The Cost of Learning in Lockdown: family experiences of school closures

Post date: 
18 June 2020

My friend has lots of brothers and sisters and he can't get on his computer as much as me. I like learning new stuff. So does he but he can't do it as much as me. After lockdown he can come to visit and we can do our maths together. I will help him. (11 year old boy)

The Cost of the School Day project helps schools identify and reduce the financial barriers that prevent children in poverty from fully participating in school life. To understand how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted children’s experience of learning, we conducted some research through surveys and interviews. We gathered the experiences of 3,600 parents and carers, along with 1,300 children and young people, with an emphasis on the experiences of low-income households. We found that the cost burdens of school closures have fallen most heavily on families already living on a low income.

Read the report Read the recommendations

In particular, we found that:

  • 40% of low-income families were missing at least one essential resource to support their children's learning. One third of the families who are most worried about money have had to buy a laptop, tablet or other device.
  • People who told us they were worried about their financial circumstances were also more likely to have bought educational resources for their children.
  • Families who were worried about money were more likely to say they found it difficult to continue their children’s education at home.
  • Eligible parents valued receiving support towards the cost of replacing free school meals. Most families told us they preferred to receive support through direct payments to their bank accounts, as this method allowed flexibility, dignity, safety and convenience.
  • Children and young people value contact with teachers and classmates – secondary school pupils were more likely to report doing ‘a lot’ of schoolwork at home if they are regularly keeping in touch with teachers.
  • When children can go back to school, parents' primary concern is children's wellbeing.
Key recommendations

Our report contains recommendations to the UK government and devolved governments in Scotland and Wales, as well as local authorities and schools across Britain.

Support with costs and resources:

  • Increase child benefit by £10 per child per week.
  • Provide all children with the learning tools they need for the curriculum, at home or at school.
  • Schools should be properly funded to remove barriers to learning.
  • Information regarding financial support and entitlements must reach families

Alternatives to free school meals:

  • Cash payments should replace the value of free school meals.
  • The earnings threshold for eligibility for free school meals should be urgently reviewed

Supporting pupil wellbeing:

  • Maintain regular contact with pupils and families to support learning and wellbeing.
  • Schools should implement poverty aware approaches, policies and practices as pupils return

Returning to school:

  • Children and young people want to spend time with their friends and teachers and feel ‘normal’ again.
  • Families must be involved in planning for the return to school.


UK-wide findings

Full report

Executive summary

Findings explained for children and young people

Scotland findings

Full report (Scotland)

Executive summary (Scotland)

Scotland findings explained for children and young people

Other Resources