The Cost of Learning in Lockdown: March 2021 update | CPAG

The Cost of Learning in Lockdown: March 2021 update

Post date: 
14 March 2021

To understand how lockdown has impacted children’s experience of learning this year, our Cost of the School Day programme conducted some research through surveys and interviews. We gathered the experiences of 1,570 parents and carers, along with 785 children and young people, with an emphasis on the experiences of low-income households. The Cost of Learning in Lockdown report (March 2021 update) contains our findings and recommendations about what has helped and what more is needed to support families during this period. It builds on our previous research published in June 2020.  


Download the UK report 


Key findings
  • 35% of low-income families are still missing essential resources for learning, most commonly laptops and devices. 

  • Children in receipt of free school meals are more likely than other pupils to report sharing devices at home and using mobile phones to complete schoolwork.​

  • 75% of families receiving cash payments to replace free school meals say this works well or very well; satisfaction levels are far lower for other replacement methods.   ​
  • Low-income families say they are more concerned about money than last spring and 90% report spending more on essential bills while children are at home.​
  • Children and young people most want help with learning and finding a routine when they return to school. ​



Many families need greater financial security to help them support children’s learning, stay afloat and recover from the impact of the pandemic. Within education, there are clear steps that can be taken to help achieve this:

  • Governments must prioritise financial support, through cash payments, to help low-income families through this crisis.​

  • Governments must urgently review the free school meals threshold so that support reaches all families who need it. ​​
  • Schools and local authorities should implement poverty aware practices and policies. This includes reducing school-related costs, maximising incomes and providing wraparound care. 
  • Schools, local authorities and governments must continue to work together to make sure all pupils have the tools they need at home to participate in learning outside the classroom.​​