parents who struggled to support them during lockdowns—due to a lack of time or a perceived digital skills gap—are unlikely to have the same positive attitudes towards online learning as their peers.
It is clear that parental input plays a hugely important factor towards attaining successful pupil engagement in home learning—especially for children in primary schools, who do not usually have the necessary digital skills to navigate online learning platforms on their own.
reported that they did not have time to support their child’s learning
Our findings are further supported by a 2021 report from The Sutton Trust, which shows the most common reason given by teachers for pupils not engaging in online learning was due to limited/no parental support (60 per cent).
of teachers asked stated the most common reason for pupils not engaging in online learning was limited/no parental support
State schoolteachers were more likely to report this (65 per cent) than private school teachers (25 per cent). At an even more granular level, teachers in the most deprived state schools were more likely to cite this factor (57 per cent), compared to those in the most affluent schools (47 per cent).
Worryingly, the Sutton Report also revealed that although UK parents were aware of the pressure on them to help in home schooling, 41 per cent reported that they did not have time to support their child’s learning.
It is important to note that these responses may reflect wider challenges faced by parents trying to balance home learning with their usual work responsibilities. Consequently, parents may have had little or no time to familiarize themselves with the digital platforms being used by their child.
Analyses based on the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in the OECD Skills Outlook 2021 report found that emotional support from parents matters for most attitudes regarding learning and displays a strong association with students’ self-efficacy.
The report cites the Slovak Republic as an exemplary illustration of a country where parental support is particularly effective. Students here who use ICT very often and who receive very high support from families score, on average, 23 points more than their peers with less support from families. PISA scores are calculated by looking at students’ proficiency levels on a sliding scale of difficulty. Higher scores indicate a student is more proficient in a skill.