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Poorer pupils get less help than better-off classmates with homework

8 September 2017

New research from UCL finds that poorer pupils in England get less help with their homework than their better-off classmates.

Homework-Extra-Time

Dr John Jerrim (UCL Institute of Education) carried out analysis of the OECD’s PISA survey, which has been published by the Sutton Trust today. The research found that just half (50%) of the most disadvantaged 15-year olds said their parents regularly helped with their homework, compared to 68% of their better-off classmates.

Dr Jerrim said: “These figures show that in the UK children from poorer homes receive significantly less help with their studies outside of school than in many of the other countries surveyed. As a result, children of high ability from low-income families are not receiving the kinds of educational opportunities they should. More support is needed to ensure these pupils are given vital additional support with their learning in order to keep up with children of similar ability from more affluent backgrounds.”

The report ‘Extra Time’ looks at how private tuition and out-of-school instruction varies from country to country. It finds the gap between rich and poor students reporting help with their homework is significantly bigger in England than in 12 of the other 21 countries taking part. Only two East Asian nations (Hong Kong and South Korea) and Italy have a significantly bigger poverty gap. 

The research also looks at the amount of time Year 11 pupils spend in extra tuition – whether provided by the school, the family or by private tutors - outside of normal lessons. Year 11 pupils in England spend an average of nine-and-a-half hours per week in additional instruction, which is significantly less than pupils in 12 of the countries surveyed. 

However, there are big gaps between socio-economic and achievement groups in the amount of time spent on additional instruction, with bright but poor pupils losing out, even though Sutton Trust research shows many of the latter fall behind in secondary school. Low-achieving pupils from the most advantaged homes spend more than twice as much time in additional instruction as high-achieving pupils from disadvantaged families (15 hours per week vs seven hours per week).

High achievers in science who are from better off backgrounds are twice as likely to receive extra instruction as high achievers from disadvantaged homes. For pupils of the same level of achievement, better-off pupils get about two and a half extra hours of instruction a week.

The report warns that this creates a ‘glass floor’ for children from better-off homes in danger of low achievement, a substantial barrier to social mobility. 

The report also inlcudes data on how widespread private tuition is in England and Wales.

Polling by Ipsos MORI of 2,612 11-16 year olds in England and Wales finds that 30% of them have received private tuition at some point, up from 25% in 2016 and 18% in 2005. This figure rises to 48% in London (up from 37% in 2014), where young people are more likely to have had private tuition than in any other region of the UK.

However, students who receive private tuition disproportionately come from better-off backgrounds. Those from high affluence households (35%) are twice as likely as those from low affluence households (18%) to have received such tuition at some point.

To level the playing field outside of the classroom, the report recommends that schools establish ‘homework clubs’ to give disadvantaged pupils the extra support they need and adopt proven ‘whole school’ approaches to parental engagement.  

It also proposes that the government should introduce a means-tested voucher scheme through the pupil premium to provide additional tuition for children. These tutors should be experienced and well-qualified (not all tutors have specific teaching qualifications) – evidence from the Education Endowment Foundation, the Sutton Trust’s sister foundation, suggests that good teaching skills are crucial in improving the attainment of disadvantaged students, who often lag behind their advantaged peers.

Private tuition agencies should also provide a certain proportion of their tuition to disadvantaged pupils for free, as well as an expansion of non-profit and state tuition programmes that connect tutors with disadvantaged schools, the report says.

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James Russell

Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 9041

Email: james.russell [at] ucl.ac.uk